Here some suggested organisations that offer expert advice on SN.

Shit start to secondary

(33 Posts)
Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 11:05:21

My lovely 11yo DS with AS is having a really bad start to secondary and has missed almost half the days so far because of refusing to go in. After maintaining it was a mysterious re-appearing illness, he has now told me all about how sad he feels at having no friends at his school. it was a hugely emotional outpouring of everything - how unfriendly the other kids are, the feeling excluded, etc. It is heartbreaking. He is a sociable boy and loves company, and had a strong circle of friends in his primary, none of whom are in the same school as him now. The school is great and keen to help - they know what they're doing. But they can't help him if he stays home. He has promised me that this is the last day he refuses and that tomorrow he will go in and every day from then on. But I'm concerned it might not be, he really is panicky and describes himself as depressed.

Does anyone know of any good resources for talking him through how making friends can take time, maybe something online that I can do with him, talk with him about today while he is at home with me (missing yet another day at work). I know there's no magic bullet, and I've done a social story with him, hastily put together last night. But as we're home today, I'd love to find something online or find a useful angle on it to help him see that there is light at the end of the tunnel. The school are taking it seriously and will ensure he starts going to some lunchtime clubs, ask some of the boys to look out for him if he's alone at breaktimes etc, there is a breakout room for kids with ASD etc. I just need to get him to see that he needs to trust us (his parents, the school etc) that we can help him to make it better.

Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 11:18:06

I should add - although he is sociable he struggles with the beginning of a friendship - the opening gambits, etc. he hasn't had to do that for a long time as he was in the same primary since reception. And the kids he thinks are alright, not mean, all play a big group game at break that he doesn't like and he cannot see why it might be a good idea just to join in anyway, just to get to know them

Runningtokeepstill Wed 07-Oct-15 11:56:25

First of all, it's great that the school are being supportive and that they have some plans in place to help. Believe me that is a big part of the battle.

I think a lot of children would have difficulty forcing themselves into a big group game that they didn't particularly like.

Thinking back to my own schooldays (I'm not a natural joiner-in of groups) and my ds's experiences, I coped well with the organised bits of the school day (lessons) but felt at a loss when we were free to decide what to do as I didn't feel I fit in. Is it possible to have something organised for all the "free" parts for a while so your ds can get back into school knowing he won't be stuck on his own. I'm not sure from your post if school have offered this as a pre-planned option or the ASD room is just a place to go when overloaded.

So, if they have a tutor period first could someone meet him in reception and go with him (like a sympathetic child from his tutor group). Can he go to the room for ASD children each break for a while rather than be out in the playground? It may be easier to get to know other children through lessons, (group work etc) when things are more focused and this can develop into friendships eventually. Having something to do/ somewhere to go at break and lunch that is pre-planned might take the stress off these times so your ds can get into school knowing in advance that he's not going to be left alone feeling unhappy.

Obs2015 Wed 07-Oct-15 12:05:39

Oh it's heartbreaking, isn't it?
You say school are good. What have they actually recommended?

Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 12:15:35

thanks both. Yes it's heartbreaking. Yesterday, when it all came out, he just sobbed and sobbed his heart out in my arms for ages. He is suddenly also really missing his primary school and all his friends and is convinced he'll never have friends again (btw we still see his primary friends regularly, which he loves but also says makes him sadder in some ways). The school has suggested getting him to go to lunchtime clubs where he can get to know kids in smaller groups with a more structured setting. I think this is great. DS is resistant coz he says he just wants a 'normal day' where he messes around with friends in the playground. I think I need to find a way to get him to trust the adults - to take the advice - to believe it can get better. I wondered if anyone knew of any good stories or anything? The ASD room is different and kids can go there at any time for any reason pretty much, as far as I can work out, it's permanently staffed by lovely, trained people. The tutor is also going to ask a few well chosen boys to include him in stuff if they see him alone. All this is great (it really is) but I can't get him to believe, trust and actually get to school - so frustrating, when I know that every day spent at home reduces his opportunities of making friends....

PolterGoose Wed 07-Oct-15 12:55:04

My ds started a year ago so has just gone into Y8. He had huge problems at primary so, although most of his primary cohort went to the same school, he didn't have anything close to a group of friends so he virtually started from scratch.

The first term or 2 there will be a lot of jostling and forming into 'tribes', ds was sort of studying his peers and watching their behaviour like you would a group of animals! He pretty much kept out of it, he got some hassle in various forms, but very slowly as the majority formed groups he and a few other misfits found each other and he's now in a group of friends, girls and boys, some with SNs and some not, across the ability range, who meet at lunch and often go to the library to chat and do homework. I've never encouraged him to pretend or force himself to like something he doesn't and it's paying off now as he's just himself.

I personally think that a lot of social skills interventions are a waste of time, they may help in very specific targeted ways sometimes, but mostly it's about the child reaching the right stage developmentally to be able to form and sustain friendships in a way that works for them. Social skills stuff I've seen is very aimed at teaching autistic children the rules of NT friendships when I think our children need help and support to develop friendships differently.

Obs2015 Wed 07-Oct-15 13:20:57

Agree with Polter.
It's so hard, it needs to happen naturally, but then you want to help in any way you can to assist it happening naturally. <<clearly defeats the object!!>>
My son is sobbing for different reasons and it is so hard to know what to do, isn't it?

Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 13:41:44

thanks polter and obs. yes I think i'll drop the idea that he should join in a game he doesn't want to - silly of me. I think if he were going to school and okay about just getting on with things without any friends, it'd be fine. But he is absolutely devastated. It seems to him that everyone else has made friends apart from him, he feel un-liked, and he feels utterly rejected; he is so upset. I'm glad to hear your DS has found his feet. its good to hear you say that about the whole social skills thing - I've always had reservations, but anyway any efforts I made were ignored by DS anyway! it's just very hard to see him so sad. I've never seen him like this before. when he was crying and saying he missed his old school, missed his friends, it was all pouring out in a really gutteral way and his whole body was racked with sobs - it reminded me of when I was grieving for my mum after she died. I know that sounds dramatic but he's so sad I can't bear it.

Obs2015 Wed 07-Oct-15 14:07:23

sad

poor you. poor him.
my son has been sobbing and sobbing. breaking my heart, it is.
I can ONLY offer you an understanding hug!!

Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 14:43:09

Thanks obs. I hope things are okay with you?

Ineedmorepatience Wed 07-Oct-15 18:20:28

Starting secondary is massive for children with Asd/As, it sounds like your Ds needs more help. He may want to cope in the playground but clearly he isnt able to at the moment!

I am really not the right person to advise you because we didnt manage to get to the end of yr 7 due to Dd3 not recieving the support that she needed.

Friends issues were not her biggest problem, hers was more the teachers but she was unable to attend due to anxiety many many times!

Hope you can get this sorted flowers

Cardboardstuff Wed 07-Oct-15 18:52:10

Thanks Ineed. Yes, he definitely needs more help. There are quite a few kids from his old primary at this school but none who he hangs out with. But some of the mums are friends of mine. I was thinking of asking them to ask their kids if they could keep an eye out for him, maybe include him if he's on his own. Could this backfire in a way I can't predict? Do you think 11/12 year olds would have the maturity to do this kindly. Or could it make things worse do you think? Just wondered if anyone had any thoughts on that...

Ineedmorepatience Wed 07-Oct-15 21:20:21

I am guessing he doesnt have a statement or ehcp!

Personally I would contact the school and ask them to help. My personal feeling is that peer support has a place but it shouldnt be in place of proper adult support. Its very early days for your son and if some support is put into place now eg, social groups, clubs, circle of friends etc he might survive. If not he is likely to slip into complete school refusal and then you will never get him back!

Cardboardstuff Thu 08-Oct-15 22:51:48

Thanks Ineed. (Sorry for not replying to you have been out all day and last night) Yes he has a statement. The school and I are in touch on an almost daily basis- I can't fault them. DS went to school today and promises to keep going so this is a huge positive cos he certainly won't make friends sitting at home.

Ineedmorepatience Thu 08-Oct-15 23:11:31

Well done to him smile

Frizzcat Fri 09-Oct-15 13:27:10

Cardboardstuff hope it all gets better for your ds and that this is just a little hurdle for him.

Polter your post first post on this thread really reasonated with me regarding my own ds thanks flowers

Cardboardstuff Sun 03-Jan-16 13:25:47

Hi. I'm returning to this thread that I started at the beginning of October for, hopefully, some more advice. Unfortunately nothing much improved over the rest of the term and DS has just become steadily more down and hopeless about school. He feels utterly crap about himself and that everyone dislikes him. I'm bracing myself for the start of the new term and want to meet with the school as early as poss to talk about things we can do. While there is lots that needs to be done to support his learning I want to focus on the social side coz this is what is making him so depressed.

Since I last posted we had a referral to targeted family support and he now has a support worker. Not sure how much difference it'll make but I'll accept any help on offer at the mo! Have any of you had good experiences of having a support worker?

He has a weekly one-to-one with a HLTA at his school who supports the kids with ASD. They've tried to buddy him up a couple of times with other kids but neither have really worked out (one of them now tells DS often how much he hates him). He sits alone outside to eat lunch. They've tried to encourage him to walk up to a table of kids he knows having lunch and ask to join them but, understandably, he finds this too hard. They've encouraged him to go to lunch clubs, which he has done to a limited degree. Sometimes he dismisses them as 'boring' and won't go (he has a tendency to cut off his nose to spite his face) and then just ends up sitting alone outside. The school says that they've done a lot but that he won't follow their advice enough to make a change for the better, and this is clearly a bit frustrating for them.

There has also been bullying from a group of older kids (physical violence) which devastated him.

I wondered if anyone had any experience of good interventions for the social side of things? Anyone found 'circle of friends' any good for this age group? Or a good buddying system (how does a successful one work??).

I'm slightly terrified of the new term starting in case things get even worse....

Dipankrispaneven Sun 03-Jan-16 14:40:19

Does the statement include help with social communication? It might be an idea to suggest a reassessment, particularly involving an Educational Psychologist and speech and language therapist.

Cardboardstuff Sun 03-Jan-16 15:39:06

Hi dipan, well there is a section in the statement to do with social communication etc but there's no actual SALT provision. It's more 'the people working with DS must have training in...' or 'SALT advice must inform...' It mentions buddy systems, social stories etc.

Cardboardstuff Sun 03-Jan-16 15:49:18

Do you think this situation would merit bringing back in external people, whether SALT or someone from the autism outreach team? They all did their assessments in year 5 but we're in a very different situation now.

I also don't want to waste too much time and a referral might take a while. DS will totally disenfranchise I think if things deteriorate further. I'd love to go in first week of term and work out a 'what next' plan with them. But I'm just not sure what is the best thing. I'd happily do social stories but the context of this new secondary school is unfamiliar to me and so I'm never sure what IS the best advice...

Ineedmorepatience Sun 03-Jan-16 16:00:15

They need to get the autism outreach team in as quickly as they can! Some of their strategies are clearly not working for your son and it is really down to the school to find different stategies!

I am sure you have made suggestions to them already, how did they accept them coming from you?

Cardboardstuff Sun 03-Jan-16 16:56:08

Thanks Ineed, I'll make it a priority to ask them to do that. I can't quite get the measure of how open they are to my suggestions. I've made a number of suggestions that are more to do with supporting him with organisation, homework, etc which has all been fine. But I'm at more of a loss when it comes to interventions to do with the social side of things. In primary it was much more straightforward as I often had kids round after school and so on- I could do the inviting myself.

I thought I detected a bit of defensiveness with his HLTA who kept repeated that they were 'doing a lot' with him but I hadn't been criticising- just raising the point that if things weren't working thus far, we need to think of other ideas.

Ineedmorepatience Sun 03-Jan-16 17:01:13

We found that Dd3's school would smile and nod and write down lots of stuff that we had suggested and then ignore it! It was as if they felt like we were trying to tell the how to do their jobs! There is a difference between that and scaffolding a child who us unable to ask for help but who can express themselves and their dissatisfaction at home!

Thats why I think you need autism outreach on board! Sadly all the out reach staff were made redundant in my LA about 10 yrs ago sad

Cardboardstuff Sun 03-Jan-16 17:15:35

There is still a great outreach team in my borough- not sure how quickly they can be brought in though. A key problem with DS is that he won't go into school if too freaked out by it and his attendance over the first term was 60-something per cent. (I work, albeit part-time, so a nightmare..!)

Does anyone think 'circle of friends' is worth trying? I dread to think of how it could go wrong and result in him being ostracised further...

Ineedmorepatience Sun 03-Jan-16 17:52:18

I guess a circle of friends could work but the group would need to be very carefully chosen to minimise the risk of disaster!

The difficulty is that the school wont really know the yr 7's yet so picking a group could be tricky!

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