Done with school

Hello, 

My 14yo with Asperger's hates school and the more interaction I have with them the harder it is not to see why. His in a unit within mainstream and passionately hates being in a unit or having any support. Several incidents some of which my son hasn't helped and others where the school hasn't dealt with bullying or outright discriminated against him. I've had meetings, discussions the lot and nothings improved. He has a year and a few months before finishing.

I've tried to encourage him to stick it out as it's such an important time in respect of his education but now not so sure.

Trouble is feel there is no solution. If he stays, how well can he learn when his so angry and upset? Main issue is him 'being in the unit' having support follow him around and other students calling him derogatory names. If he goes to another school it will be a big upheaval for him requiring using public transport and not having his current convenience of a 5minute walk. He also won't have support which is 100% what he wants but I'm worried he'd struggle.

School has become such a source of stress for both him and I for a long time now that I'm at the point I want nothing further to do with them.

Any thoughts or words of wisdom would be very much appreciated.

  1. Thank you.
  • I cannot really help because I also hated much of my school days.

    Point is that for many of us school is hard, hostile, a lonely place and a nightmare which we struggle to survive.

    Unless another school is guaranteed to be better.  I suggest sticking with the current one.  I moved classes within a school and it wasn't better, just different.

    At least he gets support.  

  • Hi struggling mum,

    I really feel for you. I have been where you are now with my youngest ND son. And I agree, this is the worst time for your son’s school situation to turn critical as he is just on the cusp of the most important stage of his schooling with preparing for exams and leaving school now arising on the horizon.

    With the end so near in sight and having already had too many painful battles with the school, it may be more tempting now than ever before to contemplate throwing in the towel. However, in my experience, I would gently offer: never throw in the towel because you are being pushed to do so (by his school.) Only ever choose to make a change which you firmly believe will be a more positive solution and enable better outcomes for your son.

    I am really sad and frustrated to hear that, from what you have said, school seem to not be taking your sons thoughts or opinions into account at all when planning his provision. I would definitely give the NAS helpline a ring and talk through the difficulties you are having with the school with them as I bet they can offer some good advice about what you can do to better get school on board and working more positively for your son.

    Also, have you contacted local Autism or SEN Charities too? These charities often have Support Workers or similar who may attend school meetings with you and attempt to resolve your current disagreements with his school amicably. Schools (sadly) tend to take far more notice of third party individuals and organisations than parents, so pulling in as much external advice and support from outside agencies could really help your son’s needs and feelings to be heard and acknowledged by his school. I would stress to these charities (and his school) that your son is on the verge of becoming a 'school refuser' because its important they fully recognise just how serious this situation has become for him. 

    If you believe your son has been discriminated against I think it may be worthwhile to contact your LAs Disability Advisor and chat through these incidents with them, as they will want to ensure your son’s school is acting lawfully and enabling equality for your son.  

    I actually pulled my son from high school in Year 9 and elected to home educate. But, a part of me is hesitant to share this as I can imagine just how desperate you may be feeling right now and, in light of this, home educating may appear to be an immediate and more appealing solution to end the pain you are all currently going through. Home educating can be fantastic, however, electing to home educate should ideally be a robustly considered choice and not a bolt hole. My reasoning being that if you choose this option as a bolt hole, it will likely unravel pretty quickly and may leave you in a bigger pickle than you are currently and with no clear forward path ahead for your son.

    However, if after exhausting every avenue (such as pulling in external support first)  you are seriously considering home educating at this stage, I am happy to share my experiences of this with you on here, if you so wish.

    Best of luck.

  • Hi Struggling Mum,

    I feel for you, too.  I know the stress my own parents were under with my problems at school.  Back then, though - in the '70s - Asperger's wasn't known about generally.  I didn't have a diagnosis of anything, either.  I was simply 'unfocused', 'shy', 'hopeless', 'incapable of learning', etc.  I wasn't in a unit.  I was in with all the others.  I was clearly bright and had been way ahead of everyone else in my first year at primary school.  That was the only year of my schooling that that was the case, though.  From then on, things went from bad to worse.  By the time I reached the 4th year at secondary... I was bottom of the entire year!  I was bullied - by teachers as well as other pupils.  I learned practically nothing.  Then, my parents moved from London to Devon, where I finished my schooling.  I expected things to be better there - but they were actually worse.  I was routinely beaten up.  Finally, at age 15 - after a beating had landed me in hospital with a broken cheek bone - my parents said enough was enough.  I had no qualifications and no prospects... but I was free of that place for good.  The sense of relief I felt was enormous.  It was one of the best times of my life.  I managed to find work not long afterwards... and so life has gone on.  It hasn't held me back.  In fact, ten years later, I took evening classes and managed to get into university to study for a degree.  That was where I had my first experience of education on my own terms.  No set curriculum to follow, study at my own pace, motivation because I was studying what I wanted to study rather than what someone else was prescribing... and in an environment where people were, at least, grown up and no longer cruel and sadistic towards me. 

    I really question whether 'school' is about true education at all.  Of course, it's important to learn to read and write (practically all I learned at school - honestly)... but beyond that?  Isn't it more about drilling people to pass exams so that they can then go on to be functioning players in the workplace?  I always think of it as a bit like taking driving lessons.  My driving instructor said to me once 'All I'm doing is teaching you to pass a test.  It's after you've done that that you'll learn how to drive.'  I've learned much more outside of school - and things I both wanted and needed to learn - than I ever learned when I was there.  This has been my true education.  And, as I said, it's never held me back.  Until uni, I always managed to find work - and I've always found work since.  Usually with employers who wanted me for my intelligence and abilities rather than my exam certificates.

    The moral there, I suppose, is... the end of school doesn't mean the end of education and everything else.  It may be the best thing for him, to enable him to find his own way.  If he's like I was, he prefers to study alone and at his own pace.  Having said that - it's still a big and difficult decision.  Ultimately, it's whatever you and he think is best for him... not what other people say is best.

    Just my story and perspective.  Good luck with whatever you decide.

    Tom

  • Been reading above post from Martian Tom and carrying on from there.

    Education does not end in school. And poor grades at GCSE are not the end of the world.

    Going to a local college often means a completely different environment and atmosphere which may suit your son.  And he may thrive there.

  • Dear Struggling mum,

    I am sorry to hear that you and your son are having a difficult time with his school.

    You may want to contact our Education Rights Service who provides information, support and advice on educational provision and entitlements. Please see the following link for further information: http://www.autism.org.uk/services/helplines/education-rights.aspx

    Kind regards,

    Ayshe Mod

  • Somehow it sounds like the support they offer him is more what they (or others) decided he needs (or perhaps even some kind of one-fits-all solution) rather than what he actually needs. How would you expect a student who has someone following them around for being "not quite normal in his head" not to be bullied? There will always be bullies around and this kind of support can quite easily make kids like your son a feast for them instead of protecting them. And hating it, he will not even really benefit from the help that would be benefitial. Perhaps they can reconsider how to help him in a way that does actually help rather than making him more vulnerable? Something that is based on what he wants (and reviewing it regularly so that he can try how it works without the support he doesn't find supportive at all). Maybe it's too late already to fix this, but it may be worth trying if feeling like he is in control of it somehow improves things a bit?

  • The school was horrible experience for me. With the right support I would have been way ahead of everyone else.

  • Thank you all for your valuable comments which are both well received and much appreciated. I think I would of lost my mind by now if I didn't have the support I find on here so thank-you once again.

    I'm currently pursuing a discrimination case. In summary son pulled from a trip due to 'lack of lsa support'. No warning, had paid and prepared, just a phone call one day. I challenged this in respect of the equality act then the reason became behavioural concerns. Its hard to explain briefly but challenged that too as they were using behaviour as direct result of him being bullied and prior to acceptance onto the trip. Got local authority involved and had another meeting with head. After a lot of arm twisting he agreed to supply me with the risk assessment used to refuse him the trip. The above points have again been quoted but interestingly 5 statements on there are regarding having a nut allergy, teachers being trained to use epi pens and fear my son will not follow their instruction. My son doesn't even have a nut allergy!!!  They are trying so hard to find any reason to not let him go to the point of inventing medical conditions. They are just embarrassing themselves now. I emailed the local authority stating I've had enough, my original complaint stands and what are his options. They haven't got back to me yet but clearly spoke to the head to say um he hasn't actually got a nut allergy. The head is now pulling my son in for 'chats', where my son confirmed he doesn't have a nut allergy and about his support and future without my consent. 

    I have tried so hard to work with the school. Thankfully this latest incident regarding the trip has been observed by the local authority as I have supplied them with the correspondence I have received. I so wanted my son to have a good education but despite my very very best efforts this is very unlikely. I've requested advice from  the council on my sons options regarding education as just want to be sure what these actually are. 

    I totally agree school is not the be all and end all. Indeed I went back to education in my 20s and succeeded in this area whereas I couldn't during school. But my decision not to achieve what I could at that time was my choice not something forced on me. I'm utterly frustrated by how his been failed by the school and by me for sending him there. Its a no win situation but one thankfully I know won't last forever and one shared by many. I guess unless something amazing is offered by the council we just have to take one day at a time and get through best we can. I can't communicate with the school right now as really have had enough with their ignorance and incompetence. I will liaise with the Council and have told my son I support him 100% in his decisions but to be aware of what they involve. 

    Thank-you again for your wise words, it really helps me keep going and to help my son. It may be 2018 but the school system still has a long way to go....