My son is six years old and was diagnosed autistic three years ago. He is currently in Year One at his mainstream inclusive primary school. He has an EHCP, and receives DLA at middle-care & lower-mobility.
His reception year at school, with full-time 1:1 HLTA support, was manageable. He is high functioning, his reading, language and maths are to the top of his peer group, yet he struggles with writing and fine motor skills. However, the school pre-warned that the transition into year one, with more structured teaching, would either be a positive or a negative change. Unfortunately it's been the latter, and we've encountered significant behavioural issues that have resulted in a number of fixed-term exclusions. We're also seeing more challenging and complex behaviour out of school and at home.
We convened an early review of the EHCP, with all support professionals present (school SEN, council SEN and inclusion officers, STLS, OT & EP). It was agreed to push for a transition to an alternative primary school with a Special Resource Provision. The other consensus was around behaviours associated with demand avoidance, and to seek a diagnosis for PDA.
I have a few matters I'd like to ask for opinion here:
- the school are currently "managing" the situation whilst the transition is progressed on the basis of avoiding further exclusions (which could total up to a permanent exclusion). They are doing this by giving my son 2:1 support full time in a separate classroom, and removing all demands made on him. He can choose to engage with taught material on his own terms (which he generally does), and the work is set and assessed remotely by the class teacher. On one hand this is a fantastic development, but viewed another way, the school are masking the behavioural difficulties and as a result my son has very limited social interaction with his peer group (which is one of his clear development needs). On the basis that this is preferable to an exclusion, we are aligned with the school's approach, but I'd be keen to hear the thoughts of others.
- we attended an open day for an NAS special school nearby with a fantastic reputation, and we were impressed by the pathways and opportunities offered to the children. However viewing through neurotypical parents eyes, I couldn't help but be put off a little by the cramped premises, lack of daylight and dull décor, whereas his current school is by a wood (that he enjoys to explore and see nature) and has fantastic facilities. It strikes me that the special school environment might actually be more conducive to his condition, and I should not be put off by my own impression.
- we are facing a struggle to manage the logistics of our son attending a more remote school, as we have to ensure his safety to/from school and hand him directly to his HLTA and my wife and I have no local family support network. Given the changes in his behaviour, specifically the challenges of dealing with the PDA, is there merit in seeking a reconsideration of his DLA to high/high in order to quality for mobility assistance?
Thanks in advance.
Marcus - a stressed parent
I’m not the parent of an autistic child, so I can’t give you first hand advice. Ambitious About Autism are worth checking out. This blog is written by a UK Mum of an autistic boy. If there is an autism group local to you, it may be an idea to contact them. They may be able to put you in touch with other parents in a similar situation.
You can find out what your rights are with regards to your son’s education from the following links.
Some parents report that omega 3 and probiotics can help improve difficult behaviour. The scientific research on these supplements is inconclusive, but there is much anecdotal evidence. I suspect this is because they are effective for some children and not for others. Might be worth trying. All the best, Graham.