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Fighting for a child with autism to attend a school with small class sizes

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 12 Dec 2012, 11:29

In the US laws in relation to provision of appropriate learning for students with disabilities applies to the individual's needs. In this case the Supreme Court eventually upheld the parents of an autistic child's decission to use private education. (i.e. enforceable Civil Rights)

http://specialedpost.com/2012/11/29/courts-uphold-rule-that-fape-must-mean-smaller-class-size/

In the UK the law relates to provision of appropriate accommodations by an education authority. The challenge for appropriate provision is therefore with the authority's to provide rather than with the individual needs of the child to be met. So to accommodate a student with severe mobility impairments the authority would be found to be wanting if it couldn't provide.

Such an issue would play out differently in the UK - provision would have to be made by an education authority in their region and a decission taken centrally whether to accommodate a particular student with disability in a mainstream or specialist school. Policy and provision would be different from region to region leading to what we call the 'post code lottery'.

The interplay between institutions treats the student like a ball that they too often drop, or don't even bother with - policy being what matters rather than the person.

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Oooh - not quite right. There is no 'postcode lottery' as such, all of England is under the same law (other UK nations may differ - esp Scotland).

The default position is mainstream - a parent has that right by law - but not to their local school, only a suitable school (the LA would have to prove that any barriers to the local school cannot be removed). The LA couldn't 'choose' special school just because it's there.

The law, however, does not allow for 'best', only 'suitable', so if the need for a small class setting was backed up by professional evidence, then it must be supplied - but only if it can meet all the other educational needs too! You couldn't put a cognitively able child in a school for severe learning difficulties, for example.

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Thanks for this Bren - this is exatly what I hope for when I post something - to be corrected. I rather knew I wasn't getting this quite right. The situations in the US and the UK do differ - I'm trying to understand how and what can be learnt from this. With thanks, Jonathan
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All local authorities in England & Wales must by law provide schooling that is suitable for a student with disabilities - based on professional advice either accommodations are made in an appropriate school or a suitable school proposed. To change a decission made by a local authority a parent would have to attend a tribunal and would be advised to have legal representation to help get any decision over turned. This might be to provide a place at a 'suitable' school. Where there is no such 'suitable' school therefore what might a parent, or rather the student with a disability expect? Some 'reasonable accommodation' to meet their needs?
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In the US example parents put their child in a private school as that was the only way to provide the smaller class sizes the child required. I doubt such a case would be made in courts in England & Wales - that other solutions would be found, for example, working with a school to accommodate a carer and or assistant teacher to go into the larger class. Not really a solution at all if size of class was the problem in the first place - indeed I experience a class in a primary school where in addition to 32 students and a teacher there were a further THREE assistants each responsible for a different child with 'special needs' - the disruption to the class was detrimental to all, and made a bad situations worse for the child who was autistic. Is this a case of both the school and the parents having to do 'what they were told' i.e. such important decissions were being taken by people/departments at some distance from the situation?
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Getting better - but yes, LAs do place children in private schools. How 'easy' it is to secure one may come down to cost. Firstly, can a state & the Independent meet need? If so, is there an unreasonable difference in cost?

Remember, Academies, Free Schools & Studio Schools are all 'Independent'......... Just to muddy the waters further!

 

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Hi Bren, I'm reading through the IPSEA link you gave may - invaluable, especially useful the case study which relates to a situation in our family in relation to convincing the LA that a child with Aspergers needed to be in a specialist school with small class sizes, an alternative to the playground and other support at hand. These steps through the tribunal system were taken and were ultimately successful because there was a good special needs school in the LA's district - just competition for places. The problem came when a move of house would have taken them into a different district where there was no provision in which case the main stream school - with adjustments and support would have been the only option. The maintained sector would benefit everyone by having far smaller class sizes - that isn't going to happen. I wonder too if more children would prefer an alternative to the playground too.

I am reminded of the role parents play, in these instances having to become specialists, not easy if they have impairments of their own and potentially expensive if they elect to find a solicitor to go through the paperwork and help with tribunals

I set out to compare the US with UK (England and Wales in this instance) believing from our reading that there were significant differences - apparently the author got it wrong. Both countries have laws aimed at provision for individual needs and in both countries where there is doubt it comes down to debate over the choices in relation to identified needs, costs and potential issues were the child to be in mainstream school. This author seemed to think in the US a combination of a written constituion and Civil Righs made a difference in approach while over here we legislate the instituion to provide or to to x and y. That's not my reading of it at all. It may only seem this way if a parent allows the institutions to make the decissions - which in plenty of cases are surely the best or the only options anyway i.e. every parent with a special needs child isn't turning up at a tribunal come August, September or October because in their opinion the wrong decision has been taken.