Special Ed vs mainstream

This past few weeks we have been inundated with assessments for support and for different services that are in our new area.


As BBG is now 18 months we are now understanding a little bit more about her condition. We are understanding that her communication is very limited, we are understanding that her understanding of language and what is going on around her is at a minimum. So along with her physical needs, with her kidney problems and her temporary paralysis along side her feeding issues, we now know it is also affecting her mental development.


For the first time ever we have been asked about sending her to a specialist school and what our thoughts on the matter would be. My instant reaction is generally, “she is 18 months we don’t need to think about this” which is quickly changed to “we need to start looking at schools next September! AHHHH we NEED to get thinking about schools!!!”

However when posed with which setting to send her too, whether to send her to mainstream with an assistant with her 100% of the time, or sending her to a specialist school where they are funded heavily and she will be surrounded by other children who have physical and learning difficulties. To be surrounded by specially trained teachers and be given the support she really needs. I really didn’t know what to do.


I decided to get some first hand experience of this and spoke to a couple of other bloggers who have children with additional needs and see what route they chose.


Most of them started off in mainstream school, which when they realised that this setting was unsuitable transferred them over to a more specialist school.


My autistic son was failed by 2 mainstream schools. It took 3 years to fight to get a place in a special needs school. He has done nothing but blossom since. He’s been there 3 years in April and it has changed all of our lives 


My son is now 12 but for his reception year, the council made him attend a mainstream school despite our wishes. He had a (then) Statement referring to his severe learning disabilities which I thought would hold well for a place at a special school. The staff didn’t have a clue what to do with him and he was taken out of the class to do other things literally every day. I also felt awkward collecting and dropping off as I was made to feel a bit of an outcast. Anyway, for year 1 we managed to move him to a special school and it was just fantastic. Well trained teachers, specialist music and movement classes. He’s still a special school and just thriving. I get that everyone has a choice but for us, the best option was special school  

I then heard of parents that decided to go to a mainstream school and this has been the best course of action for them.

We had the option of a specialist school or mainstream for my son who has cerebral palsy and at the time was a full time wheelchair user and had learning difficulties. We decided on mainstream but only because we found one that specialised in physical disabilities


currently in mainstream, All of his five siblings have gone to the school and I am happy with the support he is getting, although if it becomes too much for him, I would consider looking at a more specialist school 

Then parents who went straight to specialist schools

My PMLD medically complex son went to SLD school supported by a dual sensory impairment intervenor who was medically trained. He absolutely thrived – school was his favourite place


It was really conflicting and I realised; is it because I do not want to say my child goes to a specialist school that I am having this debate. Not because I don’t agree with specialist schools, but because for me saying that and admitting that actually my child needs a specialist school surrounding, really is cementing in the fact my daughter is different, that my daughter is disabled. I know that to an outsider that seems silly, of course she has difficulties, she goes to Great Ormond Street regularly, and I write this blog because of her disabilities, but to have school which is a huge part of growing up being different from her siblings just is the final nail in the coffin and the last glimmer of hope that her disabilities are just her being lazy.


This is just another hardship of being undiagnosed. At the moment, she is on the grey area of does she need specialist schools, or just an aid with her 100% of the time. She could decline or she could progress. This time last year we were being told her condition was pointing to her not being around for school that her symptoms were similar to awful conditions which I dread to even mention. Yet here we are a year later being told about schools and looking to a future not a month or 2 ahead but a year or 2 ahead. We may never find out what the cause of BBG’s problems are and we have to move and take direction from her. For the moment it is looking like specialist school is where she needs to be.


The best comment I had when asking around was from Mum on a Mission 

My advice to you is to forget about it being mainstream v specialist and simply look at the support available in the actual school. Can they manage all the daily needs easily or is there going to need a lot of adaption to be able to manage? In which case the best bet is probably the place that is already able to cope and provide the best care and education without too much change. You’ve got enough battles to fight without adding more.


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