It was quite daunting this morning preparing myself for this visit. Warrior mum was put to one side, while anxious mum came out. When dinky was a baby there wasn’t a hint of her having additional needs, as she grew the harder she was to manage, but I always thought she would be in mainstream education. It never dawned on me the possibility of Dinks going to a special school.
I have seen one special school, but this was different somehow. Possibly because I have had lots of people tell me that dinky would be ‘too bright’ for this school (even though no-one actually knows the level she is currently working at!).
The chair person of the local autism support group came with me.
When we got there the chair person signed us both in and seemed like she was in a home away from home. The head teacher met with us and we walked into his office. Everywhere had not only visual pictures with directions but also social story type sheets everywhere so that more kids would understand them.
We went into the office and the head just oozed loveliness! He said he could tell that I was anxious and asked if Dinky’s current school have said that they can not cope. I told him that the 8 exclusions in 9 weeks sort of spoke for themselves!
He was great. He explained that some parent just thought they would come and take a look, but their children were probably able to stay in the mainstream for a little while longer. I explained we were in the statutory assessment phase, and that Dinky was in nurture, which is not only the wrong provision for her but also only short term. He said “oh well that is just not on!” He explained that the school do not exclude children, some children learn from their mainstream schools what they need to do in order to get sent home. He said that the children are never at fault. If something goes wrong the adults work out what went wrong and do their best to recify it the following day to ensure it doesn’t happen again. I told him that would be brilliant for Dinky as her school is all about making the right choice, unfortunately Dinky keeps getting told she is making the wrong choices.
He asked about ADHD, I said it wasn’t diagnosed, in the report from the paediatrician he says hyperactivity, and the educational psychologist thinks it might just be something linked in with the PDA, some of the things she does may seem hyper, but it is anxiety. He asked if dinky had a diagnosis of PDA, I said not yet. We are in the waiting list, but she has a provisional diagnosis of PDA for now.
He really was brilliant. He said he knew what PDA was and that it is unusual for kids to be diagnosed with it as it is not in the medical manuals but he also knew that there was a big push at the moment to get it put in them!
He said that there was no problem meeting Dinky’s needs academically as they are a generic special school and therefore take all sorts of children, a percentage of which have average to above average intelligence, but they still have to follow the national curriculum, it is all done on individual levels. However the morning is structured learning time, English, maths, science,ect. He asked if dinky was on target, I said no, she is in her reading but that is about it.
He went on to say that if Dinky got a place, that as a child with PDA they would start her with play therapy, and learning that way. Especially at first .
He said that most kids make very good progress when starting at his school, and they work their plans to make sure that the progress is sustainable.
He also explained the procedure for challenging behaviour, and then went on to say the children are not expected to stay seated at all times, the children with ADD/ADHD, autism/PDA hyperactivity were free to get up and move around, they would be kept safe and directed back to class after a bit of a walk. He seemed a little shocked when I told him that at the current school they either don’t let her leave the classroom, or she gets followed round the school by two members of staff and I get called as they can’t cope with it as it takes one member of senior leadership team who is restraint trained and one member of the nurture staff to follow her about. I have even been called to peel her off the fence in a bid to escape. Yes, he was a little shocked and said that she wouldn’t be seen as naughty, and they would build in time for her walk abouts. They wouldn’t phone me, and she wouldn’t be excluded.
I went to go and have a look around. To me it seemed very visually busy tend distracting in the hallways. We passed the hall, which had a trampoline set up inside, he said they do rebound therapy in school, and dinky would probably be set Up with that too when she started as it would be good for her.
We went to see the year 1 classroom.
To me it seemed like chaos, there was a lad in a corner with a 1:1 who was sitting nicely, there were two lads doing independent learning (drawing quite well on white boards- they were adorable), a table with a TA and 2 children, another table with a TA and 3 children and the class teacher with 2 children. I looked at the work they were doing.
If there was anything that made me see this was the right sort of environment for Dinky, it was looking at the work. In the morning at her current school she has 1:1 in a class of 4 children. Still she is unable to learn as her demand avoidance kicks in. The level 3 of the children were working at was above what dinky is capable of at the moment. The table with 2 kids was just about the level she is currently at, but I don’t know that she’d sit at the table and not be under it. In fact I think most of the kids in that class were working way above her ability academically and ’emotionally’. I think dinky would have been bouncing off the walls with the chaos and the noise. That or demanding her own white board.
The teacher came over to us and took over from the head, she showed us the outside play area, and then chatted to me for a bit. She said that all the staff were very well trained and while PDA is relatively new as a condition and is quite rare (or possibly just under diagnosed), they are all aware of it and are trained and are always being topped up with their training. She didn’t answer all my questions but she did ok. We were joined by a lad that wanted to have a little walk round and he became our tour guide, he showed us the library, the sensory room (of which each class gets at least 30 minutes a week inside), where the pool was, but it was in use so we couldn’t go in, the hall, then the soft play room.
I don’t think it had the provision of the first special school I saw (the first had a sensory room per 2 classes and each class had an outdoor space and there was a sensory garden), also the first school seemed calmer, more relaxed, and I felt less visually assaulted! Although the second school I saw today had life, it had fun, it had complete understanding and the head teacher already seemed to be a man with a plan if Dinky went there. He said that all the children were special, and made to feel welcome and were celebrated.
I do like the school. I think she would find it harder in some respects as she gets distracted by too much visual stimulation, and it was very noisy, but I think on the whole it will be better than the school she is currently at, and I’d rather her be somewhere with a better attitude than resources, plus it is a lot closer. It is more than likely that the local authority would place her in this school than the first one.
I was happy, I think the difference in the ethos of the special school and the current school is enormous!
I almost cried twice in the heads office. Once when they said that the child is never at fault, and then when he said that all the children are celebrated and said what help he would give dinky just on the signpost of her provisional diagnosis’.
I left feeling much better about Dinky’s education if she went into this special school and more than ever I want to say “YOU WERE WRONG!!!!” To those that said that dinky was too bright for special school, who thought her difficulties didn’t warrant special education. Well, she does, and now I know what she needs… I will make sure she gets it!
I went to pick dinky up. She wasn’t in the nurture room, which is never normally a good sign. However I had no phone call today which was a bonus! She was in the library with 2 teachers. She was dressed up as a nurse! I was handed a medical slip
dinky left nurture and headed into library, she then when approached to help her spotted a window and opened it through this she made her escape, slightly bumped head
It is brilliantly worded (minus the grammatical errors – which I know I can not talk much about given the amount of spelling mistakes on here!).
The head of nurture said: Kaitlyn bumped her head as she tried to get out of the window today
Dinky cut in: I escaped the library!
Brilliant! She was so impressed at her escape! She said it so innocently, but excited.
A new lego ninjago figure had her letting me put her shoes on, and she was doing ok but ran off as soon as she saw the door open. She was ok though. The head of nurture was actually really nice, she asked about the school visit. She said she could see that I was doing what was best for Dinky.
Dinky came home pretty well, she even invited me to build the lego city ambulance and skater with her!!!!!! We built it together, there was a lot of “well, what do the instructions say we do next?” And dinky was quite happy to follow the picture instructions, there were points where she asked me to do bits, and we shared bits to do. She got me to do all the very fiddly bits, which is fair enough as I know she struggles with them.
We struggled with the getting ready for bed… Lego ninjago to the rescue on netflix!
I love it when she goes to bed… Not for the peace and quiet, but because she will actually give me a kiss and cuddle 🙂