I have always thought that each LA should have one or two such ASD-specific schools. Yes, it would entail expense, but I would be willing to bet that it would be less than the funding for independent ASD-specific special schools, especially residential ones.
My son is a classic example of a passive, gifted child with AS who because he was 'no trouble' at school endured 9 years of struggle which he internalised, until he had a severe breakdown. He would have thrived at such a local LA ASD-specific school as you describe...but because none exist in my county, the LA and SS then had to spend tens of thousands of pounds funding a residential special school placement for him.
My LA has spent the last 15 years saying that such a school was in the planning stage...it could probably have been funded a fair few times over by the funding for independent special schools. It's so short-sighted and frustrating!
About 45% of educational tribunals are for children with ASD/AS and Dyslexia/SPLD seeking an independent school placement at a school with SALT/OT and specialist trained teachers on site, and a fair proportion of them are seeking a residential placement mainly on the grounds of the child needing to learn 'social and life skills' and needing a 24/7 curriculum and support.
I know my LEA pays a 'group fee' at a reduced rate for the 11 pupils they have in just one local independent school.
And I know the LEA and the Autism Outreach Teacher are getting more and more children referred to them. My own LEAs website contains documents on "how they are going to meet the increased need for SEN placements" over the next decade onwards. And although I can see from their plans that they are trying. They also seem unable to take on board some very simple ASD difficulties so their plans of 'transporting' children across sites (along with other daily changes in environment, teachers, TAs etc) so that they can use their current resources 'more effectively', is going to produce more problems, increased pupil refusal and maybe even the occasional exclusion. And what they are suggesting flies in the face of what is always recommended for pupils having such difficulties ie. low arousal, same classroom/teachers/TAs throughout the day.
The new government is probably going to look into the SEN process. But are they just going to see the high proportion of appeals under that section and in some way change the rules so that parents no longer have the right to seek an independent placement. Afterall those independent school fees are not cheap so it looks like an obvious area in which to save money.
Or will they take a long term view and actually ensure that LEAs do have that type of school. Or will the current government wait and expect the 'private market' or 'parents' to set up and run such schools.
Whatever the outcome parents need choices and need access to schools that do provide the education and social/life skills that the child needs.
I don't think we needs excessive additional 'types' of school. Those with Downs Syndrome learn in the same way as NT children, just at a slower pace and to a lower level.
I think a new type is needed for children who do not learn in the same way as other children, whether that is academically or socially.
I agree that not every child with an ASD needs a special school. But if each LEA did have at least one special school for capable children with an ASD, and which had professionals on site at the school - those schools could do outreach to the children in mainstream that need them. And if those academically capable children currently in mainstream did not cope, either due to their difficulties or due to being bullied etc, then at least there would be another option open to parents as a placement ie. the LEA special school for ASD/SPLD.
I don't understand why my son's current school uses around 10 different SALTs that travel in from all over the county to see different children. My son's SALT has to travel 90 mins each week. Time, which I feel could be spent in school. I am sure one SALT based in school could do the job and use less time, get to know all the children and teachers and parents. I think MDTs should be based in schools.
It is very unfortunate that children do have breakdowns and get to such a low state. And this almost seems a pre-requisite now before an independent school is even considered. The whole approach of meeting SEN is backwards eg. your child has to be xx years behind before they receive funding or input, they have to have had a breakdown before the current placement is seen as inappropriate etc.
The LEA and all the professionals involved already know that some children do not learn or do not cope. From the early assessments they have a very good idea of the prognosis for each child. They already know what the long term needs will probably be and yet they pretend to parents that they don't. And the only reason I can see for that is to keep encouraging mainstream as an option for as long as possible to save on extra funding.
For example, for my son, it is obvious to me now that his intial assessments showed such severe speech and language difficulties that he was not going to be able to access mainstream learning and would probably have associated SPLD. And professionals did already know that and now admit that. But he only moved to an enhanced resource placement for the start of year 3 after a tribunal - not because professionals supported me and agreed he needed that placement. The LEA resisted and tried to keep him mainstream. And even in that supported environment he still is not making progress.
It still amazes me now, when I look back over correspondence regarding my son and denials by professionals that he had certain difficulties, only for them to backtrack and admit that he does indeed have those difficulties and that they are 'typical' of a child with his difficulties. The timescale is usually around 3 years later. I have had the EP say there was no evidence that my son has processing delays and the OT has said she did not think he had low muscle tone. Both are now needs identified and in his Statement. Why do we have to fight every single inch of the way.
Parents may sometimes have high expectations. But that is not necessarily their fault. If you are being told that mainstream is the way, then you expect your child to cope and make progress in mainstream. When that does not happen who has been unrealistic, the parents or the professionals that recommended mainstream?