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trouble at school

(16 Posts)
slkk Thu 03-Dec-15 17:10:13

Hello, I'm posting for a bit of hand holding really. DS(4) has been home for 16 months. We had a lot of behaviour problems in the early days and he still has control issues and some challenging behaviour at home. Last year at nursery he was very quiet and shy.
Anyway, he started school this year with an ehcp as he has very delayed language so is in a speech and language unit attached to a mainstream school. All was well for a few weeks and academically he is thriving. However, his behaviour is getting worse and worse. Hitting, spitting, slapping and biting teachers and today he threw a chair across the room. We are also getting bad reports from transport (undoing seatbelts, refusing to sit where told, trying to climb over seats, spitting etc).
I'm a bit lost as to know what to do or say when we get these reports. My instinct is to be horrified and cross, but an opposing instinct is to wrap him up and protect him from this crazy world that he can't cope with. There have been staff changes at school and some weeks he has as many as three different escorts on the minibus.
It is hard to talk to him meaningfully about his behaviour as I am not sure how much he understands. However tonight when talking about it he said 'try again good boy' then he cried and said 'help me mummy'. It broke my heart. I don't know how to help him when I'm not there!
I have spoken to the senco and she is looking into play therapy for next term.

GirlsWhoWearGlasses Thu 03-Dec-15 19:13:37

Oh that sounds rough, on you and your boy.

I know you say it's a specialist unit, but how clued up are they on the whole Nurture agenda? It's a big thing where we are and is brilliant for supporting kids with a variety of vulnerabilities. My instinct would be that he doesn't currently feel safe and if he doesn't feel safe, he can't learn. What do the school say?

slkk Thu 03-Dec-15 19:33:06

Well, it's a speech and language unit, but the children there are pretty vulnerable (though he is the only reception child, so the youngest and most vulnerable due to his history). I'm not really sure about the nurture agenda. He has a 'thinking chair' that he sits on when he is naughty. This does calm him down very quickly, though I know it will feel like punishment to him. I'm not sure how else they could keep him and others safe without this type of exclusion though?
It's a shame as he is missing out on his mainstream integration due to his behaviour (not sure what his 1:1 is doing if he is still managing to hurt people).
I just don't know what to think. I know he doesn't feel safe, I know the staff changes have thrown him (his teacher who just left was very like his foster carer), I know he has ASD tendencies. But I also know we have had to be super strict (and nurturing and understanding and therapeutic) at home to get his behaviour under control.
What sort of things do your school do for vulnerable children?

Italiangreyhound Thu 03-Dec-15 20:25:54

Hi slkk sorry to hear this. Can i ask if he is only just 4 or well and truly 4?

My ds was 4 just before term started last academic year so we kept him off totally until the January and then started him part time, he went full time in April. he as no delay or issues and is very 'mainstream' but was quite emotional and also had only just been placed with us just before the summer when he turned 4.

Is it possible he could go part-time, some of the time.

slkk Thu 03-Dec-15 20:37:28

Hi Italian, unfortunately he is 5 before Christmas, so well and truly 4. I don't think part time is a possibility for us at the moment as my adoption leave is over sad.
In a way I'm glad he's expressing himself (the silent wary behaviour at nursery just wasn't him and wasn't healthy imo), but just wish he'd do it more gently!

freshoutofluck Thu 03-Dec-15 20:38:18

That sounds so stressful, you must be wrung out. Definitely have a hand to hold. Can you work with the school to translate some of the things you do that make him feel safe at home, so they can copy them? We have quite a bit for LO in place at school but the most useful things have been: photo key rings on all bags and coats with pictures of us all together to remind LO we'll all be back together at the end of school; a sensory box at school LO can use any time, with some stuff from home and some comfort items, including smells and textures from home; classroom team have really taken on board doing lots of empathic narrating so helping LO to process feelings "I wonder if having a different escort made you feel wobbly this morning and now it's hard for you to calm down?"; having a quiet space to retreat to like a little tent or a cushioned area.

We've also used a picture board for a daily schedule, to try and minimise the stress caused by the unknown. As your LO is still 4, they don't have to do full days yet - is keeping things part-time an option for you?

freshoutofluck Thu 03-Dec-15 20:39:05

(Sorry - cross posted about the part-time)

slkk Thu 03-Dec-15 22:17:56

Thanks Fresh. He does have a picture board for his daily schedule which he enjoys organising every morning and takes to school. I have now put a photo of me in his bag and written in his communication book that he can look at it if he's starting to get emotional. It's a good idea to do the empathic narrating - I wonder if they do this. I must talk to them about it. Fingers crossed for a good day tomorrow so he can have a positive end to the week. I just want him to be happy and have friends!

GirlsWhoWearGlasses Fri 04-Dec-15 19:07:02

What freshoutofluck said. Having somewhere to hide away, soft textures to stroke, photos, sensory tent - nurture is also about attitude and where staff think your DS's motivation is coming from. It's a mindset. Do they see him as naughty or scared?

Is there any possibility that you could take him to and from school to keep things consistent? I know it makes him different, but transitions are often such a stress point and it sounds like they aren't really thinking things through.

Could you and the school go through his day and try to spot particular situations or times of day where he struggles to see if you can pinpoint flash points?

Apologies if you've already done all this.

slkk Sat 05-Dec-15 01:02:24

Thank you girlswhowearglasses. Please don't apologise for trying to help even if we have tried it!
I've been into school a few times and trigger points seem to be mainstream integration so they've cut that right back. It's also when he is trying to control a situation or people around him.
The mind set seems to be pretty nurturing. I think they think he is frustrated due to his language delay and they do seem to love him.
I agree, transitions are an issue and the movement from class to minibus and vice versa can be a bit hectic. We are working with school to find a way to make this more positive and structured. I don't think I'd be able to do the school run every day though without needing more time in breakfast/after school club and I don't want to extend his day really.
I also think your suggestion of sensory resources could be helpful - thank you again.

GirlsWhoWearGlasses Sun 06-Dec-15 10:58:27

No worries. Hope things improve soon flowers

tethersend Sun 06-Dec-15 20:56:33

This sounds very stressful all round flowers

Right. Firstly, the thinking chair has to go. I'm sure the school are doing it with the best of intentions, but your DS is very likely to experience it as a rejection, and it will very likely make the behaviour worse. I'm not a fan of this for any 4yo, let alone one who has experienced so much upheaval and has difficulty communicating.

I think it's important to move away from the idea of 'good' and 'bad' behaviour- he has some really big emotions to deal with, and this is his way of dealing with them. Giving him other ways to deal with them might help, but labelling his feelings as 'bad' (he may not be able to separate his feelings from his behaviour) certainly won't.

Does your DS attract Pupil Premium? I would very strongly recommend that it should be spent on training all the staff in the unit (preferably the school) in working with trauma experienced children. Whilst there is a place for play therapy, I think perhaps school needs to recognise the huge part they play in helping children recover from their early experiences, and not see this recovery as being facilitated by someone else who they have bought in, IYSWIM.

It's difficult for schools when they are asked to think in a different way about behaviour, particularly when they need to reject the received wisdom about not reinforcing negative behaviour. When a trauma experienced child kicks someone in the face, they are far more likely to need a hug than a time out. They need to turn their thinking about behaviour on its head.

I would contact your LA's virtual head/virtual school, who -although they don't work with adopted children- may be able to signpost you towards good training providers.

Italiangreyhound Sun 06-Dec-15 23:48:23

What excellent advice * freshoutofluck*, GirlsWhoWearGlasses and tethersend.

Our virtual school did work with ds before he was adopted and saw him in our home when he was placed.

I would also recommend getting post adoption support on board with talking to the school if it helps. I found our local school seemed to not take me terribly seriously as the new mum of ds and I wonder (although have no evidence) that they took the 'professionals' more seriously. (Although very quickly I was the professional on ds!).

Good luck, slkk.

slkk Mon 07-Dec-15 00:08:17

Thanks, everybody. Lots to think about and some great advice about where to go for help. Will talk to dh and get onto the virtual school, tethersend. I do agree about the chair but I'm not sure how school will cope without it. When he is wild with rage or laughing hysterically while throwing things etc. they need to calm him somehow, and sitting seems to work straight away (though at home he sits with us).
Feeling a little better today. Have reminded myself he is developmentally much younger, so these are hopefully toddler-style tantrums and don't necessarily mean a life of violence sad

slkk Fri 18-Dec-15 20:41:13

Hello everyone. Just wanted to update and thank you all for your advice on here and from pms. We have been in contact with the school again who have been great. They have set up a nice space for him to calm down - he can take himself there or be directed there to calm down instead of the naughty chair. They have also sent home some photos of his key staff so we can talk to him about them (especially his new staff). We have talked about empathic narration and they have agreed to try this too. They are going to adapt his visual timetable to include who she will be working with and will develop social stories for tricky times like his mainstream integration. Transport are going to contact us if there is a different escort for any reason. The senco is going to organise attachment/trauma training for his key staff. We will also meet with the OT in January to discuss and put into place a sensory diet and he is being referred to camhs for a possible ASD diagnosis. Deep breath. And.... BIG news, he came home tonight having had a WHOLE WEEK without any major issues!! So thank you all again for support, ideas and hand holding. I have also really noted advice given on Italian' s thread and just ordered 'why can't my child behave?'. So end of term is here, we have a few weeks of peace before going back to try it all again!

GirlsWhoWearGlasses Sat 19-Dec-15 20:18:04

Wow, that sounds like you and the school have put some great supports in place. I'm so pleased to hear that things are on the up, thanks for the update.

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