My autistic son will be leaving school this summer. He has autism and I am extremely grateful he has always attended a special needs school where his particular needs have been recognised. However, I am now waiting for a decision, which will ultimately change his life, and mine, i.e. where he will go next.
There is very little provision for adults with autism and at the age of nineteen he could find himself in an environment with people almost four times his age. Once an adult, always an adult, and the services take no account of whether you are nineteen or ninety.
Finding the right school or provision is so important for every child and there will be several parents disappointed to learn they haven’t got their child into the school of their choice.
Schooling is an issue for parents of all children, but if your child has some form of special needs, especially if it hasn’t been formally identified and recognised, it can be particularly harrowing.
One poor woman was so desperate to find a school where her clearly intelligent, but incredibly dyslexic son’s needs could be addressed, she bought her own. That’s a bit extreme, but when she learned the school which appeared to finally understand her thirteen-year-old son was due to close at the end of the Christmas term, she followed her gut instinct and bought it.
Now Annabel Goodman is obviously reasonably well off. She has a degree in psychology and is a barrister but has no teaching experience. Her main asset is she is a mother and understands her son.
She knows the reason her first born has already changed schools nine different schools in his short life time is because the classroom environment was not set up to see how clever Jacob really was.
Whilst most people were pouring over what presents to buy for Christmas, and enjoying the New Year festivities, Annabel was deciding how to raise the funds to buy the small school before the beginning of the following term, and how to actually run it.
Luckily, she raised the money, the three teaching staff decided to remain, as did the twelve children, and this has now increased to seventeen teachers with thirty-four children. Annabel runs it, helps out with teaching the Primary school children, and teaches Citizenship to the older children. She still also works as a barrister. I admire her.
I know from my experience with autism when you have even one child with some form of special needs, it affects the whole family. It is not just the child and his or her family, but siblings and grandparents too.
The school your child attends can significantly either help or hinder the situation, but sadly not all pupils with special needs will ever have them identified. Many are seen as just being disruptive, but people with dyslexia find it hard to follow instructions, read or copy from the board.
I have in the past worked as a teaching assistant and seen the problems first hand. Many children with problems like dyslexia, especially in their teenage years, lose self-confidence. Even their peers may call them “thick”, “dumb” or “stupid”. Often they play the fool in the classroom just to take attention away from the fact they are struggling with the written work their classmates are doing. They are perceived to be naughty, and yet most are really creative, well co-ordinated physically and have a lot of empathy for others.
However, given the correct environment, where the classes are personalised for the individuals, these dyslexic children can thrive. Clearly they are intelligent and verbally bright. Their problem is demonstrating their unique abilities in the way most school environments expect.
Dyslexia is a permanent specific learning difficulty, which affects a person’s ability to deal with text, and often numbers. It affects between 4 – 8% of the population, and like autism is more prevalent in boys than girls. The rates are about 1:4 for boys and 1:10 for girls.
Unfortunately, many children go through their entire schooling never being properly diagnosed and it’s no wonder there is so much trouble in many mainstream schools. One disruptive child in a classroom can seriously influence the learning experience of the rest of the students and that’s another reason parents need to find the correct school for their offspring.
Education is the key to life and if a child leaves with low literacy skills his or her employment prospects could be seriously impaired. Unfortunately, these days it’s usually the formal qualifications you have which gets you the first foot in the door. It doesn’t matter how skilled you are, how trustworthy or reliable, the best jobs go to those who can read and write and have the qualifications to prove it.
It’s a worry. Anyone know of any more schools for sale?
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