Next year Star will be going to secondary school.
Now is the time we have to choose which school she is to go to and I’ve been dreading this for the following reasons.
- She has autism
- She has Elhers Danlos Syndrome
- She is disabled but has no special education needs
- It really didn’t work out when my older kids went to secondary school with them both begin educated elsewhere within two years.
Going to mainstream primary school is okay. Younger kids are much more understanding of peers that are a little different. When they get to secondary school it’s so different.
On the autism front, we are lucky because Star is very high functioning, she is not disruptive (mostly) and wants to learn. She takes part fully in lessons. The main problems are her immaturity, which is exacerbated by the fact that she will always be the youngest in the class anyway being August born, and her concentration, if she is not fully engaged at all times she will stop co-operating.
With her EDS she gets a lot of pain but doesn’t tell anyone, which means she will suffer in silence mostly. If it gets too bad then she will get frustrated and that’s when her school work will suffer. Secondary schools are much larger than primary and there are often a lot of stairs and a lot of moving around during the day. It’s going to be tough on her joints. Then there are her gastro problems, which are hoping to get some help with, they could be problematic at a big school.
When a child has disabilities but no special educational needs I have found that the school finds it difficult to categorise them. Those with SEN can go into special classes, but this is not appropriate for a child who is able to compete with their peers academically. Also, Star’s disabilities are, mostly, invisible, which causes more confusion on how she should be treated.
My past experiences are from more than fifteen years ago, but they are still very raw in my mind. It is so difficult when school doesn’t work for your child. Obviously you want them to have a good education, but you also want them to be happy and safe in their environment. It’s not good when it all goes wrong.
Last week I took Star to visit a local Secondary School. It was one she had expressed a wish to attend, so I figured that was good place to start. We spent two hours touring the school, taking part in mini-lessons and speaking to the head teacher. Star was very impressed and I felt quite happy too.
Today, I had another visit with Star’s Dad in tow. We saw the school at work during a normal school day which was nice. We also had the chance to have a good chat about the future of the school and all of the worries I have about Star attending secondary school.
I was assured that the school has experience of dealing with autistic pupils from all areas of the spectrum and they were integrated into the classrooms and taught with their peers.
I was assured that because it was a small school that each individual pupil was known by staff personally and their needs always known. So if Star was having a bad day with pain or tiredness they would accommodate her by giving her extra time to get to her classes or letting her have lessons on the lower floor only. They are also in the process of building a new school which will have lifts for children who need them.
I was assured that even when the new school building was open that the school would still be a small school with a family like environment. I do think this would be better for Star, I like that the teacher’s will know her and know what her difficulties are. It would be much more difficult in a larger school.
So, at the moment, I am feeling quite confident that this will be our choice of school. I am not going to make up my mind without viewing other schools, but I doubt that we will be happier anywhere else. I am currently happy for Star to continue in mainstream school, I just hope I’m making the right decision.