Toby Chambers's picture
Under Free Schools program there is an opportunity to set up an Specialist School for children with Autism in North West London.

If you want your Autistic child to have the best education then drop us a line and be involved.
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Francis Gilbert's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 11:59

Is it best for all children on the autistic spectrum on to be segregated from other children? I'm not an expert so it's just a question...

Debbie Doyle's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 22:59

Depends on how severe the autism is and if they have other learning or physical and medical difficulties. At whatever level the child must be able to integrate or be included in some aspect of the world around them. It's up to the enabler to ensure that the correct level of support is given to be a successful experience for the child. The learning environment is crucial to achieving success with inclusion.

Ros Coffey's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 12:57

Frances, it depends where your child is on the autistic spectrum.

I should probably declare an interest as my godson is on the autistic spectrum and I have had to help his mother to ensure that he got the provision that he needed. He is 11, cannot speak but communicates through PECS (Picture Exchange), is sensitive to noise and has no concept of danger and visual cues.

One of the biggest problems that we encountered was the running down of MLD provision as some children were placed in mainstream with scant regard for their needs. Mainstream cannot cope with many of the sensory issues that autistic children, where noise, light and crowds are a problem.

To be honest, this is about the only time that I would support a free school...

Stephen Smith's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 13:13

Francis - this is a big question - is inclusion best served by having highly specialised - although effectively segregated - special schools ?, or by having a broader range of expertise within mainstream schools ? Even if there was a right answer - and as someone who's spent my whole career in special schools I'd still tend towards a preference mainstream provision in the vast majority of cases, this is where the sharp end of parental choice comes in - some parents prefer special school provision - others prefer mainstream. Sometimes it's a philosophical/political choice - most times it's parents just wanting the best for their own child - as they see it.

I probably could be considered an expert (on paper) in this area, but I'm not especially any closer to giving a clear answer - I'd say that 1) Mainstream education is almost always the better option 2) Special school education is always going to be needed for a small minority of pupils 3) Relying on ideology doesn't often help - each case needs judging on the individual child's needs.

Parental preference, the preference of the children themselves, and the subjective nature of our evaluations of different provision also mean that there are no definitive answers to your question - but many volumes have been filled discussing it

What I would say is that if Free Schools are going to exist, and if special schools are to continue to exist, then parents of children with Autism must surely have the same rights as every other group of parents to set their own school up if they so wish. That's without ever considering the rights and wrongs of Free Schools.

Toby - I'll email that address - I'd be interested to find out what your project is all about.

Laura McInerney's picture
Sat, 23/04/2011 - 20:05

My school was due to become an Autism Specialist Mainstream School if our BSF had gone ahead. We already have a great deal of inclusion and had started trialling room layouts (e.g. certain colour schemes, in-classroom toilets) contributing to an autism-friendly environment. The new site was next to a current Special Needs school so we could have integrated provision where required. It's a great shame it won't be going ahead and I would prefer to see money going to plans that are already developed and include resources for integration AND separation as required.

That said, I do think that provision for special needs haven't always been met well in schools and this could be an area where Free Schools can complement existing provision. My only word of caution for those setting up these schools will be to think carefully about a location - buildings are in short supply in London and you will need to think very carefully about how you will procure an appropriate space. You will also need to think about staffing - finding staff who are able to work in autism specialist environments may not be straightforward given how few specialist units there are.

Helen Flynn's picture
Sun, 24/04/2011 - 11:38

I have some experience as being a founder trustee of a specialist school for autism--the Chrysalis School for Autism in Herts. Having tired to set it up under the auspices of direct LA funding, in the end we had to set it up as an independent school. It was unbelievably difficult and hard work, we never had more than three pupils (and usually just had one pupil), and ultimately it was not an effective use of resources. It has now closed down.
I am now a governor at an enhanced mainstream school for children with communication difficulties. It is a fabulous facility, can serve a whole area, offering a variety of outreach and inreach strategies and offers a truly inclusive approach.
I think this is a model which needs greater research and investment, and offers a more joined-up and inclusive approach than atomising special schools and excluding some of our most vulnerable children from a mainstream setting and the benefits that can bring.

Annabel Leaver's picture
Sun, 05/06/2011 - 13:05

How about asking our children? My son wants to be educated with other children on the spectrum so I think he has the right to choose surely?

Debbie Doyle's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 22:53

Am interesting in setting up a school in the South West for Autistic children. Can you help with advice, funding etc?

gopal bhatt's picture
Wed, 05/12/2012 - 13:14

my son master raxit bhatt is autistic child. he is 9 year old . he is hyper active and can't speak. When I admission to him in school some behavior problem come to us and school management fire to my child. I want to education to him. so I want to admission to your school but I have not enough money so please help us.

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