How suitable is an Education Provider?
Its really difficult to know good a educational area will be for your child. Below I've put some ideas and suggestions that I hope may be of use.
Points to remember:
Schools/College etc are not the "enemy" here. If anything it's clear the "enemy" is the lack of support, funding and out of date training that some schools and individuals receive. Many establishments and their staff are absolutely amazing, eager to learn and to be awesomely inclusive for all students. When I've advised parents before in this area, many staff members have been more than happy to discuss new resources and information and to work alongside and with parents and the individual.
The communication and interaction we have with a school is of the utmost importance, and our initial contact with a possible provider has to be as positive as possible. The ideas/questions below are to act as a guide only. Be friendly, be open, as all will be looking at what is best for your child. Seek for the best in the school, ask then to show the positives of what they do also.
I often get asked how to tell if an education provider may be for a neurodivergent individual. I'm hoping the following ideas may be useful.
Seek out and read the latest OFSTED inspection report
Upon their website, check out their SEND and other related policies
Check with local Parent/Carer support organisations for any knowledge they may have
Ask other parents of individuals that attend the establishment for their thoughts
Thoughts and Questions to ask an Educational Provider (Headteacher/SENCO/Autism Champion etc). (These are examples only, your questions may need to be focused upon the relevant needs of your child).
Enquire upon the training and resources that relevant staff have received and have access to.
Ask how often these are updated and reviewed, also enquire upon class sizes, supporting staff etc
Its important to see how unto date their knowledge is regarding Neurodivergent individuals, while interacting look for how they use language, such comments as "has Autism", "Low/high functioning" etc. This is a possible indicator of knowledge and understanding.
Ask them outright, to explain what it means to be Autistic/ADHD/PDAer etc
What do they understand by inclusion?
Ask them to explain Masking and Stimming.
How do they approach "Behaviour", if they use ABA, (if so this is a major issue to discuss and explore, and possibly avoid). Do they have a policy related to this to read?
Ask them what they understand a Meltdown to be and how to avoid them.
Do they understand Sensory differences? How do they view "Fidget/Sensory tools?" (They may use the term toys). Are they understanding if an individual cannot wear a certain item of clothing or cannot always "sit still"
Do they seek to "reduce their Autism symptoms or make them less autistic?"
Ask them if/how they provide "Social Skills training", for example is they offer "eye contact" sessions for individuals. (Again major warning signs if they do). Do they help Autistic individuals to fit in and to be more normal? (Again, major area of concern).
How do peers with the school understand about Neurodivergent individuals.
How do they work with external professionals? Do they have a parent group at school?
The answers to the above should be covered in the resources upon my website and with your awesome knowledge should give you an idea of the suitability of the establishment.
But, if their goals are to help an individual thrive as their Autistic, (Neurodivergent) selves, to help them learn to successfully navigate a world they’re not built for, without betraying their nature, this is what to look for:)
Useful Website and Facebook Pages and related resources
National strategy for autistic children, young people and adults: 2021 to 2026 - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Autism Act 2009 (legislation.gov.uk)
The National Strategy for Autistic People, Children and Young People 2021 to 2026 | Local Government Association
School improvement for autistic pupils (autism.org.uk)
How to Spot a Good-- or Bad-- Therapist for Your Autistic Child (neuroclastic.com)