Max was due to transfer to secondary school when his parents contacted us. Following an appeal to the SEND Tribunal he now attends Grateley House School, an independent specialist school run by the Cambian Group specialising in the education of children with Asperger’s Syndrome and associated difficulties.
Max is academically very able and functioning well above the expected levels for his age. He has an Autistic Spectrum Diagnosis and has features of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome. He had speech and language difficulties, motor and sensory difficulties and also emotional and behavioural difficulties.
Max was first statemented by his Local Authority at the age of 8 and received a high level of LSA support in his maintained Primary School. The school had identified that Max’s behaviour had deteriorated in Years 5 and 6 and even supported the parents’ view that mainstream education for Max at secondary school level would be inappropriate. Max’s primary school agreed that it would be impossible for Max to access daily school life without 1:1 support and the school had given an enormous amount of input to support Max, acting on advice from external experts, monitoring each initiative and recording outcomes. Max’s primary school acknowledged that they were struggling to manage Max’s education and behaviour based on the support provided in his Statement and the school agreed to fund additional support to enable him to access the curriculum. Strategies used by the primary school included that Max would have to enter the school building before other students on arrival at the school each morning and be escorted by an adult so that he could be prepared for entering the classroom setting. The school found there were many mornings where he was in a high state of anxiety and would refuse to communicate with anyone and sit with his head covered. The school reported that Max could be verbally rude or lash out and his teaching assistant would have to spend time talking to Max about the day ahead and preparing him for the expectations of the class teacher. Sometimes it was necessary to have another adult present for up to an hour before Max would engage. During this time he would be visibly distressed pulling his hair and face, rocking, hitting himself and pushing and throwing objects. Once calm, Max would then be taken to class. However, the primary school reported that he missed a substantial amount of lessons. The school believed that these difficulties arose because he was in the wrong type of educational environment and that he could not cope in mainstream school and could not cope in certain lessons. In those circumstances he might: -
- Tap the table consistently even when asked not to by staff.
- Push books and other objects around to prevent him and others engaging in the lesson.
- Refuse to engage in any discussion with teachers and fellow pupils
- Distract the class
When staff tried to draw his attention to the consequences of his behaviour he would then become anxious and this could result in him: -
- Putting his head between his knees under the table
- Banging his head repeatedly on his desk or chair
- Crying and raising his voice
- Sitting on the floor away from the class group
- Rocking whilst sat on the floor
- Disengaging from everything in the lesson and everyone in the room
Max had significant sensory needs and would find certain noises and lighting overwhelming. His anxiety levels were very high and he could be fearful over very small issues. He would hide in his wardrobe at home or alternatively hit out in a fight or flight response. He was very impulsive and had no sense of danger even running out into the middle of busy roads without checking first.
Max also had a very real sense of right and wrong and if he felt that a situation had been unfair then he would remember every injustice and retaliate at a later time when people were unprepared and unaware of what they had done wrong in Max’s eyes. This led to a number of injuries to other children and staff having to spend a significant amount of time trying to understand the reason for Max’s aggression. It was only with intensive support from TAs and other significant adults that Max’s primary school had been able to manage the situation to prevent him from being excluded. The school acknowledged that without this constant support he would have been excluded very quickly.
His primary school reported that Max was spending more and more time out of the classroom due to his levels of anxiety and frustration and therefore was being taught by a teaching assistant in a quiet area. Any slight deviation from the usual school day and timetable meant that he became extremely anxious leading to an escalation in his behaviour. The primary school concluded that Max would not be able to thrive in a mainstream secondary school and that whilst he was a very able boy and needed to be challenged academically he required a specialist ASD school environment where his anxieties could be managed together with his communication difficulties and his sensory needs. Despite the complexity of Max’s needs and the views of his primary school the LA issued an Amended Statement of Special Educational Needs for Max naming a large maintained secondary school with 1,400 pupils even though at the Annual Review meeting the professionals and parents agreed that Max required a specialist school placement.
Max’s parents believed that he needed to be placed in a residential school specialising in the education and care of pupils with ASD and complex associated needs that would be able to offer a holistic approach and a high staff to pupil ratio together with small classes and an extended day curriculum. They believed that this sort of environment would be able to manage Max’s anxiety levels and once he was no longer in a state of high arousal he would be able to access the curriculum. They visited a number of schools and decided that Grateley House School was an appropriate placement that would be able to address Max’s special educational needs and also provide direct occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, a social communication skills programme and a highly structured behavioural management programme. Despite overwhelming evidence the LA continued to argue that a large mainstream secondary school was able to meet Max’s needs and the matter proceeded to a Tribunal hearing following which the Tribunal found in favour of Max’s parents and ordered the LA to amend Parts 2, 3 and 4 of Max’s Statement and to name Grateley House School in Part 4 on a residential basis.
Max is reportedly doing very well at his new school and his parents are delighted with the progress that he is currently making, saying:-
Just thought you might all like to know that Max has settled in well at Grateley, and has made friends. He has been elected to be his house representative on the food council - which is the first time he has ever been voted for.
We are thrilled with how well he is doing, and that while the legal battle was traumatic, we had plenty of time to get him prepared for Grateley and it has been great so far, although we miss him being at home.
Thank you for the work you did to help us get Max where he has the chance to shine.