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      Depression, Mental Health and Crisis Support   06/04/2017

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RichardS

Hello, and how my son is educated

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RichardS   

Hello,

 

I'm new to the forum and I thought I'd introduce myself. My thirteen year old son's education is a bit unusual, and I thought it might be of interest.

 

I withdrew him from conventional education a little over two years ago, at the start of Year 6, because it just wasn't working out and it had reached the point at which he wasn't safe any more. He's now educated under a special provision with the LEA; I manage his education and have been given authority by the LEA to use ten hours per week funding to pay tutors. We also have an informal arrangement with a local secondary school so he can attend their maths classes (with me sitting in).

 

It's interesting because, thanks to one or two sympathetic people in authority, I've been able to do what lot of parents dream of - construct an education system, free from the restrictions of National Curriculum and from the pressures and stresses of a regular school environment , that absolutely fits my son's strengths and needs. We haven't migrated to the new EHC system yet and it's being managed through the old Statement process but I suspect there's potential for this kind of arrangement to become more feasible for parents who have the will to do it. This isn't home schooling (although of course it resembles it); it's the result of a creative and possibly unique collaboration between myself and the LEA. The results so far have been absolutely amazing. I'd be glad to talk about it to anyone who'd like to know more.

 

Richard

Edited by RichardS

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Sally44   

Very interesting.

 

I know it is possible. But you are quite a "rare breed" to have achieved it.

 

And I have been wondering myself how 'flexible' my own son's learning could potentially be as he gets older.

 

He is currently at an independent special school and therefore misses out on any potential local friendships. Academically he might at some stage be able to access a mainstream lesson in specific subject areas.

 

But very encouraging to hear what you have achieved. All too often we have to exchange one system for another when no system is compatible in its entirety.

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I found this very interesting. After 3 years with no education the LA are putting together a bespoke package for my now 16 year old son which will include specialist home tutoring. Were you able to access a tutor easily? Do they expect you to manage a budget or do they do that?

 

This is what some children need but I have had the rhetoric that your child needs 'exposure' without addressing underlying needs. :balloon:

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RichardS   

Hi Sally & Cath

 

Sorry it's taken me a while to get back on this, and thanks for replying.

 

It's been an exciting couple of weeks. My lad took his GCSE maths just before he turned 13 and we just found out he got an A*. Having pretty much entirely disengaged from education two years earlier (and about to be held back a year in primary maths), he's now gathering evidence that he can be a real success! I know Aspergers is a complex business, but more and more I wonder how many of the problems we encounter are mainly due to completely inappropriate environments, stress, and failure after failure after failure reducing our kids' self esteem to zero. They're not stupid, and they do know when everyone's treating them as though they're a serious problem!

 

Cath - interesting! I wonder how many people are in a similar situation? If there are any others in my Borough I expect I'd have heard about it. I am responsible for finding the tutors and I'm given a budget for 10 hours a week at £30/hour. Some weeks I overspend and make it up out of my pocket, other weeks I under spend a bit and I have full license to pay myself. It pretty much balances out in the end. He currently has five tutors and a little bit of time at the local school for maths and, soon I hope, Spanish and/or physics. The Borough and I are sort of making it up as we go along, and there are always problems to solve, but it's a genuine and robust solution to his education. I spend a lot of time making up the hours because 10 hours a week is not enough, but I hope that will increase soon.

 

"Exposure"....I know that one! The untested (and yet strangely revered) idea that schools are inherently a model of, and therefore a good preparation for, adult life is, in my opinion, rubbish for some kids . Throwing my son into that environment did absolutely nothing for him but stress him out so much he could neither learn nor socialise.

 

Sally - the issue of accessing academic subjects in a more "normal" environment has been key for me and my son too. He might want to study at university (certainly he's able enough) and he'll probably want a challenging, interesting job like most of us do! But I have pretty much abandoned the "social skills" intervention route because I don't think there's much evidence it works; it basically just rubs his nose in his sense of failure (how degrading, to be given lessons in how to interact with other people!). Instead, I have come to believe that my son will do well in mainstream (be it secondary, tertiary or the workplace) if he feels confident, if he's well qualified, and has a good track record of success. He's now pretty much integrated into his maths class at the local school (albeit a serious-minded class of 16 year olds) and I think that bodes well. He's been attending regularly since October without the slightest problem (having been told by a specialist autistic school 18 months ago that he couldn't attend any more because they couldn't keep him safe).

 

As this project rolls on I'm trying to look for ways my experience can be of use to other parents.

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Fantastic news for your son and great for his self esteem. I think it is important to highlight that thinking outside the box with educational provision can benefit children.

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dgeorgea   

We decided to home educate our daughter for a couple of years when she started to disengage from her learning when she was still in primary school.

 

I did love the argument that we were denying her the opportunity to learn to interact with others. No, if my daughter needed to be teased, bullied, harassed, pushed down stairs, sworn at and ignored to learn how to interact with others we were quite capable of doing this in the comfort of her home,

 

I also liked the argument that it was important for her 'natural development' and for growing up. There is nothing natural about the school environment. Where else in life are you forced to mix with others based on nothing more than they are approximately the same age and expected to be able to get on with everyone and 'fit in'.

 

While we would have welcomed contact and support from the LEA, especially as the intention was for her to return within a couple of years, we heard absolutely nothing from them and was left to our own devices.

 

Returning her to the system was a joy in itself. Only two schools said they had places for her. We arranged a visit to the school with the better reputation first. All the headteacher was interested in was getting our details so she could report us to the LEA. An assumption she would too far behind for them to have the resources to give her the obvious help she would need. At this point beyond us there had been no concern that there might be something underlying causing her problems with others. At the end of her rantings I thanked her and told her that there was no way I would allow my daughter to go to a school with a headteacher so narrow minded and bigoted.

 

She went to the other school, which was very different and in special measures. It was also thanks to the staff at this school that we learned our daughter had Aspergers. At the end of her primary years she had one of the highest SAT results in the borough. Something I had great joy in informing the head teacher of the other school. Including her 12 GCSEs 3 A levels and First at university. I got to know the headteacher later on through my voluntary work, and while I usually remained civil I never forgot her attitude or the way she spoke of my daughter in front of her.

 

When her secondary school became an academy we had to sign a home, student, school agreement. I refused to sign it. The agreement said they could keep the children at school for up to an hour after they were due to come home for detention without informing us. I pointed out that the school had been associated with several children being stabbed and our daughter had been chased all the way home on more than one occasion and I would not agree to sign it. I said I would agree to sign if the school agreed to call us and let us know she was being kept in. The change was signed by the head teacher and we signed it. During her GCSE year the English department decided to keep the children behind for an hour everyday for two weeks. My daughter called us and was distraught at this. I told her to attend the class but she would not be there long. I called the head teacher and asked if they had decided to do away with the home contract and had to explain what was going on. My daughter was delighted 15 minutes into the extra lesson the head teacher walked in, told her to go home and the teacher was told to go and see him after the lesson.

 

There was a little bit of ire towards my daughter about this, but as she pointed out her dad had actually read the agreement and got it changed. It wasn't her fault if their parents just signed the agreement.

 

Why do schools have to be such hard work?

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Livelife   

We decided to home educate our daughter for a couple of years when she started to disengage from her learning when she was still in primary school.

 

I did love the argument that we were denying her the opportunity to learn to interact with others. No, if my daughter needed to be teased, bullied, harassed, pushed down stairs, sworn at and ignored to learn how to interact with others we were quite capable of doing this in the comfort of her home,

 

I also liked the argument that it was important for her 'natural development' and for growing up. There is nothing natural about the school environment. Where else in life are you forced to mix with others based on nothing more than they are approximately the same age and expected to be able to get on with everyone and 'fit in'.

 

While we would have welcomed contact and support from the LEA, especially as the intention was for her to return within a couple of years, we heard absolutely nothing from them and was left to our own devices.

 

Returning her to the system was a joy in itself. Only two schools said they had places for her. We arranged a visit to the school with the better reputation first. All the headteacher was interested in was getting our details so she could report us to the LEA. An assumption she would too far behind for them to have the resources to give her the obvious help she would need. At this point beyond us there had been no concern that there might be something underlying causing her problems with others. At the end of her rantings I thanked her and told her that there was no way I would allow my daughter to go to a school with a headteacher so narrow minded and bigoted.

 

She went to the other school, which was very different and in special measures. It was also thanks to the staff at this school that we learned our daughter had Aspergers. At the end of her primary years she had one of the highest SAT results in the borough. Something I had great joy in informing the head teacher of the other school. Including her 12 GCSEs 3 A levels and First at university. I got to know the headteacher later on through my voluntary work, and while I usually remained civil I never forgot her attitude or the way she spoke of my daughter in front of her.

 

When her secondary school became an academy we had to sign a home, student, school agreement. I refused to sign it. The agreement said they could keep the children at school for up to an hour after they were due to come home for detention without informing us. I pointed out that the school had been associated with several children being stabbed and our daughter had been chased all the way home on more than one occasion and I would not agree to sign it. I said I would agree to sign if the school agreed to call us and let us know she was being kept in. The change was signed by the head teacher and we signed it. During her GCSE year the English department decided to keep the children behind for an hour everyday for two weeks. My daughter called us and was distraught at this. I told her to attend the class but she would not be there long. I called the head teacher and asked if they had decided to do away with the home contract and had to explain what was going on. My daughter was delighted 15 minutes into the extra lesson the head teacher walked in, told her to go home and the teacher was told to go and see him after the lesson.

 

There was a little bit of ire towards my daughter about this, but as she pointed out her dad had actually read the agreement and got it changed. It wasn't her fault if their parents just signed the agreement.

 

 

I don't pretend to know much at all about the school system in this country but I do know it's full of regulation that has no real benefit to a child's educational progress.

It's the same as most organisations they forget people are not robots we have minds of our own and an Autistic child has special needs that need to be flexible and able to change and adapt as the child grows.

Most are ridged in their rules a lot of the time for the school or for appearance not what will benefit the child as an individual.

Why do schools have to be such hard work?

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dgeorgea   

I don't pretend to know much at all about the school system in this country but I do know it's full of regulation that has no real benefit to a child's educational progress.

It's the same as most organisations they forget people are not robots we have minds of our own and an Autistic child has special needs that need to be flexible and able to change and adapt as the child grows.

Most are ridged in their rules a lot of the time for the school or for appearance not what will benefit the child as an individual.

Why do schools have to be such hard work?

 

 

There are a number of issues with our education system.

 

A report in the 90s found that many children in special need schools could cope in mainstreams schools with adjustments. This was important as many young people were limited at the beginning of their working lives because they lacked the same opportunities as their peers in mainstream schools. One problem is that this became dogma for Blair and Labour. The problem is special need schools fell out of favour and many have since been shut down.

 

This is a problem because teacher training includes very little in the way of understanding learning difficulties or needs of disabled children. What we achieved was to lose a lot of specialist knowledge and resources. Neither has integration worked, instead we have ended up with special units attached to mainstream schools.

 

The other problem is that education has become a political football with politicians making decisions which are then forced onto schools. The national curriculum is one example, where teachers are often having to move onto the next section before students have grasped what they have already been taught. As a result children who have not grasped the basics begin to get left behind and this often does not get picked up until the gap becomes a big issue. To give an example every year we how scandalous it is that children are leaving primary/junior school without being able to read. Yet I have worked in special need schools for autism where every child can read. Not to the level required by SATs but can read. Yet we have NT students spending 6 years in primary school and cannot read, continue through secondary education and can either not read or read well below their age level.

 

But to answer your main question as to why do schools have to be such hard work, mainstream schools were never designed for the level of integration that they are now expected to deal with, and in general teacher training has failed to keep up with the change.

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Livelife   

There are a number of issues with our education system.

 

A report in the 90s found that many children in special need schools could cope in mainstreams schools with adjustments. This was important as many young people were limited at the beginning of their working lives because they lacked the same opportunities as their peers in mainstream schools. One problem is that this became dogma for Blair and Labour. The problem is special need schools fell out of favour and many have since been shut down.

 

This is a problem because teacher training includes very little in the way of understanding learning difficulties or needs of disabled children. What we achieved was to lose a lot of specialist knowledge and resources. Neither has integration worked, instead we have ended up with special units attached to mainstream schools.

 

The other problem is that education has become a political football with politicians making decisions which are then forced onto schools. The national curriculum is one example, where teachers are often having to move onto the next section before students have grasped what they have already been taught. As a result children who have not grasped the basics begin to get left behind and this often does not get picked up until the gap becomes a big issue. To give an example every year we how scandalous it is that children are leaving primary/junior school without being able to read. Yet I have worked in special need schools for autism where every child can read. Not to the level required by SATs but can read. Yet we have NT students spending 6 years in primary school and cannot read, continue through secondary education and can either not read or read well below their age level.

 

But to answer your main question as to why do schools have to be such hard work, mainstream schools were never designed for the level of integration that they are now expected to deal with, and in general teacher training has failed to keep up with the change.

 

That does sound the way politicians do things and no heed is taken of those that actually understand what's needed and they create a system that doesn't work and actually increases the problems that make life difficult in the education system.

I don't know why they do not listen and implement what needs to be done, if you get a better education which actually works as it should then that would lead into adult life so there wouldn't be as many problems caused from the school era.

Maybe it's me I just don't see the logic in the way things are done, thanks for the explanation it makes more sense to me now.

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Mihaela   

Dgeorgea - mainstream schools are hideously unnatural environments for children, whether autistic or not. Like NT society itself, they are crude compromises is so many ways. They only pay mere lip service to what it means to be truly educated. Instead of fostering talent they restrict, direct and channel it to produce the mediocre adults required for maintaining the dysfunctional, unequal, materialistic society in which we live.

For years I was involved in home-education, and I heard so many horror stories about schools and teachers that I soon became convinced that the system cares very little for children in any real sense. Instead, it's overriding priorities are self-preservation and the maintaining of the status quo that ensures that our next generation are kept in ignorance of so many things that matter in civilisation's progress. They educate, but only as far as prevailing neurotypical ideologies allow. Education, in the true and only sense of the word, is much wider than the mere preparation for passing state-approved exams aimed at a gaining a career - and must be a lifelong process. As an intellectually 'gifted' child, school fostered within me an intense cloying boredom, a permanent state of anxiety and an almost pathological aversion to 'authority figures' and all that goes with them - violence, ignorance, hypocrisy, arrogance, etc. I have been self-taught ever since early childhood, and school did me enormous lasting harm.

That headteacher you mentioned sounds like a classic example of the petty-minded authoritarian mindset that is so prevalent in public bodies and so damaging to humanty. Ugh! Rant over :)

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Livelife   

It's no pointless rant just a truthful statement about the state of our education system and its results in educating youngsters. I'm not bright or educated I left school with no qualifications but that was probably due to no real help I was just left in a slow learners class with a teacher that never even tried to give any support I was just there.

All any of us can do is say what we see it's good that some people see a lot more than others I do find that very helpful in life.

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RichardS   

Just thought I'd pop in and let you all know how this education experiment is going.

 

My son's 13 and at the start of this academic year successfully integrated into Maths A level and Spanish final-year GCSE classes at the local school. Having been declared incapable of engaging with even the most highly-specialist ASD school just two years ago, he's now doing very well in these classes without any SEN/TA support at all.

 

He's also following a broad curriculum with tutors who come to our home, in physics, chemistry, electronics, music, English and RE and I expect he'll get into more school classes next year.

 

This has all been achieved by allowing him to play to his skills, not humiliating him with endless baffling "social skills" lessons (on the theory that, given a bit of confidence and self-esteem, he'll grow into socially acceptable ways of behaving), allowing him to forge ahead quickly in some subjects, and going slowly in others. Most of all, it's been achieved by removing the stresses and strains of being part of rough-and-tumble classes, and allowing him to go straight into the classes in which the kids behave themselves, focus, and get the work done.

 

I am more convinced than ever that the most troubling "symptoms" of Aspergers Syndrome are caused by forced exposure to wholly unhelpful environments. Take those stresses away, and a level-headed, focused, able, and actually quite socially fluent kid emerges.

Edited by RichardS

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Mihaela   

That's great news, Richard.

 

Most of all, it's been achieved by removing the stresses and strains of being part of rough-and-tumble classes...

 

Exactly! It's common sense really - or at least it should be.. If only more would learn this.

 

I am more convinced than ever that the most troubling "symptoms" of Aspergers Syndrome are caused by forced exposure to wholly unhelpful environments. Take those stresses away, and a level-headed, focused, able, and actually quite socially fluent kid emerges.

 

Very true. The answer is simple, and neurotypical society needs to realise that they are responsible for all the difficulties we Aspies have in our lives. Far from being an 'extreme-male-brain' issue it's really all about the extreme sensitivities (physical, emotional, even aesthetic...) that we suffer by having to live in a very intense, confusing and scary world.

Edited by Mihaela

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