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Catching more flies with honey... (problem solving)(92 Posts)
You may have heard the adage "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" and i have definitely found this is true, particularly dealing with the officious gints we encounter on this unusual journey that we are taking.
When I need something for the dcs, I try to do as much of the footwork for the "other party" as possible. I come to the meeting/discussion with the problem clearly defined and several potential solutions, including what I need to contribute, what they need to contribute, and what we can do together.
I know what is absolutely non-negotiable from my viewpoint, and where that does not match up with their non-negotiable points.
I also try and wrap my head around how I will react and what steps are next if my contributions are ignored or rebuffed. Surprisingly enough, I don't need to go into that "fallback" position very often.
I always try to remind myself that we do likely have the same goals (but very different motivations and limitations). Above all, I do my best to avoid becoming defensive or adversarial, not demanding or rigid, and I never expect to get my way (that way, it is a really nice surprise when I do).
I have lots of friends who ask how we manage to stay sane through all these challenges - and frankly I think that this is a big reason. We generally get what we ask for - not necessarily in the format we have requested, and definitely not right when we ask, but we eventually find a way to accomplish what we need.
I have come along to support friends at meetings, and seen how things go right down the plug hole as soon as they start to lose their temper, demand instead of ask, say where things are wrong instead of looking at the positive first... and once the first negative personal comments ("you are not doing..." "you are failing...") come out, the meeting might as well be over.
Maybe it is because
a million years ago in my professional life, it was my job to work with people in exceptionally stressful situations, first as a paramedic, then working in mental health services. While I do find the lead-up to the meetings stressful, I rarely walk out of a meeting wanting to do away with every other person in the room.
However... there are still those days where you desperately want to hurl the vinegar bottle and watch the damn flies scatter... how do you manage to get through those times without damaging relationships permanently with the people you have to work with?
Mmm, well, again, I am glad that your approach led to a positive outcome.
For me it was:
- ask politely,
- when my son was without provision for 5 months and everyone was ignoring my polite requests, escalate it to a complaint
- have complaijnts ignored
- provision still not in place
-find yourself branded vexatious 2 weeks before a Tribunal by an LA trying to cover up this lack of provision
- receive reports from LA services for Tribunal pretending they have been delivering provision when they had not
- withdraw child from school due to lack of support and lying adults
I am not mad or negative. With a son out of school for the third time in third years, I just get on and work and address issues practically and positively.
But we have had an appalling, traumatic experience which has left us without money for holidays etc as we have had to consistently cover gaps in provision ourselves despite what is in the statement.
So this was not my fault for not being positive or nice enough. I was not 'asking for it' and neither was my son.
I cannot understand why those who have been fortunate to have an LA respond properly to concerns are so quick to disregard and dismiss those who have not as if it is somehow their fault or criticise them for 'negativity'.
Are we really having some kind of 'deserving poor' type argument here? How appalling.
I do wonder how much our own personalities affects what we see as honey or vinegar, and also what we might consider to be all the variations in between. My instinctive response is always combative, demanding and probably verging on aggressive, I have to work very hard to sweeten this and act in a more collaborative fashion, but I suspect even when I act in a more honeyed manner I am still very assertive. So, my vinegar is probably considerably more acidic than most and my honey is probably less sweet than others...
Conversely, if you are by nature more compliant, gentle natured, driven to ameliorate, negotiate and agree, when you 'toughen up' and be more vinegary, it probably takes you to a similar place to my sweetened vinegar. Your honey is more sweet than mine and your vinegar less acidic.
The difficulty with an Internet forum is all we have is words. They are important but we may not all ascribe the same meanings and have the same understanding. My honey or vinegar is not the same as yours, because we all start from a different place. What you may see as assertive I may see as a bit feeble. What you see as aggressive may be my best efforts at negotiation.
At every stage of the 'game' of SN provision we assess the professionals and make constant judgement calls on how best to get our children's needs met, our skill is in using the best tactics for the situation, for some that will be deferential and compliant, because that is what works best, for others it will be demanding, complaining and legal action, but each situation, each professional, each 'set' of professionals, is different. For some of us having to find our inner warrior to enter battle is necessary but tough, for those of us who are naturally fighters it is equally tough to have to curtail that instinct. I don't like the assumption that vinegar is the harder path, it all depends where you begin.
BeeMom I suspect, like me, you are naturally vinegar?
TBH, I'm neither honey vinegar or anything else. I am presented with a problem, I assess the problem for the ability to be solved, and the risk of it not being, then should it be necessary for my efforts I seek out the most effective path of resolution, focussing on the outcome.
That is a skill I began learning when I worked with homeless people who for various reasons could be aggressive, have their own set of rules, be downright unpredictable and also vulnerable. I developed it hugely when I entered the world of SEN in a LA which I can only regard as cruel, playing their front-line staff as well as parents, and creating divisions to divert and confuse.
Data Protection requests show quite an alarming perception of me, and justification for some of the cruelty, yet when I hid ds in a local private nursery without disclosing his SEN, his statement or the fact that his 1:1 we paid for was an ABA tutor, the private nursery, even when they found out the extent of our withheld information, had nothing but praise for me and for what we were doing, and for being no trouble at all despite having a child with a disability and some specific requirements.
In fact they laughed when we finally had to come clean and ask permission for the LA EP to go in (close to tribunal), as everything the EP had said about us, about ds and about the ABA tutor was plainly ridiculous to her. They were also shocked at the level of viciousness towards us and the way the EP threatened them too.
Now ds is in an independent special school. His journey there hasn't been without meetings with the HT, Head of behaviour, Head of House for various things that either I or the school are concerned about. We haven't reached agreement about some things, other things are on trial, and some things the school has conceded.
I absolutely am not getting everything my own way, however I see that they care, that they are rubbish at communicating with parents but like the idea of it. They see and respect that I am a parent who DOES know a thing or two and that can add and support their work. It's not brilliant. I had a falling out with the SALT. However, at the same time, some of the things I had tried to get them to do with ds, they have asked for more information on to try with another child. The SALT, well, she's remained professional and I have let her know that I am very pleased with her work this year, because, well I really am (just think she's a bit odd).
Had this school been my only experience I would very likely be holding myself up as some kind of smooth and likable negotiator.
So I think that sometimes, people show you how to treat them. And in such a huge power-imbalance relationship that is the LA to parents, it SHOULD be the LA that bends over backwards to get the best from their clients and to be answerable to them and accountable, not deceiving.
Exactly Star, that is how I feel, im presented with a problem and I try to find the best solution and outcome. If anything I have become very matter of fact, almost robotic.
My expectations are very low, I don't ask for much, just honesty. There have been situations, I have compromised, the professional has not been great, however they have been honest.
I prefer the two-faced approach. Over the telephone and at face to face meetings I play one role and appear to be the LA dream parent - willing to be fobbed off and saying please and thank you whilst they do it. This lulls them into a false sense of security. I have even had LA EPs declaring how good a meeting went. How little they know. I wait for the fob off in writing and then play another role - pita parent who knows their rights in my lengthy reply backed by indi assessment and report.
My behaviour is never influenced by what so-called profs say as in my experience they will minimise and seek alternative, cheaper explanations if they can that blame the parent and/or the child. I am lucky and have made sacrifices (that I know others can't make) to keep out of the detail and pay independents - dev paed, RP, SALT, OT. Smile and nod and make the right noises and then go my own sweet way. The LA may think they have fobbed me off but actually I am plotting and planning and gathering my forces behind the scenes and waiting for the best moment to strike.
I did not always approach meetings like this. I used to think that they actually had an effect or that they would if only if I could find the most persuasive argument. Waste of breath. It used to be that only the LA knew that they were playing a game and I did not know and so I thought that honey and vinegar were relevant but now that I know that they are playing a game I have evened things up a little and I am playing a game too. Totally freaks them out - they can't believe that I am the author of the letters and act so strategically. I think that others have the problem that their 'reputation' precedes them whereas I was an unknown quantity as DC go to school in the neighbouring county.
DS1 was not diagnosed or statemented until he was nearly 12 despite problems in learning being apparent from reception and referral to paed/SALT/OT/EP in 2009. The cost to him over the past 5 or so years has been huge and he is now a weekly boarder and so there is a continued cost to the whole family. The worse period was when I believed that honey and vinegar were relevant and that meetings were 'real'.
Both honey and vinegar are totally ineffective albeit in different ways in all cases where LA disagree with parents which is basically if in their opinion the child is either too severe or not severe enough to justify the cost of meeting need. Bottom line, in some cases, particularly with anxious 'internalisers' with ASD, nothing happens until you get a statement and achieve the right to go to law to make the LA do what it should have done years ago.
I am not really two-faced but I am willing to play that role if needs be. This is realism not cynicism.
Personally I have never been good at confrontation and despite having been in the SEN system for five years, I've never managed to use all the strategies that are suggested on here (things like sending minutes of meetings back for confirmation, asking for things to be escalated to higher management etc). I live in an LA with a difficult reputation, but get on reasonably well with them now as DS is in an independent residential ss and tbh I have very little contact with them (they don't even bother turning up to AR now). Our experience was traumatic and our LA didn't respond initially to our concerns and left us without provision for some time, but I have to admit I played the game and allowed DS to demonstrate 'failure' in mainstream because I knew his response (challenging behaviour) would result in a more specialist placement. So rather than challenging everything along the way, I gave the LA enough rope and let things come to a natural conclusion.
I've let some things drop that are the kind of incident that most others would follow up here; sometimes I've felt guilty about that but I think picking my battles has been the best choice for me and my stress levels! I pushed for a tribunal win (throwing money at solicitors who dealt with a lot of the negotiating) and that was well worth it as it resulted in the provision/transport package we have. I could probably have gone for disability discrimination/LGO complaints too, but I never saw the point as a win would not result in any additional provision, just an apology. I have also chosen to pay for certain things, e.g. private assessment, rather than deal with numpties in the NHS. And I had to borrow in order to do this, it's not as if I have a huge income as a single parent. I don't regret it at all though, I know families who were asking for referrals at the same time as DS and are still going around in circles.
claw I agree with you about this being a positive place with positive posters.
I'm in awe of people who appear to be going through the worst kind of torture and yet hold on to such a strong believe that they can and will get through it, and who keep going, long after the promised release that never came, still with that same hope and determination.
It's not negative to ask for advice on how to keep going. It's not negative to believe in hope.
This summed it up for me:-
"But if parents don't try to help victimised child we feel like co-abusers. "
The bottom line is that I WILL NOT allow my son looking back over his childhood, as an adult at some point in the distant future, to ever for a single moment think that I knowingly and willingly colluded, aided or abetted in his mistreatment.
But parents that use honey or vinegar or both or neither are trying to help the victimised child and so they do not become co-abusers (allowing abuse to continue when they have the power to stop it) but painfully confront their own powerlessness and become victims, co-abused themselves.
Becoming active - escaping rather than waiting for rescue - is crucial. MNSN is full of those who have 'escaped' whatever that may mean in each case (TH, home ed, ABA in m/s, SALT, OT, ss, indi etc) and made things better for (rescued) their child. The great thing is that past escapees return to help those who are still trapped by telling them what they need to do and supporting them.
I am very much an optimist, however I am not an unrealistic optimist. It is not cynical to look ahead at best/worse outcomes and be able to change direction when needed, I would call that a balanced view. Non positive thoughts are not always bad, it enables you to see the woods through the trees. In fact not thinking positively ALL the time, is a good thing, sometimes things are not always fine, not always rosy and there is nothing wrong with being able to see that.
There is nothing more positive than to hear of others who have had an extremely tough time, have had every obstacle put in their way and despite it all, still see light at the end of the tunnel and don't give up. It isn't negative, its inspiring.
"So rather than challenging everything along the way, I gave the LA enough rope and let things come to a natural conclusion."
My LA hang themselves many times and get caught out in lies but it makes no difference because they don't apologise, they lie more.
No provision for OT for a year? You've paid for it yourself? We'll investigate and write and tell you your son did actually have OT every day, delivered by his OT. What? Your school say this is not true and you and your DS know it's not true as it never happened?
Tough. Take it to the LGO
And we know how that ends up
So sometimes there is just no reason in the system however we like to pretend that this sort of stuff doesn't happen.
And as for complaining about it - well I think there is a duty to do that for your own child and for others who can't. It might not end up in more provision for your child but sometimes, all it takes for bad things to happen is for good people to do nothing.
IE same here, SENCO stated at tribunal and its written in the decision notice that ds had input from OT on a termly basis, a SALT programme, a mentor. Termly meetings with SALT, ASD Advisory etc. Termly IEP's, targets being met etc.
All lies. I asked for copies, I was ignored. I asked for name of OT, ignored, I made a phone call to NHS OT and she put it in writing that she had never even heard of ds. A copy of ds's school file, LA file, PCT file confirmed he had none of these things. An email to ASD Advisory team confirmed they did not attend any meetings. An email to SALT confirmed that neither did she.
Yet when the shit hits the fan, all school/SALT have to do is SAY that he did receive, despite overwhelming evidence that he didnt and never has. When asked to confirm the dates of the meetings and for a copy of the minutes/notes/programmes etc, I am ignored again.
I complained, which got me reported to child protection by school/LA. Now we have school, SALT service, ASD Advisory saying ds DID receive these things and school saying im just unwilling to accept it, im obsessed, I cant move on, im 'negative' etc, etc. SW isn't interested in my written 'evidence'. So I have to complain about her too, this resulted in fighting fire with fire and threats of child protection.
I could have complained some more, but I took the remove ds out of harms way option and run. Maybe I took the easy route, however removing ds from that school and those professionals seemed like the only solution, when they are prepared to lie and make me sound mad!
Sadly I don't see much evidence of complaints resulting in improved practice in my LA. I've supported parents with complaints, disability discrimination tribunals and LGO cases over the years, but the same thing happens repeatedly. It seems to help the parent cope with the frustration with the system but I can't see the effects filtering down into other cases. I have tended to deal with my frustration in other ways (through my own interests) which may seem more selfish, but I don't realistically think that taking on the stress of further complaints would help other parents.
That's understandable but complaining on its own might seem pointless. Campaigning because of similar complaints around the country is the way to go!
Here you go- son had no OT provision for a year. Previous LGO complaint took two years to resolve unsatisfactorily.
I have gone through the complaints process and despite asking for evidence that there was provision in place from 2012-13 as they claim, the complaint response received today just says an OT attended an AR in 2012.
So that's ok then? Even though it was noted at that AR that a programme had not been set up yet. It doesn't mention that in 2013 AR I paid for the OT to attend as I had instructed my own as there was no OT in school.
Seriously, does honey deal with that? They would not deliver provision for a year and then just lie?
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