We’ve had a very ‘Tink focused’ start to this week. It has meant lots of thinking about the future and the difficult decisions that we need to make very soon.
On Monday we had a review meeting with Tink’s teacher and teaching assistant, as well as the school SENCo. I was not looking forward to this after the chat we had at parent’s evening in October. However, it was really positive! The Occupational Therapist that we had seen a few weeks ago had been in to Nursery that morning to see if there were any tips she could give them for managing Tink’s behaviour, anxiety and sensory issues. And, it seems, there were plenty. Tink’s teacher and TA seemed to have a renewed determination now that they have some new things to try with her – a real change from the sense of defeat I picked up on at parent’s evening.
They said that she is mostly managing very well, but that the open plan nature of the nursery is hampering their efforts to engage her in specific activities, as she will just refuse and go off to another area if she doesn’t want to do something. So, her TA has been taking her over to one of the Reception classes for an hour a day, to see if that curbs her wandering and encourages her to focus on a set activity for longer periods of time. I think it’s also probably a way for them to gauge how she might cope in the classroom when the time comes.
We came out of the meeting feeling happy that school still seem to want to try as hard as they can with her and for her. However, this renewed enthusiasm has made making the choice between mainstream education or an alternative much more difficult!
On Tuesday we went to visit another special needs school. This one is quite local to us and is very much autism-focused. It’s the one that most people I’ve spoken to or asked an opinion from have said “ooh yes, you need to get her in there!” It’s also the one that we have been trying to see for months, but there were no appointments. So yes, very popular!
The school is well-established, but this site is brand-spanking new and opened this September. There’s a definite odour of ‘new carpet’, which is nice! It’s very spacious and the classrooms are a good size, with no more than ten children in each class. Year groups are also split into two classes based on needs and abilities. The facilities are great; there is a team of speech therapists on site, as well as a music therapist; a state-of-the-art sensory room (and another in the pipeline); several food technology rooms; access to a soft play centre next door and the Donkey Sanctuary… Class numbers are low and staff numbers high.
It all sounds perfect. Just what Tink would really benefit from. I would hope she would thrive in a setting that, hopefully, gets her. A setting that knows what she needs and how to provide it. A setting that can recognise the way to best engage her so that she begins to learn, both academically as well as learning all those social skills and independence skills she’s lacking at the moment. They could help with her toileting, dressing herself and her eating.
Of course, there are things that she may not get from being in such a setting; she won’t be mixing with neurotypical children on a daily basis and I wonder how this will affect relationships and development. She’s been a part of her school’s community for well over a year now and is well-known and liked. But I think the thought of her having to start again is something that bothers me rather than her – she’s pretty oblivious!
Overall, I feel positive, although if we do decide to go down the special education route, we’ll have a battle to get a place, as they are like hen’s teeth. And, of course, it may be decided that wherever we choose can’t meet her needs, or that the general consensus is that she’ll make better progress remaining in mainstream. But, for now, we have options. We’ll have to wait and see what the next big meeting brings in a couple of weeks’ time!