Specialist or Mainstream School? – Our experience
At 7+ my husband and I spent a huge amount of time researching the various schools in our area to find a mainstream school that would be supportive of Jasmine’s special education needs.
We settled on a wonderful school with a Christian ethos, a nurturing and pastoral approach and most importantly, an in-house Learning Support team comprising 4 full-time support teachers. We felt this would be the right environment for her and best of all, she would have access to a team of specialist teachers that can help her.
The school was indeed lovely and Jasmine made some great friends however, the reality was that the school taught classes in a style that was appropriate for 90% of the class but Jasmine, as the only dyslexic child in her class, struggled with.
The underlying assumption is that by Year 3, all the children can read so every subject required reading passages of text either from the board or from handouts and books. This of course was a struggle for Jasmine. In addition, she found it difficult to keep up with the pace of the maths, her handwriting though greatly improved was still labored and she found it difficult to complete her in-class assignments within the allotted time. Furthermore, she felt stigmatized when withdrawn from class for specialist teaching.
The specialist 1 to 1 tuition that she was given amounted to 60 minutes of extra support per week, which did not seem to have any impact at all. In addition to this extra help in school, I supplemented outside of school with extra therapies to help the combination of symptoms that dyslexia and dyspraxia bring. This meant that Jasmine was having 3, 4 sometimes 5 extra sessions of occupational therapy, vision therapy, handwriting etc. A HUGE amount for a 7 year old.
Jasmine was very aware of the fact that she was bottom set in all subjects, that she was given “easier homework” and that she needed extra “special classes” and would often comment on how sad she felt being different to everyone else. In this time we witnessed Jasmine’s confidence and self-esteem plummet and she began to complain about stomach pains. After several tests and hospital referrals, we were told she was experiencing anxiety symptoms.
Talking to other parents who are further along on their journey, I’ve come to understand that the gap between the dyslexic child and other children in terms of results in a mainstream school tends to widen as each year passes and school becomes more and more difficult. My husband and I decided to see what other options there were.
Our paths have led us to a wonderful specialist school called Fairley House. The children are taught in a completely multi-sensory way and all of their additional therapeutic needs are incorporated into their school day.
Jasmine started there last week. She has an extremely customized individual education plan and all her therapies are included into her plan. We do not have to do anything else outside school.
Its early days but she comes home excited to do her homework, she regales me with tales of how they were taught maths by making pizzas and how it’s wonderful that she is “just like everyone else”.
I hope this is the right place for her.
I hope she will be happy.
I hope that her confidence will return.
I hope she will come to understand that she is special.
More about our experiences at the specialist school to come.
In the meantime, checkout this very interesting article about making the choice between mainstream or specialist schools.