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Parent's evening revelations - arm flapping and stammering

(13 Posts)
Missnearlyvintage Tue 06-Mar-18 18:13:30

Hi everyone,

We've just had parent's evening for DS (yr 1 - age 5), and the teacher has brought things up that we hadn't even really noticed or thought they were issues. I don't think I'm the best parent in the world (I'm anxious and short tempered along with it, so I'm not the most pro-active or gentle parent at times - I'm hopefully starting therapy for these issues soon), and am now feeling very guilty and upset that I hadn't thought about these before she mentioned them. I also haven't been supporting DS at all with these things as I didn't realise they were abnormal.

DS's teacher said he has a stammer, and that it has gotten worse since the last half term. Apparently some of his peers are now getting frustrated and impatient when he is talking. I was aware that he sometimes it appears that he talks before forming the sentence in his head, or will be excited or emotional and won't get his sentences out quickly - quite often there are extra words like 'and', 'like', 'I'.

DS is the first 5 year old I've spent any time with and I just presumed this was because his mind wasn't focused on what he was saying because there are so many other things to think about when you are 5. For it to be called a stammer made me pretty shocked really. And now I feel guilty for any time at home when we've been at home in a rush and I've not given him enough time to get his words out or gotten cross at him over something and haven't let him explain himself before interrupting him.

Secondly, we've been told that his arm flapping, (DS does it mostly when is excited or emotional) is now getting in the way at school, especially when they are sitting on the carpet or in assembly and there's not much space. I had always thought this was an adorable quirk (he's done it from being 1 or 2) and we've never mentioned it to him as we didn't want him to get worried about it - I presumed he'd grow out of it before it ever became an issue.

The teacher is going to start telling him to calm his arms down if he is flapping on the carpet etc. I told him this in the gentlest way I could so I could prepare him for her talking to him about it, and it sent him into a worry spiral as he says that nothing feels arm flapping feels and he can't stop it sometimes.

Ds's teacher is absolutely lovely, I just feel in shock now as being told that these things are issues was the last thing I was expecting. Sorry for rambling on! I think I need to pt my big girl pants on and start being a better parent to help him

EveryoneTalkAboutPopMusic Wed 07-Mar-18 18:09:46

Please don’t be harsh on yourself. I’m assuming that he has 2 parents, has his Dad noticed anything before the teacher spoke to you?

Moving forward, I would ask the school to refer him to Speech and Language Therapy for his “stammer”. I’d also ask for a meeting with the School’s SENCO. Ask them for an assessment of your DS and a plan of how they can support him.

nooka Wed 07-Mar-18 18:33:12

OP your son's teacher may be lovely but it doesn't sound to me that she has managed him (or you as parents) very well. He's been in her class for six months or so I assume and has had a speech issue for weeks but it's only now in a routinely scheduled parents evening that she has mentioned she has concerns. I also don't see anything in your post that suggests she has taken any action or even really plans to do so (stop flapping isn't in my mind much of a strategy). I hope at least you were reassured that the other children were being encouraged to be kind?

My ds had behaviours that were flagged as problematic in reception (and pretty much every year after that until he went to secondary) and so we were asked to come in and talk about them, the SENCO was involved pretty early on, referrals made and a range of strategies tried. It's quite scary being told that your child isn't quite 'right', not fair to spring it on you at a parents evening out of the blue and with no discussions of plans to address the issues or explore what might be going on.

My ds didn't flap but he fidgeted like crazy. He also had a couple of autism flags so school referred him (in agreement with us) to a pediatrician, physio and OT for assessment. He does have some AS traits, and dyslexia which made school challenging but mostly just a quirky personality that was a bit of a PITA for his teachers. OT was especially helpful with suggestions to help ds manage his body better by meeting his sensory needs (things like fiddle toys, cushions for his chair etc). School is hard for lots of children, it's a very different environment to home so it's not surprising that you've not seen or been concerned about things that might be an issue at school.

Witchend Thu 08-Mar-18 08:14:26

He's been in her class for six months or so I assume and has had a speech issue for weeks but it's only now in a routinely scheduled parents evening that she has mentioned she has concerns.
I don't think that's fair.
The teacher said it's got worse since half term. That was two weeks ago probably including some snow days? It could well have been something she was aware of but not worried about as it was within the bounds of normal-a lot of children stammer. After half term she noticed that it was worse, but maybe it would settle. And she's spoken to parents roughly 2 weeks later. I think calling the parents in earlier than that would have people saying "silly teacher panicking, it'll settle in a few days. What has she worried you for?"
And she may have been asking partially to find if you thought there was a reason-say another child, not necessarily in school, making fun of his stammer, which can make things worse.

Missnearlyvintage Thu 08-Mar-18 23:04:36

Hi everyone, thanks so much for all your replies.
I was at home looking after the kids while DH went to the parents evening - he is the same as me, we had noticed these things, but had never been told by anyone that they were an issue so we just thought they were things he would eventually grow out of. The stammer is a more recent addition in the last year probably, now that he desperately wants to tell everyone about his exciting adventures and needs to get lots of sentences out in double quick time!

Other than the arm flapping and stammering he is normal little boy, if there is such a thing, who socialises well and has no issues at school. Well, he isn't keen on writing, but we expected the teacher to mention this so it wasn't a shock, and he is quite capable when he puts his mind to it!

There is no plan in place for him, aside from watching to see how things go. No follow up progress meetings or anything were mentioned.

All I can see is my (mostly) happy lovely little boy really, so it's a bit surreal. Although there have been various stressors in the past year like DH being quite poorly for a couple of months, and our house being mid way through building work for a good 2 years on and off, which has been very stressful for all of us.

I'm just love bombing DS at the moment, trying to forget about the house and everything else in life an putting DS and DD first.
I'm going to give it a week or two then see if I can meet with his teacher to discuss things I think. I'll be more level headed then, and I'll know that I'm putting in 100% when he's at home, and so can see whether that's making any difference.
Thanks again everyone

EveryoneTalkAboutPopMusic Sat 10-Mar-18 07:45:32

I can totally understand that you want time to r over but I would ask for the the referral to SLT as soon as you can as you may have to wait a while for an initial appointment. In some areas Yiu can self refer.

Sorry to hear that your DH hasn’t been well.

Vibe2018 Sun 11-Mar-18 10:33:50

I don't think it is the right thing for the teacher to stop his arm flapping as it is likely he is using it to regulate himself and 'needs' to do it. If it is interferring with others can they not just adapt things a bit so he has a bit more space.

Have a look at this about stimming
www.bbc.com/news/blogs-ouch-22771894

Missnearlyvintage Tue 13-Mar-18 19:54:12

Thanks so much for your replies. I'm going to go in to school on Friday when (the earliest appointment I could get with the teacher when DCs won't be in earshot). That article was so calming as well, thank you! I guess that's the thought we've always had with his arm flapping - he needs to do it for some reason and it helps him process things. Hopefully I'll get to the bottom of it all, hear everything direct from the teacher and have the opportunity for a proper discussion. Fingers crossed the outcome is good and DS gets the support he needs in school.
thanks again, I really appreciate your replies.

EveryoneTalkAboutPopMusic Tue 13-Mar-18 19:57:40

Let us know how you get on smile

adriansnewnotebook Wed 14-Mar-18 19:27:53

Your DS sounds like a lovely little boy. My DS1 is a little older (year 4) and he had some unusual movements with his arms and legs from a very early age.

I have found that his arm flapping and twisting, rocking and lunging are signs that he is anxious or excited. The more relaxed and happy he is in school the less he displays the unusual movements.

He is a very compliant child, so if a teacher told him to stop he would probably do his best to stop. However, I think that it would take a lot of concentration for him to do so. I would rather have a flapping and rocking DS who is listening during his lessons than a still one who is using all his energy and concentration up on sitting still. Would the teacher consider seating your DS in a place on the carpet where he has a little more space? I am not suggesting isolating him at all, but the corner most spot on the carpet and the end of the line in assembly.

BarbarianMum Wed 14-Mar-18 22:50:52

If the arm flapping is linked to the intense emotion rather than calming then its unlikely to be a stim. Google grand motor stereotypy and see if that rings any bells. If it does then have a quiet word with the teacher because it'll be a few years before he's able to regulate the movements and it will be stressful for him to be forced to do so prematurely.

For the stammer, google "clutter" - a normal developmental phase when their thoughts and speech are out of sync. If it is this, it will resolve itself (clutter or stammer the other children will just have to be a bit patient hmm ).

Missnearlyvintage Thu 22-Mar-18 22:34:56

Back again, thanks so much for the replies. Unfortunately my meeting with the teacher had to be cancelled as her own child was ill - no issue with this, I'm just waiting for another meeting where I have childcare so DCs won't be in ear shot.

BarbarianMum - I've looked this up and it certainly does fit with DS. It is only when he's excited, having a really good time, or frustrated/upset when he does these movements. I'll definitely be mentioning it to the teacher when I speak to her. Thanks so much.
Thanks for the info. on 'clutter' as opposed to stammering as well, that seems familiar as well looking into it, so I'm hoping that he may well grow out of it or improve over time. I'll be interested to hear how the teacher is thinking his speech is at school when I do sort out a meeting.

Adriansnewnotebook - DS is very similar to what you describe. Since I have spoken to him about it, (not wanting the teacher to speak to him before us), he has already become more aware of his movements, and I have noticed changes in him and the movements - I don't really know how to feel about this...
As an example, he has started playing a space game on DH's laptop in the last week, where he has control of the laptop, and has obviously been told that one should not go throwing the laptop around or being too heavy handed with it as it's an expensive piece of kit. He has changed his movements, so they are far smaller now and more controlled than they were before - so he'll put his hands together and wiggle his fingers, or wiggle his toes, rather than doing a complete arm flap or tensing and relaxing his body. This is the first time I've seen him change his movements according to the situation which is interesting, especially as he was not asked to reduce his movements at all, just not to do things like rush off to the loo and push it off the side accidentally, or drink a drink over it etc.

Thanks again

Missnearlyvintage Thu 29-Mar-18 13:37:27

Back again, just thought I'd update.

So I had a meeting with DS's teacher, and feel like we have made steps forwards.

She said that his 'stammer' is now greatly reduced, she isn't sure if anything happened at school to help/hinder, but said it's definitely not of concern now. For us at home as well, since we have really focused on listening intently and not being too busy to communicate properly, we have noticed it less and less, so that's really good.

Re. the arm flapping, the reason she brought it up at parent's evening, is because unknown to us, he hadn't done it to any noticeable extent at all during the first term in yr 1, so his teacher, who didn't know him very well when he was in foundation, wasn't aware that he did it, and thought it was a completely new behaviour. She was therefore concerned that there might have been a trigger for it that we all needed to work to identify/resolve etc.

Once we had got onto the same page with the arm flapping and she understood that he has done it for a long time, she agreed that it was probably best to continue as we are for now rather than involving other services at this point given that she doesn't have any other concerns with him.

I told her that after conversations with DS about not flapping if he's very close to other etc. he's been a bit upset and concerned that he wouldn't be able to be do smaller movements if needed. But when I spoke to the teacher, she said that on the odd occasion where he has been asked to do smaller movements, he had no problems doing it. So it seems like he has some control, maybe more than he thinks - I appreciate that this is difficult for him though and have asked her to keep it to a minimum if possible, which she agrees with.

She's going to try putting him on different places on the carpet to give him enough room to move, and will let me know how everything is going often so we can work out whether the status quo is good, or if any intervention/ a change in strategy would be better...

I'm feeling much better after hearing everything from the horses mouth as it were, and knowing now that DS's teacher is keeping an eye on him and will let me know if there are any changes in his behaviour, or things she feels need further input.

Thanks everyone.

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