How to find the right secondary/senior school - anyone's child been to mainstream independent/mainstream boarding school?


First post...

My son is at the end of year 5 and in a mainstream independent boys school that goes up to year 8. He was diagnosed with ASD age 7, which we were not particularly expecting at the time - we were seeing a community paediatrician about his irritable bladder and she mentionned it and referred onto a neuropsychiatry CAMHS service. We have been very lucky that his school, which he has been in since yr1 when we moved to our current home (Oxford), has been very helpful and supportive. We chose the independent school as when we moved into Oxford from elsewhere, we couldn't get a place at a state school that wasn't miles away or in special measures, but I'm pleased we ended up doing it now.

My son is well behaved at school, no challenging behaviours per se but he can get very anxious and scared, and doesn't require much 1:1. He has dyslexia and has a 1:1 1hr spelling focused session per week at the moment but that is all. His main difficulties in terms of school are dyslexia (spelling 2yrs behind), not coping with change, rushing work and not checking, interpreting everything very literally, highly sensitive, emotionally immature. His achievement is okay, overall he is not behind except for in English (spelling and what seems like carelessness seem to be the main issues) and has an above average IQ overall.  He has an IEP in school but not an EHCP - realistically his ASD doesn't cause great enough problems at school to warrant that. I think the things which have helped him are it being a small school overall, smaller classes (about 15-18), kind nuturing staff and them being quite flexible.

We need to look for a secondary and/or senior school for him. He could start there in yr7 or yr9 depending on what seems best. Our two potential state comprehensives seem totally unsuitable, they are both HUGE schools with very diverse intake many of whom have much greater social, educational and /or health issues. One has 73% of school with english as an additional language, so I think their resources are stretched. I've visited both and don't think he would cope!

We are basically resigned to keeping him in independent schools as I just can't see him surviving a comprehensive. His neuropsychiatry CAMHS consultant said that a mainstream school that is not highly selective and quite nuturing would be best, and suggested that unless the school is very close then weekly boarding often works very well for her similar patients.

I want to make it clear I recognise that as a family we are incredibly lucky to be able to afford an independent school and many people could never do this.

Just wondered

- How did other people choose a mainstream secondary school for their ASD-offspring ?  My other son is younger and neurotypical so no experience at all.

- Anyone had their child at a mainstream boarding school and found it worked?

Really grateful for any advice!