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Am I over- reacting?

(15 Posts)
pannetone Wed 06-Feb-13 20:43:02

DS who's 10 with just-diagnosed HFA does not want to go on the Year6 7 night residential trip. He has all sorts of sensory sensitivities besides his social and communication difficulties that would make a week away with 31 other children difficult. At school he regularly needs to leave the classroom when he becomes overwhelmed. This has been consistent over the past few years, although DS only just has the diagnosis - which the School are aware of.

We have already had one awkward moment for DS when his class teacher - in front of the class - told DS he was the only one not going on the trip and it would be a shame if he didn't go. DS is sensitive and conscious enough already of being 'different.' I think the CT meant well but it upset DS.

Then today - again with the whole class there - the Head asked if all the class were going on the trip. Someone piped up DS wasn't. DS was asked why not. He said he had to go to a big family occasion during the trip. (This was actually a face-saving response to give to his class mates rather than explaining he didn't want to go). Head harrumphed and said it would have to be a very important occasion to miss school. Head then told DS what a valuable experience it would be, especially 'for a person like you.' Which is the bit that has really upset DS. We only told him his diagnosis a few weeks ago and he is struggling to accept it. DS is painfully aware that he can't be just like his peers and he has interpreted the Head's comment as meaning he is a 'lesser' person. Sadly, we have already found the Head to have fixed ideas on what is best for our DS (which secondary school) and those with autism generally (they need to be taught life skills.)

To cap it all the Head is acting SENCO. I am pretty fed up. It can be hard enough to get DS into school anyway and he is now worried that he is 'in trouble' for not going on the trip. And it has added ammunition to his oft-repeated remark that the HT 'hates me'. How do I sort this one? Added factor is I have DD in Year3 also with SEN (probable ASD).

inappropriatelyemployed Wed 06-Feb-13 20:48:08

I am sorry. These issues are so important to our children. My son sounds very similar to yours.

I think you have no option but to go and speak to the head, perhaps in his SENCO role, and flag up how upset DS is about not going and how helpful it would be to be included in some small way, e.g. given a small project, take some photos of the class as they depart or something.

Is there anyone else involved in supporting him who could help?

Have you discussed directly with school why he can't go? I think that is a conversation that needs to be had.

porridgeLover Wed 06-Feb-13 21:00:26

It seems to me that there are a couple of issues here.

One is whether or not DS should go on the trip... you've made a call on it with regard to his needs (whether SN or family event or whatever). You as the parent have made the call. Surely if CT or HT have a problem with that, you are the person to whom they should express it?

Secondly, as he has SN, are school not au fait with what it means and the implications for him? Who made the diagnosis- are they in a position that they could speak to school about his needs and advocate for him? Are the school aware of the anxiety that ignoring his needs can provoke in a person on the spectrum?

Third is the HT's ideas and attitudes....there's probably not a lot you can do about that. If he doesnt think his ideas are out of touch, then he wont educate himself otherwise.

I also feel that they are bordering on denying your DS his right to confidentiality by referring to him 'as a person like you'.

Given this, and the potential of your DD's needs, do you have other (more understanding) school options?
Having been in a similar position (DS being excluded from a trip,CT referring to him as not normal) I found that assertively addressing the issues with school and Principal worked well. But it was a fine line between going ballistic (my natural reaction) and buttering them up. I found that referring to 'us' helped as in 'what can we do to help DS so that he is learning and getting the social exposure he needs, while ensuring that he is not disruptive?'

AgnesDiPesto Wed 06-Feb-13 21:36:47

They should not be discussing this in front of the class they will know who is / not going by looking at who has signed the forms / paid!
They should then have discussed it with you in private and see if they could make any reasonable adjustments
For eg it may be there is a small dorm room with 4-6 beds and with the right mix of children he could have managed that
It may be he could have gone for 2-3 days (a girl with DS in my son's class did that, she asked to go home early, which her Mum & staff had expected). All the children were really positive that she had come and done really well to stay 3 days
He could have gone and stayed in a hotel with you overnight etc etc and just done the activities in the day
It is a big deal in year 6 to go on the trip but they have handled it all wrong. Many schools will bend over backwards to include children with SEN on these trips

If you feel there is no way back / way of him being included - and frankly I would not be surprised if you would not trust them with your child now - then I would give the HT 'feedback' so a similar experience does not happen to another child in future and spend the money on a term time cheap holiday for you and your ds!

If there was a child who could not afford the trip would they have stood in the middle of the class and pointed out he was the only one not able to go and what a shame, no of course not.

inappropriatelyemployed Wed 06-Feb-13 22:10:45

I wasn't sure from the OPs post that she had explained to school what the reason was for not going. This needs to be explained to school directly and the head.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 06-Feb-13 22:13:37

7 nights is a really long time, I am not surprised he doesnt want to go.

Nobody should be discussing this with your son in the middle of the class room. I would be having words about that.

HT sounds very unproffessional and HT/SENCO is never a good mix, ime.
It is a shame because as others have said with some careful handling your Ds might have been able to access at least part of the trip.

I agree with taking him somewhere nice insteadgrin

pannetone Wed 06-Feb-13 22:20:21

Thanks for your responses.

Inappropriately,I agree that I now need to spell out to the School why he can't go - or more accurately why I think we should support his decision that he doesn't want to go (too long a trip, too far away, activities don't appeal, food issues, sleep issues, friendship issues etc). The School should (ha!) be aware of his difficulties about a trip away - it was touch and go whether he went on the 1 night trip away last summer. (He did, and 'survived' it, rather than enjoyed it - and said he would have come home but he was too worried about being collected at night and driving on the windy country roads...) But I suppose my dicussions were with the lovely SENCO who is now on maternity leave.

The head seems unwilling to accept the basic premise that we might have a better idea of how to meet DS's needs than him. He thought we should have applied for DS to go to grammar school as many in our town do, but we (and DS) didn't want the hour journey. Head's response was that was the sort of 'life skill' he needed to learn travelling on a bus or train each day!

As you say Porridge the School should have approached us if they wanted to know why DS was not going. Our borough Complex Communications team made the diagnosis - and there was an 'issue' over this too. They wrote with the date of the 'feedback' meeting in which a diagnosis could be given. They asked if I wanted someone from School there and I said no. We had just had the 'disagreement' over secondary schools and I didn't want the Head there. (Aso DH couldn't come) Dealing with being given the diagnosis would be enough to cope with. It turned out they had already told the Head the date of the meeting and then told him I didn't want him there! I got called in to see him and he was pretty 'off' about it, asking how they could support DS if I wouldn't let him come to the meeting. He admitted he didn't have much SEN experience and now I was preventing him from learning!

There is a borough 'autism support teacher' who is now meant to come into school to advise them now DS has a diagnosis, but that won't happen for a couple of months. And it is more the Head's attitude that needs changing.

You are right about the confidentiality issue Porridge - Ds said he was really worried that the Head was going to disclose he is on the spectrum and 'person like you' is degrading when the Head knows he has just got a diagnosis.

Did you move your DS Porridge? I agree I feel like going in with all guns blazing. But neither DS or DD 'do' change (DD has selective mutism),and I feel strongly that they have a right to have their needs met at this school.

You were at the Tony Attwoood day weren't you inappropriately? It really brought home to me how much a lack of understanding of autism causes so many additional difficulties for our DC.

Ineedmorepatience Wed 06-Feb-13 22:33:13

I know what you are saying about wanting them to have their needs met at that school but to be honest, in me experience HT dont change their opinions easily. If the HT is lacking understanding at this point in their career it is unlikely that this will alter no matter how many times you go in and try to explain about your children.

I moved my Dd3 at the end of yr3, she doesnt do change either but it was the best thing I have ever done and she is soo much happier, dont hang on just because you think it will get better.

Oh and fwiw, I dont blame you about the school choice, my Dd1 struggled with the bus, she used to miss it or get on the wrong one and then there is the homework to think of. Transition to secondary is hard enough without all that travelling.

Good lucksmile

pannetone Wed 06-Feb-13 22:37:36

To be clear - yes I had discussed DS going (or rather not going) on this Year6 trip with the 'old' SENCO before she went on maternity leave last October. At this point DS (already unsettled by the ASD assessment process) was adamant he wasn't going - and I was not going to commit to paying nearly £300. I did think that if DS started to come round to the idea, maybe we could plan a 'part' stay or 'visit'. (Though it's 3 and a half hour's drive away. And DS2 also HFA will be sitting A levels that week).

AgnesDiPesto Wed 06-Feb-13 22:39:34

My DS1 is in year 6 and from what I hear from parents with older children they do revision for SATS for the next x weeks, sit SATS and then do no work for the rest of the year - in our school this is masked as putting on a year 6 production.

So as far as I am concerned my DS has finished all the useful part of school, he's not going to learn much that is new now and if its an option you could deregister your DS, find a nice home ed group for social activities and forget about school until Sept. I can't see its worth either of you putting in much effort / moving now he is so near the end of school.

MareeyaDolores Wed 06-Feb-13 23:56:15

Wot Agnes said.

Or keep him in and apply for a statement now, then sit back watching the chaos, while documenting everything which is affecting your ds's progress.

madwomanintheattic Thu 07-Feb-13 00:13:44

Um, I kind of do agree that yr 6's with asd dx do need to develop life skills, tbh.

It might have been clumsily put by the ht (and indeed everyone else) but it would have been an awesome confidence boost for your Ds if he had managed to get through a residential trip, and the school had put in enough support to make this a possibility.

Had you discussed with the new senco what level of support they would be offering him to attend the residential trip with his new dx?

Had you told the school he wouldn't be attending? Or are they still collecting on the forms and really don't yet have final numbers? (And so it was a genuine question?)

It is of course entirely your decision - but I think I might have been putting more effort into getting the school to provide the necessary support, in your shoes, and following through with support for Ds (whether through camhs, ed psych, asd outreach or whoever) so that he felt able to attend himself.

Sunnymeg Thu 07-Feb-13 07:42:50

Pannetone, you and I are in the same boat, although my AS, DS yr6 didn't want to go as he didn't have enough information about the trip, was worried about the food, who he would be sharing a room with, all that sort of thing. Plus he could see no point in going on an activity holiday where there would have been no time to do anything 'interesting', such as going to a museum. Since then his teacher and the head/SENCO have been really off with me, and act as I'd I'm depriving my son of a wonderful opportunity. I get the distinct feeling that they don't like the fact they are going to have to provide schooling for him, when the rest of the class are absent,

porridgeLover Thu 07-Feb-13 09:38:08

pannetone, to answer your question, no I didnt move my DS. Like you, I wanted to rip some heads off; he was so hurt by the CT remark and was coming home in tears telling me that 'you dont know how bad it is for me here'.

But, equally, changing schools would have been a BIG transition for him. We have had a lot of change and upset in his life and I wanted to keep school 'safe' for him.

I have been very lucky TBH. I am not a naturally assertive person, but after those few incidents, I emailed the HT (trail of evidence) detailing what had been said and asking what support would be given to DS.
I also head-on said to the CT (in front of DS) that what she had said was not appropriate.

I felt I handled it well. Not boasting, as it would'nt be my strength. But it was that thin line between standing up for DS but respecting that school has to have 'routines and rules to run efficiently.
And doing it in a way that wasn't smarmy but genuinely seeing school as co-workers on the Educate DS Project. Very much the 'we are working together to maximise DS's potential'.

In fairness to both of them, CT apologised to DS and went on to be a good support to him for the rest of the year.
HT has really tried to facilitate him, with friendship circles, supporting the application for a TA and listening to outside prof's recommendations.

pannetone Thu 07-Feb-13 14:45:53

Thanks for further responses. I have the whole gamut from 'work with the school' to take him out and home educate!

I have telephoned and asked them to arrange me (and hopefully DH) to see the Head-who-is-also-acting-senco. I managed to speak courteously to the Head when he spoke to me about an unrelated matter. I am going to discuss the trip 'issue' in relation to general support for DS - which doesn't happen yet - bar him being allowed to go out of the classroom when he is overwhelmed. Sometimes it seems that DS is too 'able' for his own good IYSWIM. He mostly copes really well, but that seems to mean when he doesn't, the school think he can just deal with it and get over his difficulty because he is generally calm, mature and personable. But his difficulties are very real and 'rooted'.

DS has an assessment at CAMHS tomorrow and I'm hoping as well as working with DS they will give the School strategies to manage DS's anxiety.

Madwoman - I think you are right that asking about who was going on the trip wasn't a genuine question from the Head - the forms and money had to be all in by January. Which is a bit worrying if the Head only asked to put DS on the spot in front of the class.

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