Mainstream or Special school? — Scope | Disability forum
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Mainstream or Special school?

soyjenni Member Posts: 3
edited September 2014 in Education
Help! We are trying to decide where to send our 3yr old son to school next year. We are so torn as to what will suit him best. He suffered brain damage at birth and has global developmental delay, possible visua impairment and does not speak or really do much signing. We don't want to deprive him of access to his mainstream peer group and believe strongly in inclusion but are questioning whether inclusion in his case would be exclusion and whether he needs more specialist input and training than the local infant school can offer. Any advice and tips most appreciated!


  • bella
    bella Member Posts: 1
    my daughter was in main stream till she was 7.she was changed to a special needs school and it was the best thing i did.thay have smaller classes and understand more about the childs needs and disabilitys.
  • Natasha Brown
    Natasha Brown Member Posts: 108 Courageous
    go visit all mainstream and special schools locally before decidin one or the other. a mainstream school with resource base/lots o experience/great SENCO could be good;

    does the local school have that knowledge? are they willing to learn? will they go the extra mile to include him ?

    a good special school may be better. but again visit the schooll and talk to them.

    things like local groups cub scouts etc he can acess later on for "mainstream" activities locally.

    is he sociable? likes other children? enjoys being around other kids? goes to mainstream playgroups/music groups etc and fits in ?

    it all depends on the school tiself not necessarily whether it mainstream or special. and how he would fit in there.

    my son went to a mainstream nursery with great knowledge and experience of SN, like makaton trained etc, he had a onetoone and it was good
    he then went to SN school

  • toast
    toast Member Posts: 46 Listener
    absolutely agree with Natasha! Go and look round. Go with your gut :) Take a list of questions
    this is quite a good resource (copy and paste the link into your browser)
    here's some example q's and things to look out for:
    Good luck!
  • Heather
    Heather Member Posts: 168 Connected
    Hi. My first question is, has your son been assessed for a statement? If you did find "the perfect" special needs school and don't have a statement you would be lucky to get a place...not impossible, as we did it! And my next question would be, not so much about the education, but his peer group. Does your son socialise? If he is "different" children can be very cruel. My son went to a severe special needs school, but still didn't fit in because he had too many sensory issues and non verbal. It's taken us 9 months to get him transferred to a specific school outside of the state system. Have you any parent forums in your local vacinity that you could ask for honest parental reviews on schools, we all know if you speak to the teachers the school is outstanding, but parents with special needs children see many different angles.
    If only we could road test a few schools first before choosing! Good luck
  • JimJams
    JimJams Member Posts: 174 Connected
    I think special schooling are equipped better to cope with childrens needs when they have a specific diagnosis, they have smaller class sizes and more assistants to help, i think your child would get the attention they need in this setting, my son goes to a specialist school and they have brought him on amazing and they try and include him in mainstream as much as they can and as much as he himself can cope with. I also try and take him to as many out of school activities as i can to include him in the mainstream world
  • soyjenni
    soyjenni Member Posts: 3
    Hi everyone, thanks for your advice, it has all been really useful. Sorry for the slow reply!

    Yes he does have a statement with full time one-to-one including breaks. We will visit the nearest special school this week and have already visited the local infant school. After that we will look at other schools if we feel that there isn't a clear decision.

    The local mainstream infants doesn't seem to have that much experience (and don't give me the impression that they will go the extra mile) and it is hard to find out which local schools do have the level of experience that is needed - I am beginning to doubt it. There are no units attached to any local primary mainstream schools for his type of disability, unfortunately. We are planning to ask the special school about the possibility of a split placement though. Thanks for the question list, toast, I will definitely use that in my preparation for the visits!

    He will have two younger brothers quite close in age to him and I know a lot of other mums with children of the same age who I will keep in touch with, so I hope that he will get a "mainstream" experience out of school and through inclusion in clubs etc. However, he isn't that sociable and is only just beginning to take any notice of other kids, a lot of the time he is in his own world. When other kids his age come to play he ignores them and his little bro plays with them! He is often difficult to take to mainstream groups because he often "kicks off" if something doesn't go right. He is clearly "different" and I have seen other children looking at him sometimes and looking a bit freaked out by his behaviour. Like your son, Heather, he has many sensory issues, is non verbal and gets very frustrated if things don't happen as he expects or wants them to. Having said that at nursery he seems to be learning to mingle a little more and be gentle and affectionate with other kids. Only today I saw him keep his cool whilst being squeezed and pushed by some other kids at nursery :)

    I don't know of any local parent forums as such but I do know other parents that used to go to the same special needs playgroup as me who I could ask for their opinions on the local schools, and I am doing that as I see them.

    On the whole it looks like we are leaning towards special school but lets see how it feels (and how he reacts) when we go and look at the school on Friday. Fingers crossed we will get a gut feeling!

    Thanks so much everyone for all your advice and support, it really helps so much!

    Jenni x
  • Mixxi
    Mixxi Member Posts: 29
    Hi Jenni
    Just to chip in - Very good idea to visit all the schools you can. You can get a feel for what is best. If your local mainstream don't want him then, sad to say, but I wouldn't push it. You have to have teachers who are just a passionate as you are about inclusion.

    There are positives and negatives about every school setting - you have to pick what is best for you and your boy.
    Good luck!
    (PS it is hard but possible to change your mind a few years down the line. I hope so anyway as we are in the process of trying to move my boy!)
  • soyjenni
    soyjenni Member Posts: 3
    Thanks again everyone. We visited the special school today and it felt really right for him, so we're going to apply for him to go there. All of your comments really helped jx


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