Main stream school or Special needs school?

My 12 year old son has been in mainstream secondary school for almost a year now, his tics have got worse, and he is having anxiety/panic attacks, he is also complaining of really bad stomach cramps. His social/emotional development and understanding of the world is of a 7 year old. He is finding it really difficult to cope at school as well as out of school. His school allow him to do tasks, such as using the electic saws in woodwork/using the oven in cookery classes, without 1:1 supervision (as a 12/13 year old would be in mainstream) would i let a 7 year old to this? No. I have been asked to attend school trips with him, because the last one he went on, turned out to be terrible both for my son and the teachers. He gets teased because of his tics, and because of his interests ie: Thomas the tank engine, or trains in general. I have been told the nearest special needs school would not benefit him and that he is not 'bad enough' to attend. HELP! i dont know what to do for the best. Should i keep him in mainstream school and help him battle through, OR should i fight to get him in the local special needs school.?

21 Replies

  • Sorry to hear of your dilemma.

    You say his social/emotional development is of a 7 year old, does he have another condition(s) other than Tourettes?

    It sounds to me like your child should be statemented but you don't mention this. Has he been? If not have you tried this process? If not I suggest you look into this.

    If the children are teasing him especially if you've seen it on trips when you've been with him, what are the other teachers doing? Do they tell the others off? Teasing after a certain point is bullying.However seeing as is intellect is lower he possibly will have a lower threshold of taking any.

    It's quite likely that a special school will not help him & he is likely to come off worse. However the school he is in has a duty of care towards him. Have you spoken to your school's S.E.N co-ordinator. It sounds like he needs a lot of support both through S.E.N, statement & find out if you can get an after school 'helper' when he's statemented not sure if you have to pay for that but would be well worth it if you can manage to. Let us know how you get on.x

  • Hello thank you for your reply, yes he does have a statement, but only 12.5hrs, and its a medical one not educational. Yes he has other difficulties, ADHD, behaviour difficulties, OCD, The teachers do keep an eye out for teasing, but obviously not all the teachers are aware that its a big deal to my son, and he ofter gets told to 'ignor it' this is not possible for my son, he finds that very hard. I feel that i have to keep bugging the school to try and get everything across, and as he goes up through the school its going to be a repeat process.

  • To start with you're not bugging the school. You are there for your son. Have you spoken to your school's S.E.N person? I don't see why with everything you've mentioned that the educational support shouldn't be incorporated with his statement & then I feel the school would be able to do more. Certainly try & get him re-assessed.

  • Thank you, yes i will get him re-assessed. His statement is due for review in December, i'm writing down everything that i feel should be added.

  • Good idea as keeping a diary will help you when the time comes to hopefully not be fobbed off. As councils will start making cutbacks on allocation of statements so you need to make as good a case as possible. Let me know how you get on in December. Good Luck.

  • Thankyou for your help. I will let you know how things go.

  • I'm really sorry to hear this - the school should be taking the bullying seriously & dealing with it. Quote their own policies/ home-school agreement at them. Tell them he feels unsafe - that got the biggest reaction when our son (now yr9) was being mocked for his tics. (once is teasing; repeatedly is bullying)

    Do you think he has a learning disability? Although not as badly affected as your son (mine has TS & OCD only) my son did really yearn for primary school when he went up - possibly because he had felt safe there. Could be your son is clinging on to 7 because he remembers that as a safe time - in which case CBT could be a step forward.

    Definately time to start making a fuss at the school though; if he has a statement there must be someone in learning support you can talk to. Also find out if they have an inclusion officer (if he's making comments about hating school & not wanting to go then this person needs to be involved). Tourettes action, I think, offer a liason service - depending where you are in the country someone could come out to the school and educate them.

    I would fight for mainstream - your son hasn't had even half the support that should be available yet. All the best.

  • Hello thank you for your reply. No my son is not yearning for primary school, he hated being there, they really did not understand his difficulties, the headmaster and senco didnt even know what TS was. My son only got a statement just before going into secondary school yr7. I dont know about an inclusion officer, i will ask and look into that. TS and the anxiety disorder is definetly effecting his learning, he's had so much time off this term. Thank you for your help.

  • hi there, i am sorry to hear what you and your son has to through. well i am a touretter, i have been there. it going to be a struggle has he is still young and tring find new ways on to how cope with his tourettes in and out of school. it sounds like you are doing your best but asking help and advice can help. when i was in the same situation, you are always going to the few that take the micky out of your tics but there are more people out who want to help. like us touretters. now things that helped me in school was to have my own spot to tic as much as my tics needed and for that one spot was to have some down time for myself. may i ask does your get public transport to school or do you drop him there? if your son's school needs to be educated maybe you go into and hold a meeting the headmaster and all the teachers employed by the school by going onto Tourettes Action website search there presentation that explain about tourettes to sceondary school. another question does your son have T.A with him in lessons where they can help and support in lesson? with your son being a mainstream school but your thinking about battling through it or enrolling into speical need school just check does he tick the boxes what i mean by this when i went to a mainstream secondary school i didn't tick all boxes i.e. i wasn't speical needs but where i am able to learn to in mainstream because with speical schools they are good in the way they held the young people there, just think about what his needs are. i hope for the best for you and son getting through times.

  • Hello, thank you so much for your reply. He dosent get public transport no, i take him by car. My son on occasion has a T.A, but not in all lessons, which is another problem for him, because he cannot concentrate fully and often misses, things like writing the homework down. But i will look into maybe having someone go out and talk to the school about Tourettes. Thank you

  • Is there a school locally for EBD/MLD kids, I know in Coventry there are several special schools catering fro kids with different degrees of disability so there's a place that suits almost every kid in the LEA area and sometimes beyond. EBD means Emotional and Behaoiural Difficulties,and MDL - mild-moderate learning disabilities. It does sound like he would prosper in a school for EBD/MLD kids, the class sizes are usually very small (under 10) so therefore a higher ratio of staff to pupils, so usually you'd find 1 teacher and up to 2 TA's in one lesson with 8-10 kids.

    Get details about all the schools in your area (and neighbouring LEAs) try and visit and talk to the head/deputies of the schools that you think would suit his needs.

  • Hi, there used to be 2 other local special schools that would have suited my son, but as usual, making cuts, meant they were closed down a few years ago, so no its mainstream or the only local special school that my son could go to, but I have been told his needs are not enough to be at. He is inbetween them both.

  • That's a shame, have you checked with any other mainstream schools as some have "nurture groups" or specialist units attached? So for example a child would be in a tutor group with kids from sets and attend "core subject" lessons with the nurture group and their own teacher and subjects such as PE, music and art with the subject teacher.

  • The mainstream school he is attending at the moment, do have a special learning suit, and its probably the best school in this area for a child with special needs to go to, but because my son dosent have an educational statement only medical, he is in lessons with other children who do not need extra help and the teachers are not special needs qualified, there is a TA in the lesson, but the TA is again not special needs qualified, or dose not understand my sons needs, therefore my son is being expected to follow mainstream rules, which he is finding too stressful and unable to cope, ie: when my son arrives home, the last thing he wants to do is homework, he's too busy letting off steam, ticcing etc or because the day has been stressful he comes home with head and neck ache (head throwing) or feels sick, however i have been told if he dose not complete homework, he will be put on report or kept in during break to complete it, because he attends a mainstream school he will be treated as a mainstream child :(

  • Sometimes it's just some common sense and some research that the staff working with a kid with SEN need, I remember having some inset training once on SEN and it was laughable - pity any teacher or TA who followed it to the book. At the time I was HoMusic (ticcer) and my friend (dyslexic) the SENCO, on the way home we literally peed ourselves laughing it was so riddiulas, luckily the other staff felt the same way, the collegue answered a question about strategies for a pupil with TS and she told them she'd "send them to the head of music for a pep talk" which in reality would just mean having chat with me about TS and what would help, and of course meeting another ticcer and knowing I'm around for advice. The SENCO had put in some great stratergies for the kids with dyslexia and autism. Seriously though, his statement needs looking into again, I guess you've had conversations about this with the SENCO? Maybe suggest some reading material for the staff that work with him (teachers and TAs) the thing is with formal SEN training is that every kid with SEN is different, every kid with TS is different, so really it's a matter of getting to know the pupil and how to get the best out of them. Also, if a pupil has a TA hovering over them all the time it does have the effect of singling the kid out to be "different" so good TAs often have one eye on the pupils they support and one eye on the teacher and the rest of the class and are ready to go to whoever they see is struggling and needing help.

  • Thank you for your help, i will be making another appointment to see SENCO, to make sure everything is put into place. I also have someone coming to the house on Monday to talk to Liam about school, she is from the Hospital Education Service, i have already talked to her and it was her suggestion that i might want to look at a special school, hopefully she maybe able to liase with the my sons school. I do understand that he maybe singled out during lessons with a 1:1 looking over him, but to be honest he already feels that way, because the other kids know his issues and for this he is already treated differently. I just want him to go to school happy and knowing that he will be understood and his needs met.

  • Hi,

    So sorry to hear that your son has been going through all this. We too have been asking ourselves this question for the last few months. We are the parents of a Y6 child who is about to move up into Y7. Our son has been diagnosed with Tourettes in the last year and also has a diagnosis of mild ASD (autistic spectrum disorder). Even up to a few months ago we thought that our child would be able to cope in mainstream education, but have completely done a u-turn when speaking to consultants,educational psychologists and his teachers. My husband and I were both under the impression that a special needs school would not be the place for our child. We couldn't have been more wrong. Within the next week our son's statement is due through. We hope we can get a place for him at the special needs school we have have visited. At this school, children with Tourettes were cared for and educated within a caring and nurturing environment and allowed to achieve their full potential. Some are even taken by

    a member of staff to a local mainstream school for specific lessons.

    We have been lucky that our son's primary school have done everything in their power to help him and that he receives the best care for his Tourettes. Hound your son's SENCO until they do something to help him. They have a duty of care to him. Visit special needs schools to find ones where your child will feel safe and secure, cared for by staff who understand his condition. My eyes were definitely opened when I witnessed calm, engaged children suffering from a variety of conditions, including Tourettes. Each classroom had a place where a child can go and tic in private. The curriculum is suited to the child and the level of supervision is matched to your child's needs.

    You can appeal your son's statement. Get additional evidence from staff at your son's school and his educational psychologist. Contact Tourette's Action and CAMHS services. The local education authority need to be made aware of his needs. The Secondary School that we attained a place in for our son was not interested in meeting his needs and were panicked by the fact that he might try and attend there. We have dropped any idea of mainseam education by witnessing the alternatives out there. If your child has a statement he has a possability of attending a special school. Our son's statement will not be for academic special needs, although his Tourettes makes it difficult for him to access the curriculum at the moment. His primary school also contacted our local SEN education authority head for additional funding. This was granted the same day they emailed him and his class was given 25 hours a week temporary funding. The lady that has been working with him has transformed his educational experience although his tics make life a challenge for him. We have been lucky in that our son's primary school have done everything they can to help us. It's an uphill struggle but there is help out there.

    I so wish you the best of luck and my thoughts are with you.

  • Thank you so much for your reply, i am very happy that you are receiving the support that you and your son need, it makes a change to hear positive instead of negative reports. I have had a meeting with the senco at my son's school since putting this question on and they are saying that they can meet his needs and we are in the situation of having his statement reviewed for more hours. i have decided to give the school the benefit of the doubt and will give it until the half term of the new school year to see how my son copes and how the school can continue to meet his needs. However i have not ruled out a special school, my husband and i have been to two and there is definetly one that would suit my son, should the mainstream not work out. We have been advised that getting my son to the special school at the moment would be a huge fight as the school he attends now are saying they can meet his needs, so i'm keeping a diary and gathering proof inbetween now and the half term, just in case things do spiral downwards. Once again thank you for your reply.

  • Hello

    I would like to start out by saying I hope all is well with your son and I hope this communication finds your family doing well.

    I am the father of an 11 year old boy who has not been formally diagnosed as of yet however we , our family , have been living with Tommys condition long enough to realize what the tics and accompanying list of abbreviated letter disorders are that come with TS. We have a TS specialist appointment scheduled in June.

    What has prompted this communication is that after reading your post from last year I would really like to know how things worked out for you with your childs schooling ?? Again , I hope all is well and apologize ahead of time if this communication finds you at an inopportune time.

    We are currently going through very similar circumstances with our sons

    mainstream school. I must say on their behalf that they have been very supportive however we as a family need to do what is best for Tommy and his overall well being. If that includes getting him into a specialized school then that is the direction we will go. However prior to making this decision I need to arm myself with the best information possible. It appears you are well ahead of us in this area. I highly value any insight on this subject you may feel like sharing. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank You for your consideration and time. Best wishes,



  • Since putting this question on, my son has now been referred for assessment for Asperger syndrome. This will answer a lot of questions!!!!.

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