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The FASD Trust
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Transition to secondary school

Our son ( just 11) will be starting mainstream secondary school in September. He has a diagnosis of ADHD, but not FASD, though we think this may be what he has due to the notes we have from his adoption file. Anyway what is really concerning me is he has a very recent Ed Psych report where his levels are at aroun 2b for everything, but no ECHP is suggested and mainstream school. Does anyone out there have experience of what to expect at mainstream with these type of levels. He is already beginning to struggle with friendship issues at his primary school. Should we be really pushing for special school?

13 Replies

Hiya, my son has a much more uneven profile, literacy down at level 1, numeracy a high 3, but he will be going to a special school in September. In his case, he tends to opt out ( head down on desk or walks out) as soon as he feels challenged and there is no way he would cope emotionally in mainstream. Hopefully not being bottom of the class will build up his resilience and self esteem... I think it is highly likely that between you and your sons primary school you have enough evidence now to apply for an EHCP and I would work hard st pushing for that so he starts secondary with it in place. Sorry to say that unless he has an extreme crisis you wont get a state special school for September now. If you happen to be very comfortably off you might pay for an independent special school and gamble on the LEA paying fees once an EHCP is in place. However, the ed psych has said mainstream is appropriate, so she may well be right, but he should have a support plan in place. If schools aren't supportive of getting an EHCP, talk to charities IPSEA or SOSSEN (I find that sossen are quicker to get back to you). One last thought - have you spoken to the SENCO of the proposed seconds school? I spoke to one who was awful, but she so obviously didn't want my son at her school that she actually ended up being quite useful in my argument for him to go to a special school. Another was fantastic and put my mind at ease that if he had to go there, the senco would look after his needs. Good luck!


Thanks so much for your reply. I think our son's general compliance in school has made him fly under the radar a lot, unfortunately. I think you are definitely right about me needing to get the ECHP in place. I have also written to social services to see if there is any way to get the birth mum's medical history to help with the FASD diagnosis (don't know if that will help with the ECHP at all). The school we have chosen is one which is more used to dealing with lower achieving pupils and has a lot more vocational subjects available to study. I have spoken briefly to the SENCO, who seems very nice and his current primary school are making extra efforts with the transition. There will be a meeting with all concerned in the new term. I think we have made the best choice we can at the moment, but can't help feeling there is a big tranche of children who will massively struggle at mainstream, but may find special school not challenging enough? However hearing your son is on level 3 in maths makes me re think the idea. Sadly the school that would really fit our child the best is an independent school and unfortunately we could not afford to fund it long term, so if we didn't get the funding we would need to change schools. Thanks again.


Our eldest boy struggled initially with the transition especially with friendship issues and bullying, however he's currently in year 9 and with extra help in maths & english he is on target for his gcse's. Our middle boy went up in sept and we thought we had learnt our lesson with our eldest and made sure that we had things in place for him, however he has suffered with heartbreaking amounts of bullying especially from those he thought of as his friends. He's struggling to keep up in class and his behaviour has been effected terribly by to all. My husband and i spend a lot of our time either up the school or communicating with them with regards to him. It is now at the point where if the situation doesn't improve by the end of the school year we are going to withdraw him from mainstream school and homeschool him as our nearest specialist school is over an hour taxi ride away, that is IF we could get him in. For us his mental health is much more important than whether he can get any GCSE's. The biggest lesson we have learnt is that despite both boys being full blood brothers and both having the same condition it effects them both in both different and the same ways and its all just a learning curve.


There is a new home schooling service for those with fast kids being launched next week


Really?? Wow do you know how i could get the info on that, it would be so helpful


That would be good ,our daughter is waiting for an assessment for special school.I believe it is the right environment for her and is infinitely better than mainstream .However if it is not successful then we will home school.


Yes, do let us know how to find you, I'm getting so fed up with the LEA I would join you if I thought there was enough support out there!


Thanks for your reply. I just hope our gut feeling about this school is right. It does have a lot of comments from pupils and Ofsted about the family feel it has. He will only know 2 people there from his old school, which has its good and bad points. Am just hoping he is not so far behind everyone else he won't find anyone he will have anything in common with.


Hi Webster we have a similar story with our eldest AD.She is currently off school but year 5.She is incredibly compliant in school and would rather hurt herself rather than show her distress in school.We tried everything in school,paying for occupational assessment speech and language assessment and social services paying for attachment counselling.All received the same 'she's fine in school'.Her educational level is level 3.but I believe that the levels are massaged and hers have never been independently verified.Anyway during the Summer term our daughter was clearly displaying her distress to us and so we applied for a statement on emotional/ mental health needs.We were successful ( we went to tribunal) .We are now waiting for assessment for special school and we will appeal if unsuccessful.She is taught daily by a a teacher form the ill health team.( one hour).

We are about to apply for EHC for our 4 year old as it is the same story even though she is in a village school.Teachers are not qualified in fasd and do not listen to other agencies.( in my authority).I would advise that you use the emotional distress to get formal help and if you can afford it pay for an educational psychologist.Cahms are also supportive.Get all emotional traumas dated ,time off school should be for anxiety and build a pattern of emotional distress.

It is sad that we had to make a bomb go off in the educational world to get our daughter help but teachers are there not to be your friend and seem to move issues onto secondary school.

I wish you all the best and do not wait for school to apply for an EHC as they assess their ability to pay before looking at the child's needs .Also if your son struggles in school he can access school on a limited timetable .



Brace yourselves,my son had an awful time in our local secondary school,thankfully he left last June and he left a lot of problems behind him.

You must engage with the SEN at the school asap,find out what they have to offer particularly with reduced timetable education.

My son really struggled in his school ,they did little or nothing until he reached year 9 and then as soon as things start to get "serious" regarding up coming GCSE, he suddenly became a problem for them.

They dealt with it by phoning me everytime there was an issue,.

and requested he was taken home.

He always wanted to go to school every morning ,but then started running away from school.

He couldn't cope in classes of 30,there were too many distractions and he was unable to remember previous work ,he wasn't given proper support.

Teachers usually dealt with him by sending out of the class, this then became his escape route.

Eventually we agreed an after school timetable,my son attended 3 till 5.30 in a small group,basically doing English and Maths.

He started running away from this and I eventually had to attend with him,sitting outside the classroom,because school couldn't keep him on the premises.

He did manage to take and pass his GCSE Maths,to my amazement and the teachers

absolute delight,so it wasn't all bad.

He had virtually 121 with a retired "Old School type Teacher" and they got on really well,working for 15 to 20 minute periods with a break for a drink/toilet/chat etc.

It was only when he got this proper attention and was taken out of mainsteam classes

that my son started to learn anything.

We originally thought about switching to a smaller secondary school when things got really bad at the end of year 9,and now I wish we had tried it ,but at the time we thought it better he stayed .

I feel that if you don't fit into the boxes at School you get lost,particularly in big secondary schools.

I could write a book about the ineptitude of the local school and the multitude of agencies that came and went without any positive effect for my son.

My advice is visit as many schools as you can ,speak with the SEN staff and see which if any understand and have any experience dealing with the type of issues your child has.

Check out there facilities and see what they offer you,special schools are a last resort in my view,but one you may need to explore.

I wish you well,you may need to shout long and loud to get what you need,

but if that's what it takes don't be afraid to do it.

All the Best




Thanks so much for your replies. I have been fobbed off by his current school so much, I need to steel myself to toughen up from the start I can see. His current SENCO reeled off a list of interventions they should have done with my son, but hadn't, at the recent Ed Psych's meeting. We live and learn. I have looked at the local special school on the internet and it does not really seem a fit for our son at the moment, but might be for the future. I have had high hopes for the new school, but realise it will be an uphill struggle educationally and socially. He also only ever seems to learn in 121 situations.


Essex County Council have produced a booklet called 'Supporting Adopted Children in School'. I would pass this into your son's school to try to gets his needs better met in his current school, as transitioning to a different school in itself can be difficult. My son (aged 10 and recently diagnosed with ARND) also gets good academic grades 2b, but of course, as his emotional health is not graded, this does not mean he is not struggling. This booklet covers everything that my son struggles with and suggests strategies for teachers. really good to have someting concrete to hand into school. Website is essex.gov.uk/adoption. This booklet recognises the need for schools to be more therapeutic and nurturing to meet the needs of adopted children.


Thanks for this.


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