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Anne Jakins

Complex Needs and Inclusion

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So much has been written about the negative aspects of inclusion. Surely children with complex needs can bring enormous benefits to mainstream schools . A child I teach who is recovering from invasive medical treatment and struggling to regain her speech has impressed everyone with her personal resourcefulness and ability to cope. I know this is a controversial topic but surely schools can benefit enormously from including children who would previously been educated in separate establishments.Children with complex needs will often bring out the best in other students, a less competitive and caring side.

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>Children with complex needs will often bring out the best in other students, a less competitive and caring side.<

I agree, Anne. And when such vulnerable children develop coping skills, they are able, ready and willing to pass them on to others in similar circumstances.

Collaboration between special educational needs learners and their peers can be very much to their mutual benefit. See the responses to the question about collaborative relationships in mainstream settings at

http://inclusion.ngfl.gov.uk/index.php?i=2...AQuestionId=896

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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I am not a teacher, but have worked in two secondary schools. I am really responding out of personal experience. I would agree that inclusion is the correct approach for for some pupils and does bring out the best in them and their peers. However, I have a 14 year old nephew with asperger's. He has experienced what could only be described as a 'living hell' by the government's blanket inclusion policy. He has been victimised, bullied, used and traumatised his entire school life and now suffers genuine pychological disorders as a result - in addition to his asperger's.

I see a system, totally incapable of dealing with his social and developmental needs whilst assessing his suitability for mainstream, solely on his ability to remain academically within 2 years of his peers. His school's inability to protect him from malicious social interaction has lead to him attempting suicide, self-harming and aggression. Throughout his schooling he has been labelled as 'weird' or 'odd' and has always been friendless. We genuinely believe he would have benefitted from a specialist school - but despite our efforts, teachers, social workers and educational psychologists have prevented this.

Inclusion works for some, but not all and the system appears too rigid in it's approach. I also believe that cost is the only motivator in deciding where children are placed. This is surely not what should be happening?

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>Inclusion works for some, but not all and the system appears too rigid in it's approach.<

Steve:

It sounds as if your nephew has been "mainstreamed" by his school, but not included. Educational inclusion means that the school puts appropriate support mechanisms in place to meet individual learning needs. That's national policy, although it sounds as if there are inconsistencies when the policy is implemented by local authorities. I'm surprised to hear about barriers being erected by educational professionals such as teachers and psychologists to deny your nephew the provision that is his due. In the local education authority where I work, parents' wishes are sacrosanct and if a special school education is deemed to be the appropriate provision by all stakeholders in a child's education, then that is what is prescribed. Does the local authority where your nephew is educated not have a parent partnership service, independent of the LEA and advocating for families? There's also the Special Educational Needs Tribunal for cases where there is disagreement between parents and educators. In all SEN matters, there's likely to be a better result if parents remain proactive in the decision-making about their child's educational provision.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com

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David:

Please don't take what I about to say as a personal insult (it is certainly not meant to be), but the time for polite, indirect and vague language has passed for me. We have done the rounds (so to speak) again and again - all without the slightest effect on outcome. I see from your website you are obviously extremely dedicated to special educational provision, but for most real-life experience is at best a 'smokescreen' and at worst damaging to their children.

On the subject of 'sufficiently included'. Yes, my nephew has been included in drug-taking, the carrying of weapons (one of his obsessions), smoking, drinking alcohol, being mugged for his dinner money, having some quite nasty tricks played on him, being extensively bullied (something he failed to comprehend until he was 10) and he has been 'included' in isolation 21 times and suspended 4/5 times for bad behaviour.

Yes, we have been made aware of all the various placatory support options available, but our issue remains with the fundamental provision of schools. There appears, as always, to a massive gulf between 'ideal theory' and provision as practiced on the ground. Most teachers are poorly trained, poorly advised and poorly motivated to deal with anything, which places further stress on their working day.

We have been offered yet another review (read 18 months) to decide whether or not to implement yet another round of ineffective 'after the horse has bolted' measures to address an issue which will become irrelevant in 2 years when he leaves school at 16.

The entire education system has totally failed my nephew. Yet, another poorly thought out and poorly implemented 'experiment' which will have cost yet another generation of children the opportunities enjoyed by the offspring of the policy-makers, teachers, psychologists and social workers involved in and perpetuating this 'racket'. Making glaringly inept decisions, which affect those less able to benefit from the system.

My sister attended an autistic conference recently, only to be told (along with 150+ others) by a leading SEN figure from our local LEA that most schools 'have got it wrong'. Most parents at the conference were in tears after and comparing their own life experiences with a summary of how it should be done.

I think it is about time that the education industry admitted it 'got it wrong' and set about putting it right before anymore damage is done. This would mean our LEA funding substantially more than the approx. 45 dedicated places available in our county for the 1 in 90 children diagnosed as autistic, but then again that would cost money - which is really what this policy is designed to avoid.

I simply do not want to wait for Jamie Oliver to have an autistic child before anything is done!!

Thank you for comments – I sincerely hope you feel sufficiently un-insulted enough to reply.

Regards,

Steve :rolleyes:

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I am writing from Australia, and I agree with everything you have said. We have exactly the same problems here. This is from the other side of the fence, but equally relevant.

Today, in my job as union president, I met with a teacher who has had a severely autistic 7 yr old placed in her prep class. He has a full-time aide and the school is supportive, but this child is dangerous - he is big, he throws furniture, scissors, pens etc, he bites, kicks and scratches. Two TAs have resigned because of him. Two TAs have had to have hospital treatment for the wounds he has inflicted. The other children cannot hear the teacher as he shouts/moans incessantly. The teacher is about to go out on sick (stress) leave. Can we get him into a special school? No, because his mother believes he is better off in mainstream and she has stated she will go as far as it takes to keep him there.

So from all points of view except the mother's - the child, the teachers and the others in the class - this is not working for anyone, yet the mother will go to the ends of the earth so she doesn't have to appear to have a child in a special school, and this quite a common attitude. She wants him in the classroom all the time - the school has refused that, and she's gone to the Minister for a judgement.

This attitude to special schools is something which has been created by the full inclusion bandwaggoners and it is madness. For the sake of one disabled child, a dedicated teacher may resign and a 25 students are having their education spoiled.

Will this make them more tolerant of disabilities, as is always thrown back at us? I very much doubt it.

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Steve:

I certainly don't feel insulted by what you've written. Honesty is never insulting. I've never advocated in favour of full inclusion for those with special educational needs and I don't intend to do so here. My local education authority still has special schools full of dedicated teachers and pupils who are rightfully there, receiving their educational entitlement. At the same time, those who can benefit from a mainstream education are given the opportunity to remain in mainstream where most of them flourish. Those who don't are quickly moved on to special education, where the provision suits them better. I'm arguing for flexibility, consultation, collaboration and follow-through, all in the best interests of the child.

Which brings me to your own predicament. Judging from what you've written, you've been badly let down by the system, or more accurately, by the "gatekeepers" who operate the system within your locality. SEN provision only works when all the stakeholders cooperate in the best interests of the child. You certainly know what's wrong. Are you able to make a list of what it would take to put matters right? Show the professionals your list - be reasonable, don't ask for the stars, but map out what you consider your nephew's needs to be, and what provisions would match those needs. Having written your list, challenge the professionals to write down how they perceive your nephew's needs and matching provisions. If you come to an agreement, then make sure what has been agreed is written down, with dates: "by such and such a date, this will have happened". This is how schools meet their targets; if they don't, they're accountable. Get as many allies as you can. Have you followed up my suggestion about the LEA's parent-partnership service? Have you joined your local branch of the National Autistic Society for support? You shouldn't feel alone in all this.

On the matter of autism, I agree with you that the current state of knowledge in educational circles is low. I've been to conferences too about ASD and have left very unimpressed by so-called autism experts whose only message is "all you have to do is put up with the child's funny little ways". I've done lots of web searches and ASD seems to be treated more often than not as a medical issue. There's a lot of anger out there, parents complaining about what's gone wrong with their child's education. You're right too about teachers being untrained how to include those with ASD. I've argued long and hard with autism experts who think it's adequate just to give a few shallow, generalised pointers to educators. No wonder many teachers feel helpless.

I hope your nephew eventually receives an education appropriate to his needs. No, I'm not going to say that such an education should take place within a mainstream school. If a special school placement is forthcoming and meets his needs, I for one would be delighted.

David Wilson

http://www.specialeducationalneeds.com/

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Hello to everyone.

I am not a teacher but the mother of a 5 year old boy with undiagnosed Aspergers syndrome amongst other undiagnosed conditions.Kian (my son) Started school in September last year, in a mainstream.

Although the head teacher was well informed of Kians conditions, i.e. she had all the reports from various psychologists including a team from Guys hospital, she failed to include him in the school. Kian is gifted with a high IQ but still has complex needs. He is unable to use a public toilet and will only empty his bowels into a nappy. There is no physical reason for this, only psychological but the problem is real none the less. The head refused to allow Kian to wear a nappy or even to have one put on him during the day in order that he could have a wee. I have an 11 yr old daughter at the same school and suggested she could put a nappy on him for lunchtime as the reason given was their was not enough staff to deal with it. She refused this suggestion and after many meetings and Kian being sent home every afternoon, we felt we had to take things further and obtained a copy of the disability discrimination act and went along to yet another meeting. this resulted in the head and an LEA rep deciding on a plan to let Kian go to school with a nappy on but he would have to change himself at lunchtime into a pull up. Anyone who knows anything about Aspergers syndrome should know that sufferers do not like anything new. Kian had never worn pull ups and would not even look at them let alone put one on. We decided to home educate him after 4 weeks, in which time he didn't spend one whole day at school. After de-registering him the head called me to see her and informed me she was "referring" me to social services, for what reason I or the social worker who visited do not know.

While Kian was at school and with the teachers fully aware of his needs and his giftedness, they insisted on teaching him at reception level. Kian knew the 49 words that a child needs to know at the end of reception, he knew all letters, sounds and names and was able to read at a beginners level. The school were "teaching" him letters and sending him home with books without words. I was assured before he started that he would be educated to his ability. Kian found school extremely boring and stressful. The consequences of this were that he started to self harm. He chewed his fingers until he had blisters and started stammering. He also woke in the night screaming that he wanted to go home. This was after just 4 weeks, I dread to think what he would be like now.

I know there was a boy at the school with cerebral palsy who needed his nappy changing so the facilities were built onto the school to do it. I believe that because Kians disability was invisible he was not treated fairly.

Is this what you mean by inclusion? I am not attacking anyone here I am just interested in your opinions. Why do schools not see that special needs are not always visible or obvious and that they also include children who need a higher level of education than the norm. SEN can be at both ends of intelligence.

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Is this what you mean by inclusion? I am not attacking anyone here I am just interested in your opinions. Why do schools not see that special needs are not always visible or obvious and that they also include children who need a higher level of education than the norm. SEN can be at both ends of intelligence.

No, your son is not being "included", he is just being "mainstreamed" by his school without appropriate support. All I can say is that "full inclusion" doesn't exist anywhere, schools are just at different stages in their progress towards inclusion. Where they are now must be compared with where they began 25 years ago, when children with special educational needs were barely receiving training, let alone an education, in special schools which were then little more than day centres.

I know it is no excuse, but things do move very slowly in the world of education. The SEN training given to teachers still leaves a lot to be desired. I've attended, in my own time, sessions on autistic spectrum disorders which were supposed to be targeting teachers, but was frankly appalled at the lack of guidance I received there. The message just seemed to be "put up with their funny little ways". Schools are much better informed these days about the inclusion of pupils with general and specific learning difficulties. They can usually cope with visual and hearing impairments. They can often handle pupils with speech and language needs. What they can't tackle so easily is the issue of emotional and behaviour difficulties, which can also affect those with ASD. I don't know the answer to this exclusionary factor, it requires a special kind of teacher to accommodate such complex needs in their classrooms, and many of them work in pupil referral units and ASD units rather than mainstream schools.

Clearly, your son's needs are not being met within his current school. He is a high-functioning student with ASD and you may have to seek out another school which is more ASD-friendly for his sake. The NAS (National Autistic Society) may be able to give advice, or consider joining a local ASD support group and ask around about good schools. You may end up considering an ASD unit as a possible placement. My own local authority has an excellent one for primary children, some of whom transfer to mainstream as their confidence rises. If that is your ultimate choice, make sure that such a unit sets high store by academic progress too - most do. There is no point in finding a place for a child where he is happy, safe, but is allowed to stagnate intellectually. We all need to be challenged if we are to make progress.

The important thing is to avoid "flogging a dead horse" if the school doesn't budge. You can certainly shame them by writing to the papers, drawing their attention to the disability discrimination act, taking them to the SEN tribunal. You can also do nothing, all the while wringing your hands and moaning about the inertia of education professionals and the parsimony of the government when it comes to planning or funding support. I'm neither a litigator not a hand-wringer, I prefer to be a problem-solver, and the solution to your problem may be the assignment of a learning support assistant or a nursery nurse to support your son. Try to stay positive and aim for win-win outcomes where you make reasonable demands and the school authorities understand what practical measures will meet your son's needs. Good luck!

Edited by David Wilson

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Hello all,

Not been on the forum for a while. Just a quick update...

My nephew has, as of Jan '06 been permanantly excluded along with 2 other Asperger boys (on the same day). He was only at school for 11 days from the beginning of term until his exclusion after a series of temporary exclusions. On the day he was expelled he was marched to the main gates, by the acting head, and told not to come back. The school failed to notify my sister of the events of the day...he was simply at home when she returned from work. It seems a lot of asperger's kids get excluded at the beginning of year 10 - if I was cynical I might think this was so they did not effect the school's results!

Tests now indicate his reading age to be 4.5 years behind his peers (it was only 2 when he started the school). He achieved a level 4 in both his science and english SATs exams. Sounds pretty good doesn't it - so we asked to see them. Closer inspection shows my nephew scored just 8% on his english test and admits he did not understand very many of the questions, but because of the way the system works - schools are able to hide their incompetence. His science paper appears to have ticks on it which appear 'neater' than the others and give the correct answers. Had we not asked to see the papers we would never had known. I wonder how often this happens? His maths paper was not submitted after my nephew walked out of the exam after being placed with everyone else in the exam room(autistics don't like groups or formal situations) - all made worse by a teacher walking up and down behind him.

He re-sat the exam, but it was never submitted as apparently 'they don't accept late submissions' - despite not being told this by the school and being urged by the school to commit to a re-sit as 'it was very important' that my nephew took the exam asap.

My nephew received his first home tutoring this week (3/5/06) and has recently visited a dedicated special school with the view to going there. The school supports children with profound physical/learning difficulties, but appear very capable of supporting my nephew as they offer a calm, quiet environment with small teaching groups staffed by teachers and support staff who all know how to deal with autistics. All my nephew has ever needed and all we have ever asked for and exactly what was blocked by the school and social services as they knew better and mainstream could offer my nephew everything he needed - horsexxxx!

Remarkably, my nephew has been like a different child since being excluded. He is calm, sensible and reasonable. His sense of humour has returned. He has the occasional moment, but no violence, shouting, swearing and throwing things. No punching his way through doors or smashing windows (only at home). My sister remarks, that had she known what an appalling effect mainstream school was having on him she would have removed him years ago, but having been at school since the age of 5 and after having watched his personaility and behaviour deteriorate, we all thought this was just his autism and didn't know any different. The special school has a number of other austistics (all expelled in year 10) - all flourishing in their new environment.

Fear not though, the local LEA has taken the school to task over it's failings and treatment of my nephew - by writing a strongly worded letter! WOW! I told you it was a racket! The LEA not asking hard questions or monitoring anything(especially themselves), the schools not making the LEA look too bad(publicly), the governers protecting the school and the teachers and the whole thing carries on. Someone at the local Parent Partnership told me recently, that at the end of the day they are financed by the council and do not 'rock the boat'. Oh, what a lovely picture it paints.

The only reason this is happening is because LEAs are saving loads of money by closing 'mid-level' specialist schools. My local LEA has none of them. They have mainstream and profound specialist schools - so they shoe-horn eveyone who does not require intense support into mainstream. Schools receive extra funds for taking them and then off-load them at the beginning of year 10. I know of 3 schools in my area that have just done this and judging by the source of 'autistic year 10s' at my nephews potential new school - they are not the only ones.

One more issue before I get off my soap-box.

I had an interesting chat with a senior employee in SEN provision at my LEA recently. She confirmed the following:

1. No monitoring is performed of the decisions taken at LEA level for SEN annual reviews.

So they don't know (and don't appear to care) if their decisions have improved the situation. They have no collective case-history or best-practice information on which to fine-tune their approach to any area of SEN provision.

2. No notes/minutes for annual reviews are taken. Individual members of the panel read the documentation in advance and make a decision(verbally) on the day which is then recorded. No information is retained to support or justify the decision after it is made. Some discussion does take place, but no record is kept.

Further evidence of the 'racket' that is SEN provision. No paper-trail, no individual responsibility, no best-practice, no monitoring, no feedback, no fine-tuning - nobody is even checking whether or not we are wasting our time and money on a system which has no discernable effect!

The small army of social workers, educators, psychologists, psychiatrists and managers involved in this 'game' could all be replaced by a set of simple rules.

1. If SEN support appears warranted - apply support at level 1 (££££)

2. If support(££££) appears ineffectual - increase level and apply further support (more ££££) until limit is reached

3. If limit of support (££££) not reached goto rule 1

4. Limit of support is reached - move pupil to special school

If you think I'm being facetious(spelling?) - consider this. My nephew's last annual review in year 9 involved nine 'professionals' at his school and five additional 'professionals' at the LEA in addition to those involved at the school. Every school professional without exception thought the school were doing a good job and argued in favour of mainstream provision. They were not aware of his reading age or SATs results (they came later), but failed to see contradictions in his school reports which demonstrated a little dis-honesty on behalf of the school. The meeting involving my sister and myself took 1.5 hours and included a rep. from the LEA who would not normally have attended. All the paper-work went to the LEA and after 3 months a result was rendered - a single sheet of pre-typed A4 paper with '20 hours' hand-written in a box. This was merely a 4 hour(pw) increase in cash provison for a school that was obviouly failing my nephew on a massive scale. No explaination, no justification - nothing. It's a demonstration of how 'piss-poor' the system really is. My nephew has not even been inside the special SEN block which his additional funds helped to build!

Anyway, soap-box is showing signs of wear...

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