Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Time to end the schools stigma.

My daughter Bella (age almost 7) goes to a special school *insert shocked/pity face* Sometimes I call it that and often get the faces I described above, but more often I call it an Autism specific school because that’s what it is. I’m not sure if this is a real term or one I made up for myself but I like it.

After Bella’s Autism diagnosis at age two it wasn’t long before the subject of schools was raised. I knew immediately that the mainstream education on offer was not for her so I began the rounds of visiting the SEN (special educational need) settings. Never did I feel that sending her to these places was a slight on her, nor did I feel it was a last resort…For me it was the best option and the only way she would reach her potential. At her school the staff are specialists in their field and their field is autism and communication so why is it called a special school and not a specialist school?

The label “special needs” is not one that anyone would ever choose for their child, but surely anyone would jump at the chance to send their child to a specialist school? Whether the specialism be music, sport, autism or visual impairment. “Special Needs” relates back to a stigma I don’t want to associate with Bella, yes she has additional needs but that’s not all she is.

Why is it that mainstream education is still seen as the first choice and that any other setting is some kind of failure? 

Sending a child to a mainstream school and watching them not cope is much harder on everyone. 

Why do people still feel that sending your child to these places is an exclusion? 

That children are hidden from view and not integrated? My child is not hidden and neither are her peers, they regularly to the shops, to the theatre and take part in all sorts of out of school activities and are always included because they all have the correct level of support. At the end of the day her peers are other children with additional needs, children who aren’t fazed by her quirks because they probably have quirks of their own.

The mainstream isn’t something I aspire to for me or for her. Her succeeding is what I aspire to and she will do that where she is. She is different, why would I want her in a class where she is “that child?” 

So Bella goes to a Specialist School and I’m a bit jealous Logan can’t go too as like I say to everyone, it’s like a private school that you don’t pay for.


  1. Ah yes, but then you could be in our position where it's like a private school that you'd like your child to go to but that the LA won't pay for... tricky business all this about where your child 'fits', but extra tricky when they don't 'fit' in mainstream or specialist school.. or any school for that matter! Anyhow sorry, minor rant over, been a long week already... I am totally with you that there should be no stigma attached - I've been to a few of these schools and the ones I've seen were amazing, and the children in them equally so. Glad you love yours :) x

    1. Yeah, I bet that's frustrating...or a word bigger than frustrating! My biggest worry is that I know parents who force their children into mainstream rather than SEN settings as they think it's the "ideal." That's the mindset we need to try and change, but then I think the whole education system needs reform...where's my soapbox?