My boys all finally go back to school on Monday after a 4 week holiday, well 4 weeks combined for me as they are 3 different schools.
We have chosen their schools to suit each boy individually so we now have three schools in very disparate locations which can make life hard for me sometimes . The older three all get LA transport to school. ‘Oh how lucky you are to get taxis for your boys’ people remark. I just respond with ‘I would feel very lucky if they were able to take themselves to school’.
The twins, 17 are at a special needs school in central London, our middle son is at a large independent school for specific learning needs over an hour away down the motorway in Surrey and the youngest is the only one still at mainstream school but with full time 1:1 support in the form of ABA tutors.
None of the schools are autism specific; we made a decision early on to try and keep the boys with either mainstream children or a mix of other children with varied needs. After all, our home is like its own mini autism school 24/7. How will they know about the rest of society if they rarely get to meet them? It’s not like other families where siblings may bring home neurotypical friends to tea.
It can be a difficult decision to make, which school to send your child to. Mainstream with support or special needs? All our boys went to mainstream with ABA support at primary age. I think this meant that they got exposed to a wide variety of other children and to the hustle and bustle of a large school environment. I am sure at times it was hard for them and how hard would it have been to continue that into secondary school ?
It’s hard to be a teenager: you want to be like everyone else and not stand out. I reasoned that being at mainstream secondary with a tutor or support worker everywhere they went would mean my boys would have really stood out and exposed them. Also, if they couldn’t follow a GCSE curriculum would the school have the expertise to teach them alternative courses? So, for secondary , we chose specialist schools which could offer a high level of support but a similar level of support that the other children attending also needed so they wouldn’t feel ‘different’.
I won’t discuss the difficulties of funding here if you choose a school outside your borough which we have done.
We are now in the process of choosing further education for our twins who turn 18 in March. They have an unusual mix of very high non verbal IQs and very low levels of language. They cannot easily access education and have been unable to take GCSEs (except art and one twin has taken maths GCSE 3 times now) due to their language disorder but they thrive on learning. Special needs colleges offer vocational courses which are less academic so we are now aiming at mainstream colleges and we will have to apply for an EHCP from 18 to get the necessary 1:1 support in place so that they can access some BTEC courses.
The saving grace for the boys is that one twin is a talented artist and the other a musician, mainly a drummer, so we have had no problem in actually choosing appropriate courses as the options are so obvious. The whole process however is a daunting one and we have many professionals involved as the EHCP will also cover their social needs in the transition process to adulthood. It’s almost as hard as the original statementing process was back when they were 3 and first diagnosed but without the shock and grief we were going through at that time. So, it’s a much happier process now and although we still don’t know what the future holds for them, it is a lot brighter than the one we were offered at age 3.