Nicki: Then we got, because we had a diagnosis, so before Tyler went to school he had a statement which was fantastic. Because he was at our local pre-school at the time the natural progression there would have been for him to go to the school that was linked to that pre-school. So both of us took it upon ourselves to go and look at a lot of schools in the area. That particular school that he was supposed to go to, or that is the natural progression of things has a completely open playground. They don’t have a special needs unit until the child reaches 7 and there are at least 31 in a class. So knowing our son he would have been gone playtime he would have run, he would have thought it was have great fun and he wouldn’t have looked back and he would have been lost. He would have been sat disrupting all the other kids, not really knowing what was going on, wandering around thinking oh this is boring. It would have been awful. So we went to visit a number of schools didn’t we?
Nicki: Including the special school that is actually quite close to us but the location of it is irrelevant because they get transport anyway. But we went to look at a school called [school]…. They specialise they just don’t have children with ASD but it is primarily children with ASD and we went to have a look round and we stayed for a very long time didn’t we.
Nicki: And we were overwhelmed.
Mark: The minute we walked in there we knew that that was the right place for Tyler. It was …
Nicki: And they understood …
Mark: I think that was our main concern, safety, wasn’t it?
Nicki: Absolutely. And you know we didn’t want him to be discriminated against or ostracised or any of those things and this school demonstrated absolute understanding of ASD and the way in which he would behave.
The class sizes are very small. There is only 8 in a class and that is with a teacher and two or three TA’s in every class. They do things, the sensory things as well. So they have bubble rooms, and they take them swimming to the hydro-therapy pool and they take them horse riding and all these extra things that he wouldn’t have got in a mainstream school. The other concern about mainstream is that he would have dedicated time. He would have a TA dedicated to him. The maximum he would have been able to get would have been four hours a day, which means that it wouldn’t be all day. So for the rest of that he would have been disruptive, wandering off, all those things I mentioned previously.
And the other thing is with TA’s and this is a purely personal view and I am sure there are fantastic TA’s out there, but it really is pot luck. You may be lucky enough to have a TA who has just followed a child who has just followed a child with ASD right the way through school and has a lot of experience, but you may also get a TA who is brand new to autism and almost learns based on your child. And I didn’t want my child to be the subject of someone’s learning. I wanted experience for him because he only gets one chance at being a child and having an education. So that was really important.
So we felt very comfortable the special school. We went back again and took Tyler with us and he loved it. So when the decision came it had to go to a panel to decide which school he went to Mark and I actually sat in the building where they made the decision and asked the question, “What happens if we don’t get the school that we have chosen? And what is the appeal process?” So we made sure we knew how to appeal that decision before it was even made because it was so important to us. So fortunately they made the decision he would go to the special school. He has been there a year and a half now, hasn’t he?
Nicki: He has progressed beyond belief. His level of understanding is at least three or fourfold to how it was. We just don’t worry about him being there.