Noticing … And More Waiting …

So whilst Biggey has been at home since 10th January it has enabled me to spend much more 1:1 time with her. Whilst this is quite positive it has also been very enlightening. Here are some of the things I’ve noticed.

She never starts a conversation. Ever! She only joins in with others or responds (sometimes) when I speak to her. Now, the reason I haven’t noticed this is because Littley talks non stop. It’s only been during this time of just the two of us that it has become apparent. I can walk into the room and she doesn’t look up or speak or acknowledge anyone is there. We can walk down the street and she only chats if I start chatting.

She always plays the same things.. If I say go and play she will go and colour pictures, never anything else. If I say play on the Wii she plays the same game. Again, if Littley is around then she chooses different games and activities so Biggey must have been following her with that. I knew Biggey struggled in this area and thought her lack of imaginative play was down to early neglect but now I’m not so sure.

She never brings me things to show me what she’s done. Never, ever! She will tell me she coloured a picture (after I’ve asked her) and still doesn’t show it to me unless I ask to see it. When I think about, she never has brought me work from school or those plastic bottle models or anything else.

She strops when asked to get changed or struggles with getting dressed. Now I know some kids do this this. She will also put on the same clothes all the time. Yes, all the time! I have to remove them from her bedroom. If I say put a clean top on, she strops. It’s a little odd. Littley is like a fashion show model on contrast – she would wear all her clothes (and some of mine given the chance) in just one day!!

She has lots of obsessive tendencies . Again, these have become more apparent now I see more of her. I keep finding her wiping down the kitchen surface (and it’s not that messy!). She tidies my cutlery draw! These are just a few examples.

She has an inability to change it adjust her language for different situations.. So if she hears a boy in the street shout and swear, she will come in and tell me about it, but she repeats in exactly the same way she has heard it, with same volume, same venom and no abbreviation to “f” word or whatever. She also uses ‘playground’ talk with grandparents (which is a bit embarrassing).

There are more things I’ve been noticing too so when I was my Camhs meeting the other day I asked for referral for her to be assessed for Aspergers or Autistic Spectrum. The more I’ve looked into this, the more I believe she is Aspergic. If so, it would go a long way to explain some of the reason for her having had so much difficulty making progress in certain areas. It would also be really useful to know if she is and what would help her to be able to settle better when we get a new school sorted. Apparently Aspergic girls are also very good at copying other children so that the condition can remain undetected. I believe the Biggey has been copying others at school, certainly in Junior school. Yet this will be much more difficult to do in the busy classes of a Secondary school.

There are often a lot of things which help Autistic kids and also help traumatised and attachment issue kids so the cross-over is understandable.

A letter came yesterday from Camhs. They are not making appointments for Autistic assessment because the waiting is to long. They may come back to us in around three to four months!! More waiting then ….

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We Have a Plan

I went along to the meeting with the Senco at a prospective new school for biggey. I’d had the local authority email a copy of her statement across beforehand so that she could peruse and hopefully be informed before the meeting.

The welcome into school was friendly and I already felt welcome (rather than an inconvenience as I have experienced elsewhere), so that was a good start. Mrs Senco was on time, had booked a meeting room and apologised for having to “wade” through the pupils on their break!

We went through the busy throng in the canteen area of kids being kids, chatting, laughing, pushing a bit, eating toast but generally seeming to be enjoying school life. Mrs Senco turned to me and said “I guess this would be difficult for your girl”!!!!!

Oh yes, absolutely. I like this lady already.

At the meeting room she positioned herself beside me, rather than across the table from me which I found to be a nice touch. I got all my paperwork out and I had prepared quite a list of things that I feel I would need. The first and most important for me was communication (since it was none existent in other school). Straight away she gave me assurance of different methods of communicating, email contacts, home school book discussed, and main reception will always try and find someone, yet she would be the main contact – no passing off to anyone else.

Yes, we’ve heard all this before and this time I was able to challenge a couple of aspects yet also put the information into context of what I had already experienced in making the appointments and having been in the school a couple of times already. I did get a better feel that I could believe what she said would happen.

Next, support. Straight away she said, quite honestly, that it will be difficult to assign an attachment figure or two because if Biggey came now it would be part way through the year. That’s said, she did not completely rule out being able to do something helpful from how until summer and then sort it better from September. Also said would identify a safe place for Biggey in school and provide her with photos and names of all TA’s and relevant people.

OMG ! YOU GET IT!! I managed not to jump up and kiss her at this point. Whilst containing those feeling I also managed to contains own self berating ones about why I didn’t choose this school before. So, (hopefully still outwardly looking composed) I raised something else on my list and she already had thought of that, and the next, and the next. All before I had to ask. Amazing.

When looking at the Statement she quite plainly and frankly said that we can put aside academic needs until we have her feeling safe in school. Until then, she knows she will not learn, yet we can still aim to have her in school! Oh yes please! That’s absolutely what I want and need! I now want to lavish her with chocolates (even though I nearly always keep all chocolate for myself!).

What areas of curriculum does she struggle with? Talked through all those, including the fact that she simply struggles just because of time of year (you know, the usual birthday, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Easter, Halloween) as well as struggling in some topics. When I mentioned that RE is nearly always an issue for her she did say that we could consider asking for her not to study that. This is usually done on grounds of religious belief but if it’s very difficult then … I said thank you, I’ll give it some thought when really I want to whoop loudly. I had never thought of that!!

Transition. She said it needs a steady approach to get her integrated calmly and safely back into school and school life (well, I know that, but brilliant that she does too)! Talked about her even just going in for an hour a day with me too and sometimes just sitting in canteen or the open library area and be able to watch everything happening then progress in small steps from there. She can have a buddy until she finds her way around, there are options for getting into classes and so on. How great that they will accommodate things at her pace (within reason).

At this point I wanted to jump on the table and do a little dance!

There was lots more discussed. Everything on my list was covered and I was more than happy with the answers and ideas and ways of approaching things.

She openly said they will not get everything right but they will work with me. I felt it only fair to then also admit that I will, at times, be a very stroppy parent and apologised in advance (although I still believe my Stroppy hat is a tool I use quite well). She seemed fine with that.

The next day I wrote to the Local Authority and asked them to consider moving Biggey’s named school from her current one to this one. We will have to wait about a week whilst it goes through SEN panel but they will come back to me and let me know the outcome. If approved, they would then have to formally approach this school and see if they will agree to take Biggey. It could all take about 3 weeks so no chance of getting her anywhere near school before Feb half term.

However, we now feel we have a plan. It’s important for me to feel like I have plan. Some of it is a waiting game, some is out of my control, but we have a plan.

The night that we made the request, my lovely hubby and I slept all night – for the first time in ages. Now that felt like a result!

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Charm Offensive (mostly just offensive)

So today we had our Assessment of Needs. This was triggered off the back of my biggey running away two weeks ago. Mind you, I did ask for it too. I wanted to highlight just how things have changed and attempt to get someone to be involved and help us with the school issues and her self esteem and rages.

She arrived – late. Introduced herself and then said “what a big house you’ve got!” (It’s a regular semi!) I felt like I was in a scene from Little Red Riding Hood although did wonder if it was her or me who represented the wolf!

Tea and coffee sorted and I introduced her to my biggey who is currently refusing to go to school. Then we shut ourselves away. I gave her a brief summary of my girls history between what we were told and what we now know. There is a vast difference (which matches the Radio 4 discussion which took place at the weekend).

She looked surprised, shocked even, and wanted me to clarify or confirm her suspicions about who or what were involved with my girls’ early life. I refused to be drawn into speculation and simply told her I work with what the children tell me and I have no space or energy to speculate, guess or assume anything outside of the information which the girls or professionals have told me. It felt like she wanted a scandal or some gasping horror story. I wasn’t about to give it to her.

I moved her on to where we are now. She started secondary school in September and from the start it was difficult to get meetings even though they said they would and said they understood the importance. The meetings just did not happen. I outlined the issues:

Within first month she broke her ankle on a trip. Granted, they suspected a sprain but on arrival back at school her dad had to help her off the bus. Biggey says they did not help her when she was hurt.

Incidents of bullying in early weeks (schools words to biggey) and they did not inform me, they took very little, if any, preventative or protective action. We later found out the child was excluded so he must have been doing something significant but my girl felt she got no help and was not kept safe.

When her behaviour deteriorated she was given sanctions, detentions and inclusion rather than have conversations with us or look beyond the behaviour or even put in the support she was supposed to have in accordance with her statement of needs.

I reported several times that she was struggling and saying she does not feel safe. I asked for meetings. They said “a meeting is not necessary”. After 5 requests and involvement of parent partnership we finally got a meeting – a few days before Christmas.

During Christmas break they put a photo of her on the website. A clerical error apparently. They apologise for any upset in a matter of fact way and simply do not seem to grasp that this is a matter of this child’s safety!

On returning to school in New Year she lasted 4 days before coming home distressed and then running away. Police were called. She was found and so we get to this assessment. We have told school and the LA that we are going to look for another school for her.

We talked through what happens when she strops and is violent. What works, what doesn’t. I explained how much therapeutic parenting I have done and continue to do. How much trauma therapy we have had (and paid for ourselves). How difficult it is to encourage her to do anything much. Apparently I have a kind heart! I can’t remember exactly what I had said to gain that accolade but it was around dealing with the difficulties and violence.

She had a look round the house and exclaimed how tidy it was. I chose not to read into that, or to respond either way. She commented on girls posters of pop groups in bedrooms. Then told me it was all Take That and Boyzone when she was their age. I just mmmm’d, again choosing not to respond. Then she slammed me with the comment ” I bet it was The Beatles for you!” Cheeky little ……… (Bleep). I know I’m run down and a bit tired looking but she didn’t need to add 10 years or so to my age for goodness sake! I bit my lip and carried on.

She wanted a chat with biggey. I let them get on with it. She came back to tell me what they’d talked about. Biggey had mentioned all school stuff except for fact that she thinks birth parents will come looking for her. Miss SW took great delight in telling me in much detail how she had biggey draw a bag of worries and write these worries in it; then she took the piece of paper and the bag away and so now my girl has nothing to worry about! Ta Dah! Super! She’ll be just fine then. I tried to smile gently (I’m not certain I achieved that) and suggested that perhaps if it was as simple as that then we would have already done that over the last six years and perhaps so would the therapists who have worked with her. She waved the paper with the drawing on it and said that since they were all school worries, then when we find another school then everything will be fine.

I managed not to completely lose the plot at this point and tried to explain that there is more needed and more that could be done to help her and us as a family. Reminding her that whilst I put in all the effort to find, brief, train and work with school, manage her transition, calm, sooth, explain, rebuild the attachment, continue with the other family stuff, ensure littley has some time and work a bit too; bearing in mind how long I’ve been doing this for without asking for help or support, then there is a limit to my energies. So would they like to look at wider support now or wait until she has run away again?

I asked for access to mentoring, clubs, activities and whatever will get here out and about to partake in social and or sport activities. Anything that will help here to feel good about herself and have the potential to raise her self esteem. She will have a look. Perhaps we might want to think about Relate!?? She will have to go and talk to people. She will come back to me when they have looked at needs, clubs, availability, costs, funding and other stuff. It may take around three weeks. Lovely.

That was only part of my morning, just a small part of my day.

I have a kind heart.
I have a nice, big, tidy house.
I am doing a great job.
When I find a new school things will be fine.

Great. I’ll try and hold those thoughts in my mind.