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Questions to ask when choosing a school…

Selecting the right school for your child or young person is a daunting responsibility for any parent.  When you add into the mix any additional needs, the pressure mounts even higher.  It is fair to say most parents want the best for their children, and I know I certainly wished someone could just tell me which one was right.  Equally though, everyone seems to be keen to tell you their (often) conflicting opinions!  

The reality is that what is right for one child, will not necessarily be right for your child, just as one person with ASC is not the same as another person with ASC.  Our over riding advice would be to look at schools with an open mind, asking a range of questions, and with your child firmly in mind.

We need to bear in mind the massive variance in the needs of those with ASC.  Some will have accompanying learning difficulties; others will have extremely high IQ.   One of the questions many parents are left considering is whether their child needs a specialist provision.  

Some things you might want to ponder are:

·       Does my child/young person have a significant learning difficulty?

·       Does my child/young person have the academic ability required to access the full curriculum?

·       How much do my child's/young person’s sensory sensitivities impact their learning and can this be managed within a mainstream classroom with appropriate reasonable adjustments?

·       What are my child’s/young person’s life skills like and is additional input needed to develop these to enable a more independent adulthood?

Specialist Provision

In order for a specialist provision to be an option your child/young person will need an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP).  A plan will open up the options of both designated special provision (DSP) and special schools.  The DSP is a unit within a mainstream school.  For some children and young people this can be an effective solution, as there is access to all the specialist teaching(within secondary school), as well as having the safe, and contained space for learning.

There are many questions that we need to ask when we are considering a new school for our child/young person.  We have put together some key questions for you to ask that are particularly important if you have diagnosed or suspected ASC:

·       How many children have special educational needs (SEND), and what is the range of SEND within the school?

·       How do you balance access to the curriculum and effective differentiation based on individual needs?

·       How many children are there in each class, and how many Teacher/TAs per class group?

·       What experience and training do staff have in relation to ASC and is the level of training across the school?

·       What strategies do you implement as a school to support those with ASC? (Visual timetables, meet and greet, emotional coaching, timeout cards, fiddle aids etc)

·       What is the school behaviour policy?  How is this differentiated for children with SEN?  How do you ensure the behaviours of other students does not impact others?

·       What is your homework policy and what support is available to students who struggle with this?

·       What is your approach to parent /school communication?

·       How is progress measured and how frequently?

This is not an exhaustive list – please feel free to send us your thoughts if you think we have missed anything…

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