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Year 7 can't cope with the subject content.

(17 Posts)
insanityscratching Wed 21-Jan-15 12:07:51

Dd has autism and a statement of SEN, however she's bright (top group) articulate, well behaved and has good friendships. She is very sensitive, incredibly squeamish and has sensory processing difficulties.
She has been coping incredibly well in secondary, there have been hiccups which have now been addressed not particularly proactively by the school but more because I know how to complain effectively.
Her teachers have been very supportive and sensitive, the TAs she has now are ok (dd doesn't really fit the SEN mold and I don't think that they really understand her own brand of autism) and the SENCo likewise really in so far as because she is bright, well behaved and socially ok doesn't really grasp why she needs a statement or what support she needs although she does always take on board my suggestions.
What is increasingly apparent is that emotionally she is struggling with the content of some lessons. Dd feels everything deeply and that combined with her squeamishness means that her anxiety is soaring. Already she has missed chunks of history because the content was too gory, she couldn't cope with some of the English lessons content and the current trauma is Science which is cells at present leading to reproduction I imagine. She is again sitting out of lessons, can't cope with the microscope parts and so anxious she isn't able to eat. It's two days now.
I understand that there is a curriculum but what happens when you have a child who just can't cope with the content? I am not prepared to let the not eating continue much longer and so something has to give. Is there flexibility that I can ask for so that dd can be spared having to endure topics she finds traumatic?

gleegeek Wed 21-Jan-15 21:04:27

My dd is also struggling with the grown up and quite graphic subject matter and she hasn't been diagnosed with special needs. She had to draw and label a picture of the male reproductive system last night and was utterly mortified and in tears.
I don't have any advice for you, but wanted you to know your dd isn't alone in feeling like this... secondary is tough in so many ways x

arlagirl Wed 21-Jan-15 21:11:58

gleegeekHow did she cope with sex education at primary?

NeedaDiscoNap Wed 21-Jan-15 21:17:00

There should be some flexibility to remove her when she finds aspects of the lessons difficult - e.g. to the library with a TA.

Can you discuss a plan with the SENCO to help your DD cope? Perhaps some removal for areas she finds difficult, then gradual integration for short periods of time, and maybe get her teachers to discuss upcoming lesson content with her in advance? I used to do this with a pupil who had autism and he would then decide whether he could remain in the lesson or not.

TheFirstOfHerName Wed 21-Jan-15 21:18:18

I realise this is a bit different, but when DS1 was acutely unwell with PTSD and anxiety, his panic attacks were triggered by certain topics (the Holocaust, the context of the Depression in Of Mice and Men, certain parts of Lord of the Flies). It was a bit of a nightmare, to be honest. The way it was dealt with was as follows: the subject teachers informed the Learning Support department when one of these lessons was planned, and DS1 has given a laminated card which he can place on his desk if he needs to leave the lesson, no questions asked. It turns out that most of the time, just knowing he has the card makes him feel safer and less panicky.

arlagirl Wed 21-Jan-15 21:20:37

Dds friend was allowed to do a different Shakespeare play to the rest of her class who were doing Macbeth .

insanityscratching Wed 21-Jan-15 21:31:02

Dd had to be taken out of the class after almost fainting when they spoke about how her ear works so the sex education was done out of the class one to one with a TA. It never got further than covering puberty because dd just couldn't cope. At home I drip feed snippets of information always mindful of when she is struggling but I suppose it's easier for her at home.
It isn't only reproduction though that dd struggles with any mention of blood, her organs, eyes etc etc has her panicky.
History it can be anything from wars (awful for her in Primary and sat out for a lot of it) the Great Fire of London traumatised her, digging up King Richard's skeleton upset her.
Geography mention of Ebola had her panicking, in English the feeling of danger in Percy Jackson made her anxious added to the horrendous sensory difficulties that she has to cope with in food and just being in school then it is pretty miserable for her tbh.

insanityscratching Wed 21-Jan-15 21:41:33

She can leave lessons as needed and the really good teachers advise learning support in advance so she never even goes into the lessons. I suppose I'm just mindful of how much she is missing and wonder at what point you question whether being there is right for her.

NeedaDiscoNap Wed 21-Jan-15 21:45:17

I was just thinking the same thing insanity. I have taught many children with autism and almost all have remained in mainstream. However it does sound like your daughter's situation is quite different - and I suppose you need to be mindful of what she will experience as she moves up the school (especially when lesson content will become determined by exams).

It's such a difficult situation for you flowers.

gleegeek Wed 21-Jan-15 23:16:11

arla she hated sex ed. She was the youngest girl in her year, so I just assumed she wasn't ready for all the information, but actually she really really doesn't want to know, and definitely doesn't want to talk about it. I ended up giving her some gentle sex ed books - 'what's happening to me?' etc and told her I'd answer any questions she had. Still waiting!

Insanity your list of some of the subjects which distress your dd has made me question whether there is more going on with my dd than I thought. Hmmm, lots to think about. Meanwhile, lots of good advice on this thread, didn't mean to hi-jack!

PastSellByDate Fri 23-Jan-15 16:38:16

Hi insanity:

I wonder given this could be autism (or potentially aspergers) if the solution may lie in explaining the logic of knowing about these things. Certainly with asperbergs you can be battling the 'why do I have to know this stuff/ why do I have to hear about things that upset me/ etc...' and they can be very resistant to hearing that it's considered part of the course/ everyone has to do it/ it's a hurdle you have to jump too.

I may have this wrong - but have you considered with ....

Cells - most 'cell work' is with plant cells in Y7 (e.g. DD1 made a thin section of onion, placed it on a slide and stained it red, put on the cover slip and looked at it in 3 different magnifications under a dissecting microscope). Now given pretty well every meal at home involves slicing onions - she was in no way distressed by this activity.

She was clear that this was teaching her about plant structure but obviously related to structure of any living organisms, although cell structures varies in animals from plants.

Most of this is presented in cartoon form in school books - so isn't overly graphic. It does explain how your body works (collections of cells form tissues and tissues form organs (skin, heart, longs, etc...) and it also helps to explain how life evolved from single celled microscopic forms.


History - was she as disturbed in primary when she was learning about the Greeks, Romans or Vikings? Terrible things have happened in the past but the point in learning history (hackneyed though this is) is to help us avoid the mistakes of the past. Knowing terrible things happened (e.g. millions of deaths in World War I) and appreciating the disaster of that for families, friends, ordinary communities - whatever side of the war - is an important lesson.

Again - I think it unlikely in Year 7 they're showing piled up bodies from Auschwitz/ former Yugoslavia/ Rwanda - but these things have happened. Understanding how they came about - the mistakes that were made - what could have been done to stop such tragedies is important.


I'm not sure what the English content was - and again it is upsetting when someone dies in a book. I sobbed like a baby every time in Charlotte's Web - worse since I became a mother actually. But feeling that affection for a character, sympathising with their plight, feeling angry/ upset/ afraid for them is what makes literature so important - it isn't just a nice story - it sometimes is a social commentary or makes a political point by affecting us in such a way.

For example - I found To Kill a Mockingbird a tough read at 13, it does involve rape and murder - but the humanity of Atticus Finch and the bravery he showed in the face of an angry crowd - standing up for the rights of Tom or Boo and portraying some really unpleasant aspects of the American south from the point of view of children (Jem, Scout & Dill). It says volumes about what is right and wrong about American society and gets you thinking about the person you want to be.


I totally sympathise that rationalising like this with your DC might not be an easy or straightforward process - but perhaps if she can see past the upset of the subject to why it might be necessary to know these things - how it could help her develop as a person/ be useful to society - may just help her to better cope and potentially avoid that desire for 'flight' in the face of a situation she finds distressing/ upsetting.


insanityscratching Fri 23-Jan-15 18:56:16

Hi Past,it has been pretty much impossible to get to being logical (and really dd isn't at all stereotypically autistic so logic doesn't really grab her) because dd faints when she becomes overwhelmed which pretty much stops any discussion.
Her resistance to cells is pretty much because she knows or suspects (she's pretty perceptive) what is coming next,so she can't cope with plant cells in anticipation that this will lead to blood/organs/reproduction.
History was just as difficult in primary tbh although the teacher did her best to super sanitise everything whilst dd was in the room so dd covered rationing but not evacuation,she covered longboats and their decoration but none of the bloody battles etc.
Dd knows in her head that deaths happen in war/real life etc but can't cope with that being verbalised. It's already decided that dd won't be in History when the Holocaust is covered because there is no way that it could be covered in a way that dd could cope with and I suspect that won't be the only topic she will sit out.
It's all quite difficult tbh because she is always in a state of anxiety,partly due to sensory difficulties, which makes her even more sensitive and less able to tolerate anything on her "worry list"

PastSellByDate Sat 24-Jan-15 06:23:59


golly - I genuinely didn't expect her to be passing out over this - just uncomfortable/ upset by topics.

I don't know - but have you considered whether rather than a learning disability - this might just be phobia? Which because it's been running for on for a number of years is now extreme?

mummytime Sat 24-Jan-15 06:46:04

I would say this is a case where CAHMS needs to be helping. I would see my GP and request help.

This is far beyond any normal reaction to such topics, and needs specialist help and intervention.

What is happening isn't that she is reacting to the subjects being presented, but she is guessing what is coming next and reacting before it happens. How will she cope when she begins menstruation?

I don't think this is a school level issue but a basic life one, and you need to work on it before even worrying about education.

insanityscratching Sat 24-Jan-15 10:24:45

Mummytime,we've been working on it at home for ever. CAMHs here is hopeless and won't even see her as the autism means she doesn't meet the criteria for mental health nor for learning disability because she has an average/above average IQ.
She knows about menstruation, 2 and a half years of drip feeding snippets means that she has the information, she's seen and touched sanitary protection,she knows all about hygiene (she's a bit germ phobic) of course God knows how she will react to blood but I have done my utmost to prepare her. I am working on reproduction in the same way, tiny snippets of information given repeatedly and then moving on once it's absorbed but of course school don't have the luxury of doing it this way.

insanityscratching Sat 24-Jan-15 10:42:29

What she actually needs is an autism specialist school like her brother attended where she could receive an education tailored to her own individual needs. Of course to get that would mean Tribunal again but we don't have the evidence and are unlikely to get it as the SENCo doesn't really grasp her difficulties (ds attended an ASD unit who provided evidence of need). She's not difficult or disruptive (totally rule bound) and so doesn't impact on others and she's bright so would need out of County independent specialist and the LA will do everything to avoid that (got as far as judicial review last time and ds's needs were evident and well documented.

CrabbyTheCrabster Sun 25-Jan-15 10:13:59

I don't know whether it would be practical for you as a family, but have you considered the online secondary school Interhigh? She might find it easier to deal with at remove, iyswim - if she is at home and feeling safe, do you think she could cope with the material more?

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