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Does anyone have a dc who refuses to have lunch at school?

(37 Posts)
tacal Fri 30-Aug-13 14:20:25

Hello, my ds (4.9) started school a few weeks ago. Next week he goes full time so he is expected to have lunch at school. He will be having packed lunch and has had lots of practise opening his lunch bag, taking his lunch out and eating it. So I was not expecting there to be any lunch related problems.

Yesterday his class visited the rooms they will be eating their lunch in. One room for school lunch and one for packed lunch. Ds has now decided there is no way he can stay at school for lunch. I think it is something to do with the room and the amount of people that will be in it. The teacher tried to talk to him about it today at hometime and ds was clinging to me crying saying he will be going home for lunch. He then refused to walk home so I had to carry him. (He refuses to walk when anxious).

I am not sure what to do. Do I force him to stay for lunch or say to school I am taking him home. The school say they would prefer him to stay for lunch. But I am worried this will make ds very anxious and make him not want to go to school.

What would you do?

PolterGoose Fri 30-Aug-13 14:46:01

School are required to make reasonable adjustments and if a lunch hall is too much for him they need to sort out an alternative for him. Thankfully at ds's school the packed lunchers eat in their classrooms. I would ask school to provide a quiet place for him to eat his lunch with a couple of friends, there could be a rota and it could be made into a fun and desirable activity, it is an ideal opportunity for RL social skills 'training'.

tacal Fri 30-Aug-13 16:21:29

thank you PolterGoose. It had not occured to me that I could ask school to provide an alternative. I will ask them on Monday morning if it is a possibility.

claw2 Fri 30-Aug-13 17:48:30

Ds didn't eat in his previous school for 3 years.

He starts specialist school in September and none of the children there take a packed lunch. He will be required to have school dinners (although they will cater for him). Ds is saying there is no way he will eat at school. However we will be giving it a go first.

I think with ds the actual thought of doing something new, is often worse than the actual doing it. He often gets very anxious at the thought of it, but then when he actually does it, it isn't as bad as he thought.

Strongecoffeeismydrug Fri 30-Aug-13 17:57:27

Ds didn't eat for the whole school year , I didn't fetch him home and school tried but he is funny about food anyway.
He moved schools last September and again in his new school he wouldn't eat anything.
School and myself never made an issue of it to ds but he still had to sit in the lunch hall with the rest of the kids until they had finished theirs.
After a few weeks he started to eat and he carried on for the rest of the year.
Im expecting him not to eat again when he goes back next week ( new teacher ect )but if we don't give him any reaction I'm sure he will start to eat again in a few weekswink
With ds its all about control and reactions not sensory.

tacal Fri 30-Aug-13 18:52:40

Hi Claw2 and Strongcoffee, thank you very much for sharing your experiences with me. I am not sure with my ds if it is because he is anxious about eating lunch somewhere different or if it is because of his sensory issues. I will see how he gets on next week and if it is because he has difficulties with the noise and amount of people I will speak to the school about alternatives. I hope everything goes well for both your ds's when they go to school in September.

claw2 Mon 02-Sep-13 08:56:46

Tacal for ds I think its a bit of both. Ds has many sensory issues and his main fear seems to be someone elses food touching him, he also doesn't like the noise and many children being there, the interaction etc, etc. And of course, like many ASD children he doesn't like change or new situations.

For ds when he tries it and realises that other peoples food doesn't touch him, that interaction wasn't as terrifying as he thought etc, he might be ok. If not, then we can look at alternatives.

Good luck, let us know how it goes and maybe we can share ideas in a few weeks!

tacal Mon 02-Sep-13 11:07:47

thank you, claw2. So far so good. He went into school with his packed lunch and says he will stay. I was so relieved he said he would stay for lunch.

It must be hard for your ds worrying that other peoples food will touch him. My ds can't look at other peoples food so I think he may have to eat his lunch with his eyes closed. He often eats with his eyes closed swinging his head from side to side which will make him stand out.

I am a bit worried about it so it will be a lovely surprise if he says he got on well and eat all his food.

I hope everything goes well with your ds starting his new school this month and that he likes the school dinners.

Sharing ideas would be very helpful so please let me know how your ds gets on.

claw2 Mon 02-Sep-13 13:55:50

Ds is similar too, at home he has to watch his ipod so he can tolerate being around other peoples food and doesn't have to watch them eat. However with an ipod at least he will sit at the same table and eat.

He had 2 trial days at his new school, one was a day out, where school prepared a packed lunch (I also packed a 'secret' packed lunch and gave it to his TA as a back up) he didn't eat either and moved away from the others while they ate.

2nd time, he went into the lunch hall, hands over ears and managed to eat one bite of bread and butter. He complained when he got home about having butter on bread and the butter touching his hands and making them greasy and he is never going to eat in school again. But he took a bite with encouragement, which is progress!

I plan on taking the 'wait and see' approach for a couple of weeks. If it doesn't work, then even something as simple as giving ds a pen and paper and letting him write lists, to distract him from other peoples food, might be worth a try.

Something as simple as eating lunch can be so difficult for them, with so many difficulties to worry about. Your ds agreeing to stay for lunch is a step in the right direction, hope it continues smile I am hoping for small gradual steps in the right direction too.

tacal Mon 02-Sep-13 17:24:19

well, after all that worrying ds got on fine eating his lunch. The primary 1's must go for lunch before everyone else and only 5 of them were having a packed lunch. So the room was not busy at all. They sat him at the end of a table and said he was absolutely fine. I cant believe it!

Hi Claw2 - watching an ipod at the table is a good idea. I might try something like this with ds when he is refusing to sit at the table because he can not look at the food. He can not be around white food at the moment so freaks out at butter, mayonnaise, yogurt etc. This is quite a recent thing which has taken me by surprise so I am still trying to decide how to deal with it. I hope your ds gets on better once he has settled into school. Good luck with the small gradual steps, I hope it goes well.

tacal Mon 02-Sep-13 20:50:00

hmmm.. it didnt go as well as I thought. Ds told me at bed time he sat down in the playground and cried at lunchtime because he hates school and has no friends. He says he doesnt want to go to school any more sad

claw2 Tue 03-Sep-13 11:30:17

Tacal, I get the same from ds, he hates school too (well his old school anyhow, he starts a new one this week, after being off school for a year)

It seems that maybe the lunch went quite well, but he is finding other things difficult too ie playtime and interaction. Does he get any support in these areas.

Ds also struggles with the long playtime at lunch and interaction. Does the school have any kind of lunchtime club for children who struggle?

tacal Tue 03-Sep-13 12:01:59

did you home educate your ds for a year? how do you feel about him starting school this week?

I had a bit of a falling out with the school today. Ds had a hospital appointment this morning so he went into school around 10am. Because we were after 9am he had to go in a different door. This triggered complete refusal to go in. He was screaming and clinging to me. 3 different ladies (no idea who there were, maybe teaching assistants?) were very stern with him and tried to pull him away from me kicking and screaming. There was no way he was going through the 'wrong' door but the ladies looked determind to drag him through it.

I refused to let ds be taken away like that and insisted on seeing the depute head. We were told we would have to wait 15 mins which we did. All during this time I told ds he was going into school, he eventually said he would go if I took him to class.I asked but this was not allowed. The depute head arrived and said it was no problem to take him to the other door. Problem solved ds was happy.

I am so upset at the horrible way he was treated by every one except the depute head. There is no lunch time club and no support in place as far as I can tell except they are trying a visual timetable for him.

Am I over reacting? It is only day 15 of school for him. It just didnt seem right to let them take him away kicking and screaming. I feel so sad right now. Should I look for another school?

claw2 Tue 03-Sep-13 12:13:09

I 'threatened' to home educate as the school/LA had failed ds very badly. This prompted the LA to provide a home tutor. Its a long story.

Ds will be starting a specialist indie school, after years of fighting for a statement. So I am feeling very confident about new school, as ds just couldn't cope in MS.

I don't think you are over reacting, schools are expected to make reasonable adjustments, but be careful, as this could be how school will view it, especially if its a school who don't have much experience of SN's.

Maybe you could ask for a meeting? list your concerns, your ds needs and ask what they plan on doing about this. Tell them your ds is crying and not wanting to come to school and is struggling with playtimes etc, etc.

tacal Tue 03-Sep-13 12:26:53

When I mention ds not wanting to come into school or being anxious about lunch time I have been told that the school has had children 'worse' than mine who cope. This is the attitude of these people that are around my ds and I dont even know who they are (guessing they are teaching assistants). DS is expected to just get on with it because he looks fine. Of course when I speak to head or deputy head they say they are a supportive school, ds is coping very well and nothing for me to worry about. I think I am getting a bit overwhelmed with it all to be honest.

Parents evening is a few weeks away so I will raise all my concerns then. But might start looking at other schools (if any of them have places).

It sounds like you have had a really stressful time with your ds. Well done for getting the statement and a place at a specialist school. You must feel very relieved to have it all in place for your ds.

claw2 Tue 03-Sep-13 12:54:45

Tacal they sound like ds's old school, even when ds was self harming and school refusing, they were still insisting he was 'fine'. We also had the kids much 'worse' than ds conversations.

You and your ds's experiences of school are totally at odd's with what the school describe and you and your ds should be listened to. It is very common for children to present differently in school, hold it together, then show anxiety about school at home, where they feel safe and secure.

My 'argument' with school when they said he was 'fine' was well he is definitely showing signs of school related anxiety at home, what do you have in place in school to determine how he is feeling. How do you know that he is 'fine'. Looking 'fine' and feeling 'fine' are two separate things.

Parents evenings are crap, a 10 minute slot to tell you 'he is doing fine'

I would suggest a meeting to discuss your concerns. You could ask for a home/school book to communicate behaviours and to try and identify triggers for anxiety. Doesn't cost a thing and takes 2 minutes to read/fill out. Write in there your ds's anxiety and behaviours at home and school do the same.

An anxiety scale in school, where your ds is asked after each lesson to rate on a scale of 1-10 how he is feeling, to identify anxiety triggers. Again costs nothing and takes 2 mins.

Maybe then you and school can work together? Maybe this will help school to recognise his difficulties?

tacal Tue 03-Sep-13 16:07:04

thank you for the advice claw2, it is very much appreciated. Did you find the home/school book helps. I think I could do with something like that in place for ds. I will also use your 'argument' with school about feeling fine. Cant stop thinking about school, I even went into another local school to see if they have any places and they have one place left. The school has a great reputation but it is a big school. The deputy head spoke to me and said they are 70% short on their allocation of teaching assistants so they can not guarantee ds would get much support from t/a's. The school he is at is small but I dont know what support he gets if any. Is small always better?

My problems seem small compared to yours. It is so sad that your ds was self harming. That must have been difficult to deal with and very upsetting. Do you worry he will start doing it again?

claw2 Tue 03-Sep-13 17:52:22

Tacal a home/school book can help, IF school use it correctly and know what it is being used for ie to help monitor behaviours and identify triggers for the behaviour, which will be helpful so both you and school are noticing them and decide where support is/isnt needed.

All it managed to achieve in ds's old school, was school thinking I was being critical and blaming them. For example I would write that ds had been self harming and had sores and he appeared confused about x,y,z. School would just get defensive and write that he wasn't confused and was fine!! I would then ask which methods they have used to establish that he wasn't confused and was fine and they would ignore my question!! So totally pointless!

I think firstly you need a school who are at least willing to acknowledge that children can present differently at home/school. Secondly that children can be very anxious in school, but not show outward signs in school.

'Fine' to some schools equals he is not screaming or throwing chairs, so therefore not a problem to them.

and a big NO, small schools are not always better, the worse MS school ds went to was small, one class per year. EXPERIENCE and EXPERTISE and above all else a willingness to UNDERSTAND, COMMUNICATE and WORK WITH PARENTS is what makes a school better.

There is no trumps when you have a kid with SN's, im sure its just as upsetting and worrying for you, as it is for me smile Ds never stops self harming (apart from if he doesn't have to attend school at all), it started when he was 5 and started school. We have times when self harming is reduced or increased, its how ds communicates his feelings. His self harming wont improve unless school deal with the underlying issues, his inability to express his feelings verbally, his social communication, interaction and how confusing he finds it.

Im hoping I have found a willingness to understand in his new school. If you have already tried with this school and tried again and they are just unwilling to work with you, then try another school

tacal Tue 03-Sep-13 21:15:48

You have been so helpful to me claw2. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this excellent advice for me. What you have said about small schools has really made me think ds could be in the wrong school. There is no willingness to understand, communicate and work with me. I think I will try to move him rather than keep feeling the way I do.

It makes me so sad thinking about your ds self harming. I really hope that he settles into the new school and they give him the support he needs. Good luck with settling him in. x

SuperiorCat Tue 03-Sep-13 22:10:48

"and a big NO, small schools are not always better,"

Totally agree with this. In fact you will often find the best SN support, experience, tolerance and understanding in the schools that would have most MNers putting their houses up for sale if they discovered it was their catchment school, simply because they are used to dealing with children with very different needs.

To answer your question, DS came home for lunch every day at Primary as he just needed to escape. He didn't like the playground, he didn't like eating with the other children, he was scared of the hall where they ate, he wanted to be able to go to his own toilet and he wanted to be able to have private space to spin, twirl and flap which were his main coping mechanisms with the anxiety brought on by school.

claw2 Tue 03-Sep-13 22:11:02

Tacal im glad I have been of some help!

Just try to ensure that if you do move your ds, that the next school are willing to try to understand, communicate and work with you and more importantly how they will do this.

I moved ds from smaller school to a school with an ASD unit being built, I thought ASD unit would equal better understanding, it didn't. It just equalled teachers who thought they knew best and everything there was to know about ASD after completing half a day training!

Ask yourself WHY you think this school are not noticing his anxiety and/or difficulties? Is another school likely to notice/identify difficulties? If not are they prepared to monitor your ds's anxiety/behaviours to enable them to identify/recognise his difficulties and how will they do this? What experience/training do they have, not of severe sn's or ASD in general, but of high functioning SN's/ASD? (I am assuming your ds is high functioning)

InSpaceNooneCanHearYouScream Tue 03-Sep-13 22:39:21

I have had issues with school like this.... I did move my children and the new school is better but not much. I wouldn't recommend moving him. But what I now do is find out my rights are and insist on them. If you don't want him forcibly removed from you then you can ask that that doesn't happen again. If you want to take him home at lunchtime, you can. Stand up for him and yourself firmly. Keep having meetings and insist that as his parent, YOU know best and you should be supported. I know this sounds harsh but those staff are probably looking after 25 children. If your child has particular needs its going to take quite a bit of input from you to ensure his needs are met. It shouldn't be like this but it is unfortunately. Good luck

geeandfeesmum Wed 04-Sep-13 13:52:26

DD refuses to eat lunch in the school lunch hall (special school). Last year, they let her have lunch in her classroom (She also stayed in there for assembly). This year, they are taking her in there but letting her leave when she is ready to.

Good luck

tacal Wed 04-Sep-13 16:19:07

thank you to all for the excellent advice.

Superiorcat - my ds would love to come home for lunch every day. It was great you were able to have your ds home every day so he could have some time away. I will think about doing this if things dont work out, if the school let me!

claw2 shocked that a school with ASD unit attached is not better. Another school probably wont notice my ds's anxiety either but he may not be so anxious if they can do little things like use a visual timetable. His current school told me they are using one but he came home upset today because he thought lunch was last and gym was before lunch. My ds is high functioning. His current school have said they are willing to let his teacher go on a training course which is good (if it happens). I will have a big think about it all tonight. Good luck for tomorrow. I hope it goes well.

Inspace - I know what you are saying is correct and I know this is how I will have to be. I am struggling to be like this just now because the people who work in the school are not very understanding when I do. I will have to be stronger for ds.

geeandfree I hope your dd gets on well having lunch in the lunch hall. It is good that the school are helping her achieve this.

SuperiorCat Wed 04-Sep-13 21:48:38

If I'm completely honest it was a real pain in the bum to do it, it would have been impossible if I had been working, obviously it is not something that everyone can do, but it made it cope-able for him.

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