Beyond the Behaviour

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This is my first blog!  Woo hoo.  I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I’ve not idea what I’m doing so I’m just going to type and see.   So what, may you ask, has made me finally get started?  Well, it’s quite simple – fury!  It’s a powerful tool which drives many an adoptive mum to new, adventurous places and this is now my place.  The reason for my fury is school.  Oh, that old thing, I hear many adoptive parents sigh.  Well yes, it’s got me started on blog so here goes.

I got an email from school today to let me know there had been a situation with K.  She started at this secondary school in September and I had asked them to email me so that I wasn’t left floundering in the middle of the after school strops wondering what on earth had gone on.  However, the main aspect of the issue was that she wouldn’t do her work.  Oh, and she was quite rude to the supply teacher.

I have heard (and dealt with) her rude and stubborn behaviour many times before, so have the primary school, and it has always been because she has been scared.  Lots of chatting and sometimes even intense giggling can often be seen too when she is scared.   I appreciate it looks like she is just being rude and stubborn or defiant.  I also appreciate she looks like a fine, healthy “normal” child.  It’s what lurks beneath ………..

She has said the supply teacher – particularly his voice – triggered a reminder of someone who used to hurt her.

I’m trying to build relationships with school, so am refraining from speaking my mind!  Those who know me, who read this, will probably be chuckling to themselves!  I have emailed the school and said I would like to offer a suggestion in order to try and work together to reduce the occurrence of these times.

“I wonder if it is possible for her support people to remind her that she is safe before trying to get her to finish her work?  If so, it needs to in a kind but firm voice and repeated several times with no other information.  So something like “K, I am your safe helper and you are safe” then a pause, then say it again, then again.  Hopefully, over time that will calm her down.  Then she may be able to get on with her work.  I do know that it is not about the level or ability of the work.  If anyone is reluctant or uncomfortable with this then do let me know and I will think of something else.”

I’ve sent the email now, I wonder if it is too patronising, too gentle, too much of me just wasting my time?  We shall see.

Later in the day, I got another email to say there had also been another situation where a teacher came to speak to her and she got upset and turned her back on him.  Oh dear.  I managed to contain my sarcasm!  When I  managed to speak to her about it she said – I quote – “his voice was angry and his face was cross and I turned away because I thought I was going to get hurt again”.   So again, I have tried to explain to school that tone of voice or a facial expression can be triggering for her.  I wasn’t there obviously, she may have misinterpreted, as she does very often.  That is her perception of the situation.

By 7.30pm tonight I thought we had things calmer and were able to move on even though she still hates school and doesn’t want to go.  Then we began to look at tomorrow and meltdown started again!

In English she has written a heading of “Autobiography All About Me”.  Her teacher has apparently said to her just write – my early life was not very nice – or something along those lines.  She was in a very tearful and distressed state about this.  She says she doesn’t want to write it, she doesn’t want to think it, she doesn’t want to remember it and she wishes it had never happened.  Just writing that line is too hard for her and bring up all sorts of horrific memories, so it’s just not that simple!

Another hour later and we have discussed how she can start her autobiography with “When I came…” and then write all the good bits she remembers from when she came to us.

English was second lesson today.  So, before she even got to the lesson where she was rude, is where the trigger began!  This is the reason that adoptive parents ask to look beyond the behaviour.  At sometime in the middle of this morning she was thrown right back into the horror of memories from her early life and that is where she stayed, being triggered and reminded and triggered again, until this evening when she was home and safe.  Eventually I could get her to know she was home and safe.

8 thoughts on “Beyond the Behaviour

  1. Your experiences are familiar to me (very). I’ve done a lot of work with our school to help them better understand trauma, including lending them the Louise Bomber books. They’ve now done her training and last year put into place an attachment figure, a reduced timetable, a room to escape to and information to all staff about triggers etc. It has made a massive difference.
    It is really hard work to keep going and to keep the faith so I know how you feel.
    I hope that things get better.

    • Thanks for encouragement and kind words. I managed this at primary. I will be continuing to try with this school too. I live in hope.

      At the moment they are refusing to meet with me which makes it harder although they under-estimate my determination!!

  2. Secondary schools are hard, impersonal and confusing places. Sally’s comment above is very encouraging because my experience of teaching in massive high schools has me in despair that anything meaningful can ever really happen to support individual children with less obvious, less ‘educational’ needs. Is there one individual there who listens to you and who you think you could influence? If so, you may be able to start a ripple effect.

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