THE BLOG

Special Needs in Mainstream? Does it Really Work?

17/05/2015 19:02 BST | Updated 16/05/2016 10:59 BST

I always say the same thing when asked: "Is your little one in a mainstream school?"

I reply: "Yes, we've decided to try the mainstream route first"

Really, that's extremely wrong. It's wrong because, actually, we don't have a choice, so we didn't 'decide' anything! Really, we are forced to put our child through mainstream education until the school feel that they can't offer our child any more.

Unless a child follows the 'special education' path from birth and has a statement (or EHCP as it's now known) in place for the beginning of their educational journey, us parents have no choice other than to plunge our child into the mainstream school and cover our eyes, hoping for the best when we do it.

I must admit that being on the path of review meetings and the mention of a 'EHCP' for a second time is rather a slog. It's very wearing on the mind and body, never mind wearing on the nerves of the child who is under constant scrutiny.

Rascal #1 is now comfortably ensconced in a rather perfect special school, after we 'decided' to try mainstream. We were also refused a statement initially (that's when the laptop was hurled across the room), however, after the second attempt, we hit the jackpot. This enabled our first born to attend school in comfort, familiarity, in a stress free environment, with small class sizes and for us as parents to blow out a huge sigh of relief. Suddenly mornings weren't so bad.

However, second born is not so lucky. Rascal #2 has to deal with overstimulation in a class of 54 at the age of 3, while dealing with ASD and potentially a rare genetic condition. Even the installation of a dark den in class doesn't seem to keep #2 from tipping over the edge once home.

Oh yes. Home time. That wonderful moment when our youngest two rascals are so hyped up from overstimulation and hypersensory that our house becomes akin to a zoo.

Rascal #1 however, is respectfully chilled out at this point. #1 has had the correct amount of stimulation, with the correct therapies to balance the sensory requirement, while learning in a creative teaching environment.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the younger two doesn't keep #1 calm and suddenly all three are as high as kites.

However, an EHCP is unobtainable currently for our youngest two. Wouldn't you think that if a child has a diagnosis, then surely, support they need would be put in place, no questions asked?

I believe that many mainstream schools are wonderful and do try ultimately hard to include children with additional needs, but the teachers don't have the training of SEN teachers, or the vast knowledge of what a child needs, and indeed the school generally doesn't have all of the facilities that a child with special needs requires.

Why do we have to fight so hard for what we need?

I would offer the following advice:

* Know exactly what you want for your child

* Persist with your requirements

* Always be polite, and respectful, but be very firm.

* Read up about the system and let the school know that you are clued up.

* Offer to help with the gathering of evidence whenever a stumbling block is hit (it will soon work out!)