EHCP, Neuroplasticity, Special Needs Education

Starting school, SEN and retained reflexes: what you need to know

Is your child starting school in September? It really creeps up quickly on us, and it’s always hard to know which setting is going to be best for our SEN children due to start mainstream primary schools.

Sadly, an outstanding OFSTED report isn‘t necessarily an indication that a school is going to be a brilliant option.

We opted for a small prep school, thinking small class sizes would be best for sensory processing disorder, high anxiety and a high IQ… but how wrong we were! Private schools are often (not always) not skilled in supporting children who don’t fit the mould, or are not willing to. We’ve found our move to state education enlightening – so many accommodations are put in place that a class of 30 rather than 12 is not an issue – and in fact is an advantage, as there’s a wider range of friends to choose from!

Please bear in mind that I’m only talking about our experience here, and am fully aware that what suits us may not suit others. We looked at pretty much every education option in this area, including home ed, and this is what has suited us best as a family. We now have a child who is happy and enjoying school and has a gorgeous group of friends: consequently he is making great progress.

Having a happy child is KEY, and whatever it takes to get them to feel safe and supported is really important. A child who feels safe and secure will be motivated to learn.

If your child doesn’t have an EHCP, I would strongly recommend that you:

1) apply for one yourself using the IPSEA templates, and

2) make contact with the SENCo at your child’s new school and see if it’s possible to go in for a chat before the end of the summer term. They will more than likely really appreciate any additional information, and so will the Reception teacher. From person experience, SEN provision works really well if there’s really good two-way communication between parents and SENCos… and

3) join an EHCP support group on Facebook for advice

It may come as a bit of a surprise to know that in an average class of 30 Reception children, at least 22 will have retained reflexes. Not only this but at least 5/30 will have a reflex profile that means that they are not neurologically ready for school and will struggle with things like attention, sitting still, holding a pencil, behaving appropriately in groups and having the ability to socialise, etc.

The good news is that there are so many activities we can be getting our Reception intake (or pre-school age) children to do in order to help them make the necessary brain connections to allow them to sit still, pay attention for 10 minutes, sit on a chair at school without slouching or slumping, have the stamina to get through the school day, grip a pencil, stand in a line, wait their turn, be respectful to other classmates and play socially and cooperatively – this goes for ALL children, whether you already have a diagnosis, a suspicion of “traits” or even you have no worries at all about your child.

Of course, I could also tell everyone to book an appointment with me, but I know that people prefer to try things themselves first, so:

  • snow angel movements, slowly and rhythmically
  • use a skateboard to scoot around the floor, on tummy and on back
  • have a race to see how many cotton wool balls you and your child can move from one bowl to another within 30 seconds
  • do push ups against a wall
  • walk around the floor on your bottom
  • skip using a rope
  • find playgrounds with balance equipment and stepping stones (incidentally, it is a good sign when you visit a school with stepping stones and balance beams in the playground, as a clued up head knows that balance is central to learning
  • get your child to trace ”8”s in the air, crossing the midline
  • get your child to crawl – if you can get hold of a tube for them to crawl through to encourage it, even better
  • get your child to walk on stilts or use a pogo stick
  • plenty of trampolining
  • spend lots of time barefoot

These are all wonderful ways to help primitive reflexes to integrate, and help a child prepare for school.

Support at most (state) primary schools in the Horsham area tends to be pretty good for a wide range of needs, but there is definitely no harm in staying a few steps ahead of the local authority to ensure that your child is best supported. You might find the IPSEA website useful reading.

Most of all, I want to let you know that it’s all going to be ok.

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