Yolanda | 2012-07-31
Does my child need to attend a special school?
Dear Mr Crighton,
My son turned 5 in April. He attended a small playgroup in 2010/11 and started pre-school at the beginning of this year.
Near the end of the first term, his teacher informed me that he is desperately unhappy and does not seem to benefit at all from being in pre-school. I decided then to home-school him.
I had him assessed by an Educational Psychologist, who identified an auditory perception problem and fine motor skills problems. She also suggested that he would benefit from Speech and Language therapy.
I had him assessed by a Speech therapist and she identified that his language development is on par with a 3.9 year old child. He has had 5 lessons so far and is making pleasing, albeit slow progress.
I also had him assessed by an OT and she identified severe fine motor skill problems, visual perception problems, low muscle tone/poor posture (for which he will need physio). When asked to draw a picture of himself, he drew a very sad face, crying and made the background black. He uses his right had to draw, but prefers to bat with his left hand. She also noted problems with his gross motor skills. Because my son presents with so many areas of concern, the OT suggested that he would benefit from attending a special school (in this case, Vista Nova in Rondebosch, Cape Town), as it would be unsettling for him to be dragged from pillar to post from one therapist to the next.
In principal, I have no objection, as I just want to get my son the help he needs to be happy. However, when I mentioned to the Speech therapist what the OT's suggestion was, she was quite adamant that we are overreacting and not giving my son a chance to prove what he can do. She said that it is her experience that children who attend special schools, hardly ever get integrated back into mainstream schooling. It is my intention to let my child attend Vista Nova until he is ready to be reintegrated.
I want to get the best help for my son and because I am not equipped or qualified to help him, I rely on the professional opinion of experts, but now they are contradicting each other.
There is no right or wrong opinion on school placement as each case needs to be assessed on its individual merits. If there are a number of difficulties that have been identified, then the earlier those interventions are put in place and seen through to completion, the better the chances of reintegrating successfully into a mainstream school. If you are in a position to get your child to all of those interventions while remaining in a mainstream school, and if you are sure that the school you have chosen is an inclusion school with a well structured and effective support department, then there is no reason to avoid it. However, if you feel your child would be better off with centralised intensive support in a special needs school, even if it is only for a short period of time until areas of concern have been remediated to an extent, then that will be the better option. As I said, there is no clear right or wrong option, as the decision would have to be made on an individual basis. If you are still uncertain, then perhaps consult with the support team and the assessment unit of the special needs school, and take all those previous reports with you, and they will be able to advise you on the merits of your situation. Many children have successfully main-streamed after a number of years in special education and have gone on to complete matric and tertiary studies. For me, the key is the earlier the intervention, the better.
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