So Far, So Good!

So we are at the end of the first week of my Biggey being introduced to her new school.  We are still waiting on the Local Authority to sort out the formalities of the arrangements in regards to the Statement of Needs, yet the school were still comfortable to begin the process – whilst we wait.

Biggey, Dad and me all traipsed along on Monday for her to have a look around the place.  It didn’t take long – there are only two classrooms, a games room, breakfast room and toilets!  It is a special support unit attached to the school and for now, that is where she will be based.  There is a teacher and teaching assistant based there all the time and many of the lessons take place in this unit with teachers from main school coming into the unit where possible.  All classes are small, perhaps up to 6 children, sometimes only one child.  Sometimes children are in there full time, others part time, others as needed.  It may sound a bit like the “naughty children’s” unit but in fact it is very small, patient, nurturing, caring and understanding.  Exactly what she needs.  Not only to meet her ever expanding needs, but also to repair the damage done by the other school and improve her perception of what school and support is all about.

Whilst we were there the Head teacher came across to say hello and welcome her.  He chatted to her for a few minutes and asked if she had any worries.  She tearfully said she was worried about not having any friends.  He reassured her that they will help with that and hoped that she didn’t worry for too long about it.

I have to say, I really wanted to hug him, or just rub his arm or do something insanely touchy feely at this point!  He was just so nice!

Introductions to people took place and then she was invited to go in the next day to join their cookery class.  She agreed readily (since she loves cooking and baking) so the TA took her across to the main school to show her the cookery room.  Now here’s the difference – they showed her the exact route she would take, the cookery room, introduced her to the cookery teacher and gave her a typed list of ingredients.  None of the old stuff of figure it out, write it down, go with flow, be independent and “you’ll be fine”.  She was smiling. Normally.  None of the manic-too-big smiling that she does when trying to cover her anxieties.

I wanted to kiss these people!  Of course, I refrained (you’ll be pleased to know).  Yet I was delighted because they had thought all this out, I didn’t have to ask and nudge and suggest.

Tuesday came and I dropped her off at the school with her box of ingredients and plan to collect her again in two hours.  That is when I posted briefly about being alone.  It was amazing, for her and for me.   When I collected her again she talked animatedly about the whole experience.

The Headteacher came to see the cookery class.  He wanted to taste my cupcake so I had to take him one when they were finished.  I met my Head of Year.  She teaches PE and asked me if I liked PE.  I said I love it.  She said we will have to try and get me to go to some clubs.  She said that she will come with me for a few times because I might not know anyone and so she will stay with me until I feel more comfy about going.  She seemed nice … I’ve had a good day… blah blah…”

I was crying at this point!  After so many months of intense difficulty, the fights, the phone calls, the emails, the lack of understanding, thoughtlessness, no empathy.  The tears were happy tears of relief.  Thank goodness for a bit of kindness, compassion and understanding. 

She went for two hours each day and then a bit longer today, Friday, so she could join a PE lesson.   There is check in each morning and feedback at end which we are all involved in.  It’s like taking your child to nursery (or so I imagine – I never got to experience that because they were both older when they arrived).  So far, so good.  Everyone (School, Head, Senco, Support and us) agree we need to take it slowly to ensure her success; she is going to get very tired; we cannot put a timescale or deadline on exactly when she will attend full time.  When she does eventually attend this unit full time, there will eventually be another transition, little by little, to main stream schooling and classes with the unit there when needed.

She’s absolutely shattered tonight although she still had enough energy to have a little strop about the fact she didn’t want to go to bed!  She quickly went off to sleep.

 

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I Am Alone!

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I am delighted to announce that I am officially alone! For a whole two hours!

My darling Biggey is at school! Yes! At School.

More will follow but wanted to share my joy as I do a little dance and settle down to coffee in peace ….

Still Waiting

The Local authority were supposed to come back to me by close of play Friday about whether the SEN panel decided to allow my request to change Biggey’s school. Guess what! I didn’t hear from them!

I sent an email after 5:30 saying that I am wondering what time their close of play is. Sarcastic? Hopeful? Naive? I’m really trying hard not to p!&& people off because I need them to do their thing. However more importantly I need my child in school!

Everyone (family, friends, colleagues) I speak to cannot understand all the difficulty we are having. Cannot understand that the school would not meet us, cannot understand that it is taking so long to get changes. Cannot understand that we are having to fight, chase, nag and do all of this on our own. People say you would think they would recognise this child needs to be in school and do whatever to help that happen.

Well, no. That’s not how it works. I and many others are not surprised that help is minimal, poor or non existent. Such a shame that this is what we (adopters) have to put up with.

This panel met on Wednesday, by the time there is action next week that’s another week my girl has been out of school, then half term is looming so nothing will happen during that week either.

I’m tempted to escalate the issue. I will do if I feel necessary.

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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.

Meeting with School

So, since 6th November, made five requests for a meeting with current secondary school. Three refusals (“a meeting is not necessary”), one made then cancelled by them and now we may finally have a date – although that’s still a week away yet!

This morning I have telephoned two other schools, first school put through to Inclusion and appointment made for end of this week! Second school, left a message and call returned within a few hours and appointment made early next week!

Speaks volumes. I will say no more for now ………..

Going to bake

Autobiography – All About Me

Following on from my earlier post about the distressing time we had with this piece of work.  She still had to do it with only my help for adaptation.  She was keen for me to “put it on the blog”. So here it is:

I am 11 years old and I have a mum, dad and sister. When I came, my mum and dad were so happy because I looked so beautiful and they had waited a long time for me. Mum and dad read me bedtime stories.  I still remember some, such as Give me a Hug and No Matter What.  I still read them now occasionally and they give me nice memories.  Mum also used to sing me to sleep and because of this I am a very good sleeper. My sister is really funny and in some cases annoying.  Once she bit into a tomato and all the seeds went up her face which was really funny so it sill makes me laugh now.  However she comes into my room and takes my stuff, which is really annoying. The primary school I went to was lots of fun.  My two favourite teachers were Miss Winston and Miss Smith.  The understood if I wasn’t feeling safe and as a result of this they were kind and helpful. My hobbies that I like now are horse riding at the weekend and swimming.  I also like to do hockey at school which I am really good at. Now at secondary school I don’t feel safe because I am getting bullied.  I think the teachers aren’t helping me at school and in lots of cases I feel upset because I don’t know what I am doing and feeling confused and upset and sad. I am so glad I have got the mum and dad that I have, although I find things hard I know that they love me and will listen to everything I have to say.