Tuesday, 12 June 2018

School Refusal...

Well - it's certainly been another interesting week - it's never dull in the world of adoption. Sometimes, I'd just like there to be nothing to write about - just a boring, old, run of the mill, family week.

Yeah, right...

This week TJ refused to go back to school - ever.

I've never experienced school refusal before - that was for other people's children, that was for parents who had no discipline or control over their kids - where their children dictate the rules, where there is a lack of boundaries...

But, no. School refusal is very different. I watched as our youngest son, who has always loved going to school, became a crumpled heap on the floor, crying and begging me not to make him go. A child who clung to his bedclothes like a toddler, trying to hide within the sheets. I told him he could stay at home that day. And TJ did the unthinkable - he simply sighed and went to sleep. TJ never sleeps - never - especially not when the sun is up. As I've learned, sleep is a big issue for children with FAS, their brains simply find it very difficult to shut down and logically, why would you sleep when the sun is up. So in the winter months, TJ can be in his pyjamas and in bed for around 6.30 - in the summer though it's a different matter.

So I went into school to meet with the SENCo regarding TJ's draft EHC plan (the plan for children with special needs).

The plan is supposed to be a detailed document stating the issues that the child faces and the ways in which the local authority need them to be addressed - it's a legally binding document that has to be adhered to. In reality of course, it's a mess, written by people who have never met my child and rely on information given to them - everything has to be evidenced, even down to getting the geneticist to provided a detailed letter outlining her diagnosis - twice. But we have managed to get TJ a plan - except the plan is so vague - so the SENCo and I had agreed to meet in order to provide the LA with the language for the support needed - yes, we are writing it for them (to be honest, I think that is pretty much the norm).

To see TJ's needs written down and to hear just how much of a struggle school is for him was tough. To hear how he simply doesn't understand the social skills required to know the difference between a joke and a threat, to hear that he has never even ventured into the school playground because its just too loud and scary for him. To hear how other children get him to 'share' his lunch with them in order for them to be his 'friends' whilst he then goes hungry - how he was pushed against a wall and his glasses broken.. and so much more was hard. Yes, the school are investigating every incident - but we had to face the fact that TJ cannot cope in large school environment and he was going to struggle with later school life as he simply doesn't have the ability to think critically - to access the curriculum and because he can't access the curriculum he is called names and ridiculed... children can be cruel.

To hear all of this was tough - but then to imagine how he must feel living through it - that was harder. No wonder he didn't want to go to school. And we, as parents, had made the decision to follow the local authorities advice - to put him in mainstream school to see if he could cope. Essentially we had set him up to fail - but it was only by failing that he was going to get the help he so desperately needs. His failure was the evidence the local authority wanted.

This failure, coupled with the coming to terms with his diagnosis, led to a conversation where TJ was very open about his wish to die - why should he live - he couldn't be cured, everyone hates him, he hates himself - that was hard to hear but despite that - we have to be strong for him - to reassure him, to get him the help he needs. We've done it for KC (finally - his school placement has been agreed) now its TJ's turn.

So, the school refusal was no surprise to anyone at his school - they were surprised he had carried on for as long as he has. At one point the SENCo said that maybe the refusal was a good thing because now the authority had to listen - thank goodness the EHC was in place as now they have to find him a suitable school place - however, we now face the battle of there simply not being enough specialist places available. So, as one boy goes back into education, the other one comes out...

My life is a revolving door of educational needs - but still we soldier on!