Choosing a primary school (Hackney/Islington)

Hi All,

My DD is 3.5 and starting school in September.  She is due to have an ADOS in spring and we are told to expect she will get an ASC diagnosis.  But by January we have to apply for a school place for her!  

I'm struggling a bit with what to look for in a school.  We're in central London (Hackney) so a lot of the local schools are multi-form entry and very big - I think she might find them overwhelming.  So I've been focusing on smaller schools (either because they are single form entry or because they are new, so don't have all the year groups yet) and then just talking to SENCOs to try to get a feel for how they approach children with special needs.

She is currently at pre-school which she loves and has no real problems.  She speaks very well so we feel very lucky, and doesn't seem to have too many sensory issues (few melt downs, eats anything, a bit sensitive to loud noises but pretty average I think, but doesn't like jeans for example and likes heel walking and balancing her weight).  She has some social communication problems (tends to play by herself, often ignores other children when they talk to her - though other times she can be chatty or even ask other children to play).  She seems much more confident socially with adults than with children.  She lacks in physical confidence too and has always been very behind on gross motor (which is what first got us in to see services and on our journey to ASC).  She is only just starting to walk upstairs foot over foot, for example.  She is clever and wants to be social, and I think I can see signs of masking already.  Which in some ways is good but I'm also wary of her finding it more stressful as she gets older and the social stuff gets more complicated.

I've talked to our area EYFS SENCO who was helpful, and also have been trying to put in calls to school SENCOs (some are easier to get hold of than others!)  But I am really just asking about how they support children on the spectrum in general, and particularly children who are socially behind, as I don't have much idea yet what DD will actually struggle with or need. In her pre-school she has some SLT support for half an hour a week, and also a 1-2-1 for an hour a week who tries to help encourage and scaffold her interactions with other children.  We also do lots of play dates with her to help her practice her social skills.  She tends to get on pretty well with slightly younger children and boys, who will tolerate her playing by herself for 10 minutes and then together for 10 minutes and so on which is how she likes to play.

If there are any parents here with slightly older children with a similar profile I'd love to know what you thought was good or bad for them in terms of schools, and any questions you found helpful to ask or wished you'd asked before you applied for school places?  Or if you are on the spectrum and recognise yourself in my DD, what kind of school did/would have suited you?

And if anybody happens to be local to Hackney or Islington any specific school recommendations would be amazing!

Thank you, LT

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