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teachers - explain to me why dd's school is desperate to get me out of that classroom

(31 Posts)
jamsandwich Sat 05-Sep-09 22:18:04

dd starts reception on Monday.

She has selective mutism, didn't speak at all at nursery, fine at home. All seemed to be going very well in the planning for school - we'd identified the problem, got home visits from school, spent time in the empty classroom, made some friends with other children, done lots of talking it up and dd has become very excited about the whole thing (was vehemently against it a few months ago).

And a key part of my strategy was agreed early on by the teacher; that I could be flexible about when I left her each day. Not for the usual separation reasons, but because when I am there, she finds it easier to speak and managed this incredibly well during the settling in sessions. So the idea is that by me being available for a while each morning, I could get her relaxed, warmed up and communicative before leaving her to it. This is like an informal version of the "sliding in" approach that is used for SM kids.

But school suddenly seemed to wobble over this in last week of term and I've been left all this time not really being sure what is expected of me next week or why it is such a big deal for me to be in class a bit. I can see how it could be disruptive with older children, in an established group with a lot of work to get through - but the first few weeks of reception?!

I think that because they did see her speaking during the settling in, they think I have been exaggerating the problem. But she only managed this because I was there and we need to build on this now...

Help me understand please and does anyone have any suggestions for how I can get around this? If I do just leave her to it, she'll almost certainly regain her "silent identity" making it then much harder for her to ever start to speak there.

mimsum Sat 05-Sep-09 22:25:02

not a teacher, but I suspect it's because if you're there any other child with a bit of a wobble is going to demand that their parent be there too - my dd still has problems separating at 6 and going into y2 - if someone else had been allowed to stay in the classroom for whatever reason there's no way dd would have gone in without me

it will be very hard for the other children to understand that your dd can have her mummy there, but they can't - and they're not going to understand about the SM

I can see that you're in a really tricky position - have you spoken to the class teacher or SENCO?

PackingALunchbox Sat 05-Sep-09 22:32:05

Hi jamsandwich
It sounds like you have got a great deal of insight into what your daughter needs. If it were me, I would just stand my ground and do what I felt necessary - any individual teacher may have had very limited experience of SM, and may as you said, underestimate the problem. You are your daughter's expert, and as you said, you don't want to let her have the opportunity of establishing a non-talking identity which may be hard to break.

I expect that the reason that you are being edged out is because it is seen as disruptive to the teacher to have a parent in the room, and unfair on other children who might like a parent to settle them. Your dd's issue may not be obvious to other parents, so the school may want to avoid the complaints from parents that one child is allowed a parent to stay, but they are not. I know that many schools do not want parent helpers for the first half term because they want to settle the class.

Would it be possible for you to arrive early/go in another way, so you can be in the classroom when the other children arrive, but are not seen by the oter parents as crossing the threshold if they are not allowed to?

Best of luck - I hope it goes well for you both.

ADriedFrogForTheBursar Sat 05-Sep-09 22:39:31

I am a teacher and I think minsmum is right.
Basically the first few weeks are a chance for a child to become part of the class as a whole, to find friends. The school may feel that if you are there with her you will (for the very best reasons and without intention) prevent her from doing this as children will perceive her to already have an ally and it may hold them back from playing with her.

There will also be other children struggling to settle in and it will be distressing and confusing for them and their parents if those parents are not allowed to stay and you are.

I can't pretend to know much about selective mutism so I can't offer any advice about that in particular only a school's perspective.

I completely understand what your reasons are and as a mum I would also be very anxious in your position too. I would make an urgent appointment to see the SENCO first thing on Monday morning and explain what the problem is (there should be someone in school from 8am onwards so start ringing then!)

I hope your dd does settle in ok.

ADriedFrogForTheBursar Sat 05-Sep-09 22:40:31

I meant minsum of course...

LauraIngallsWilder Sat 05-Sep-09 22:46:17

Hi Jamsandwich
I have a dd aged 5 with possible selective mutism

I would stand my ground on this too I think
You know what is best for your child

'sliding in' is the best option imho

SM is not the same as just being a bit shy or needing to be a bit more confident around other children

You have my sympathies - my dd is fine at home too

mrz Sun 06-Sep-09 10:06:50

I'm a teacher and agree mimsmum has probably hit the nail on the head. The other children are very young and will find it very difficult to understand why it is ok for one child and not for them. Other parents shouldn't be an issue unless their child is upset by you being there.

giraffesCanDanceInTheSunshine Sun 06-Sep-09 10:12:34

Stand your ground definetly, her starting the year silent and then at a later stage trying to change this will be so much harder.

infin Sun 06-Sep-09 12:26:25

You must stand your ground. It seems unlikely that the school has any experience of SM. If they had they would be begging you to come in. I say this having had experience of working with a SM child in Y1. She did not speak at all during her reception year and we had to put a huge amount of time, effort and support (= money)in order to allow her to finally make progress. She spoke by the summer term of Y1 after all sorts of interventions (it was the taope recorder and recording reading at home and gradually bringing this activity into school which eventually worked). We had tried all sorts of things and spent many hours reading, planning and pondering!

Please, please don't be fobbed off by the school who have no idea of the rod they are creating for their own back. Other parents may decide that they should be allowed to stay if you do but I'm sure a class teacher is capable of explaining that your daughter has very particular needs that mean it is essential that you are there whereas their children will actually settle much more quickly if they are NOT by their side!!

infin Sun 06-Sep-09 12:29:55

Actually, I feel so strongly about this that I think I would delay her start until they agree to let you stay. Is there an expert in the field (I know you are but some teachers are more impressed by professional labels!) that could call the head and discuss this with her?

FabBakerGirlIsBack Sun 06-Sep-09 12:34:11

I actually don't think the other children will think too much about a parent being there. They are new to school, won't know what is the norm, won't necessarily know you are her mum and I think you should do what is best for your child.

Our teacher last year had no clue about a SN that a child had and she made it much more stressful for the child and the mother than it ever needed to be.

gigglewitch Sun 06-Sep-09 12:34:18

also wondering the same as PAL - would it be worth you and dd going in five mins earlier (easier than later) than her classmates so parents don't comment? I teach a mainstream-ish group on an extra curricular activity, a group which includes two sen children, one of whom doesn't stay in the room or do anything unless mum is there too. Also have discussed the issue of the more clingy minded children wise to this and wanting their mum there too - but what we said very early on, before the clingy folk even got through the door, is that "tilly has special medicine which her mummy needs to give her" - not entirely true but solved the problem, without having to discuss the nature of communication difficulties, global developmental delay and so on which this child has. Talk to the teachers and make sure they fully appreciate your valuable role - tbh I would snatch your hand off if you were offering to do this in my classroom. If no joy, get the Parent Partnership on board.

cory Sun 06-Sep-09 17:38:45

If it was my child I would feed the teacher whatever information I felt was relevant about your dd's SM and ask her to explain to the class about it (arranging for your dd to be out of the room). Like any other SN; you can't expect children to understand about special treatment unless they are told the reason.

My ds gets a fair bit of extra help for a disability that doesn't show on the outside (and will hopefully be getting more this year), so I asked the teacher to explain to the class. Worked very well for us.

jamsandwich Sun 06-Sep-09 22:40:35

Thanks everyone - really helpful insights from the teachery people and such unanimously supportive posts from everyone else.
I don't like to think too hard about what it says about me that I need affirmation from a bunch of people I've never met, but there is something so very reassuring to see that you lot at least don't think I'm being OTT.

Gigglewitch, I wish you could be dd's teacher. And Infin, your posts really made an impression - surely they would recognise the financial argument if not the humanitarian one.

LauraIngallsWilder - did you see the SM thread on Education - a place to share the going back to school angst if you're interested.

I should have said, I have arranged to go in 20 mins early as a way round the problem. But dd tends to get to sleep late and take an eternity to get ready in the morning, so it's not exactly a solution that will suit her best.

fingers crossed for tomorrow.

wasuup3000 Sun 06-Sep-09 23:04:01

Another idea and perhaps to coax your daughter out of bed-Does your school have a breakfast club? They can be quite fun and a relaxing environment to start the school day off with and I am sure the people that run it wouldn't mind you staying there for a while. My daughter has SM entrenched atm unfortunately due to lack of knowledge and underestimating by professionals. She refused to go to school she was so unhappy because of their lack of understanding and was also difficult getting dressed and off to school. We have changed schools and Breakfast Club does get her out of bed at least.

wasuup3000 Sun 06-Sep-09 23:06:13

Forgot to say that there is a BBC1 Documentary coming on soon about SM for their 10.35pm slot.

PackingALunchbox Mon 07-Sep-09 16:30:37

jamsandwich
How did it go this morning?

infin Mon 07-Sep-09 18:59:26

I do hope this morning went well and that the school realised that it would be the best thing for them as well as being the only solution for your daughter.

wasuup I am blush that a school could be so unsupportive that you had no option but to leave. I hope you have greater understanding at the new school. I will never forget the day our SM child first answered the register, entirely unexpectedly in a small voice, nonetheless audible to the whole class...the rest of the children were bursting with suppressed excitement and the TA who had put in so many hours of work with her left the room overcome with emotion!

jamsandwich Mon 07-Sep-09 21:16:00

Not a bad first day, thanks for asking.

The drop off was no worse than a standard nursery drop-off and a lot better than many have been. We got there at 8.30 so had 20 mins alone in class to get settled and look at books. I positioned us so we could watch the flood of people when they opened the class door - totally overwhelming for any child I think - 30 kids, 30+ parents and lots of buggies/ toddlers in tow suddenly appearing. She spoke normally to me before the flood, then put the book down and clung to me when they arrived. But I had warned her this would happen and the good thing was that we good sit and spot her friends from a safe distance rather than having to enter the confusion.

We got her settled with best pal and she spoke to me a little despite the chaos and her awareness that I was getting ready to go soon. She also gave non-verbal answer to TA's question which I was v chuffed about (showed 4 fingers with huge grin in answer to query about her recent birthday). She let me lead her to the carpet to sit with the others and a teacher took her hand - she covered her ears and did a cross face as I left, but there was none of the fingers being entwined into every fold of my clothing that we often had before.

And most importantly, she has been very excited about school all afternoon, no major upsets and happy to go back tomorrow. It's frustrating not to know how she got on communication-wise, but I'm going to try to be cool and not quiz the teachers yet as the early signs are really good. I've given them a book to record observations in, so I'll see if it comes back to me tomorrow.

And breathe out...

Infin - lovely to read about your SM child's first speech in class. It does feel like they have the most precious gift to share with people when they feel able to - you get back what you put in. My dd's favourite nursery worker somehow managed to disguise the tears she got when dd gave her a birthday present and suddenly spoke for the first time in months "aren't you going to open it then?!" Sadly it wasn't the start of anything in that case, but I really believe if you do all the right things, it can all work out.

wasuup3000 Mon 07-Sep-09 21:26:47

Hi infin

The first EP we got that assessed our daughter was ludicrously inept which didn't help as the school looked to him for advice. Thank goodness he was moved to another Area-for us at least! However our daughters anxieties got worse and spread into sports activities, being watched, being shouted at to get the ball and the pressure of SAT's tests didn't help and she started to school refuse.
We have a better EP now and the new school understand the Basics of removing the pressure but are still reluctant to do anything more-but at least my daughter is happier there and I am happy with that in comparison to how she was before.

wasuup3000 Mon 07-Sep-09 21:29:53

Sounds like a great start Jamsandwhich! Well done!

infin Mon 07-Sep-09 21:42:50

It sounds like the best possible start given that you could not be there...what a great sign that she wants to go back....you must be relieved!

wasuup...we'd tried the remove pressure approach for the whole of reception and very little else. As I was SENCO at the time I was determined that we employ a rather more proactive approach in Y1 as I was so worried that the older she got the harder it would be provide experiences that were part of the nornal class routine. As it happened it seemed that the most effective intervention was very far removed from normal class routine but who knows what influence all the other actives had! Sounds as if your daughter is a bit older...

wasuup3000 Mon 07-Sep-09 22:05:33

Hi Infin

Wish you were a SENco at my daughters school. Sounds like you are doing a great job. My daughter is older, she is in year 6 now. The professionals want to work with the school but it is all down to funding which has to be applied for by the school and the school understanding why more intervention is needed.

wasuup3000 Tue 08-Sep-09 10:11:56

A Selective Mutism article in the Express
www.express.co.uk/posts/view/125728/Donkeys-helped-me-find-my-voice-

jamsandwich Tue 08-Sep-09 20:36:52

Infin it's so interesting to read your posts, knowing your SENCO experience. I'm wondering about attempting to share some of your comments with our SENCO, but obviously don't want to come across like I'm telling her how to do her job.

Do you know if there is any sort of Special Interest group for SENCOs - do they work in isolation within their schools or do any networking? It feels like every school just goes their own sweet way with SM (and probably other SN too) and this inevitably drags out the time until a successful strategy is found, allowing the problem to become more entrenched. If I give info, or copy handouts from SM Resource Manual, it's somehow tainted by coming from me, but if our SENCO could hear from other SENCOs with relevant experience that they need to be more proactive and allow parents in, then it would make more sense.

What do you think?

Another happy day at school, not spoken yet in my absence, but she did speak to TA while I was there smile. And still no major anxiety attached to going to school, so it seems good so far.

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