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Anxious stressed teen - worried about being late for school(39 Posts)
Dd is 14 and in year 10. She is a very well behaved and good student. She has ADHD and Autism and this means she can get stressed around transitions, easily distracted and zones out, very disorganised and sometimes obsessive.
So this year she is walking to school with her big brother (also autistic but very organised and in y12 so less pressure to get to school as he doesn't have to go to registration). Dd cannot walk in alone as she needs someone to keep her on track. Takes about 25 mins to walk.
Dd has been very stressed about being on time to school. I do what I can, waking kids up at 6.45am (earlier sometimes), helping with lunches, checking the timetable, getting uniform (washing uniform almost daily at the moment cos Covid). Dd also need to take meds before school. Also ensuring they have masks/ hand sanitizer etc. All so that dd and ds can leave by 8.05am to be on time but not too early as there are rules around staggered entry times. I have a younger dd and I also need to get ready for work 3 days of the week. So plenty going on.
Unfortunately even if dd has everything she needs after she goes up to her room after breakfast generally not later than 7.30am. she seems to spend spend 30 mins staring into space then I start calling up with time checks and she will seem to wake up to herself and start panicking. This slows things down considerably, as dd will stand still, with no socks on saying "I am going to be late" on repeat while staring desperately and not doing anything. I will prompt action ... But once she starts edging into meltdown it gets worse.
Ds meanwhile will be ready to go yet still have his sister stressing at him, potentially tearful all the way to school even though they will be on time. Dd has been late once (in her time at high school) but as she fell apart it wasn't recorded by the teacher.
We try to keep her on track but as I am getting myself and helping everyone else, get ready it has sometimes got a bit much. DH works from home so if dd falls apart he will drive them to school. We try to get stuff ready the night before and wake everyone up on time.
The issue with being late stems from a fear of getting after school detention. Dd is self sabotaging as her fear of being late is paralysing her to actually be more at risk of being late. We do all we can to get kids up and out on time.
I contacted dds keyworker this week to discuss the issue. She confirmed that the school don't want to make exceptions so if dd is late she will get a detention. This is understandable but no sign of a reasonable adjustment for a well intentioned child with a diagnosed condition, that is actually more likely to be late because of stress about the consequences of being late! Ugh.
Anyway I'd love to know if there is a magic solution to this that I am missing? Anyway wise words appreciated here thank you for reading.
I don’t have a child with SN but I wonder if switching the morning routine might help? If she got dressed before coming down for breakfast then she’d at least be in a position to leave the house quickly. If need be breakfast could be a cereal bar or smoothie on the walk to school.
Thanks, breakfast isn't generally an issue we have speedy options and ritalin kills her appetite so she needs to eat before her meds. But getting dressed is definitely an issue. Sometimes her uniform is in the tumble dryer so dressing before is not always an option. But we try everything.
I think my main bugbear is philosophical. She is in a catch 22 being late is punishable by detention, fear of detention is what makes dd more likely to melt down and risk being late.
We dealt with a very similar issue and very similar behaviour by tweaking our morning so that there was no reason for the dc to go back upstairs once they had come down. We did not make a 'no going back upstairs' rule, as that would just have added another thing to stress over.
Getting fully dressed before coming downstairs.
School bags lived by the front door.
A set of toothbrushes and toothpaste and hairbrushes were kept in the downstairs loo, in case those jobs had been forgotten upstairs.
School can also help by creating a Social Story around this situation with your dd.
I'm not comfortable with your school's response regarding detention, though. My anxious dc has not been penalised for certain things because the school are aware that (a) they were one-off events, and (b) this dc tries extremely hard not to let such things happen. This dc is now on the ASD pathway, but was treated with compassion and consideration even before this.
Could it not be dried at night if it's causing an issue? If you're only washing it because of covid can it not be done on the quickest possible cycle and tumble dried during the evening?
Why do you have to wash uniform every day?
Covid does not survive well on fabric. If you are still worried about it, you could save a lot of time by just tumbling the clothes without washing them. The heat will kill most things.
Can your DH drive her/them every day?
What does she think will happen if she gets a detention?
I have a student in my form in tears yesterday because he had a detention, all they do is sit in a room for 10 / 20 mins in silence and then go about their day. Does she know what actually happens because if not this fear of the dreaded detention and the unknown is crippling her. Have you / the school done a social story with her showing her the outcomes of what happens? Of course she should aim to be on time but the actual consequences are not as dire as she has built them up to be.
She needs to dress before breakfast. Are you washing uniform daily? That way madness lies....stop now!
You need a "no going back upstairs" rule that isn't a full on rule but a mostly adhered to principle.
The thing with no detentions is that it gives dd a potential reason to be late. If you take the detention threat away, there's no incentive to be on time. Although I'd ask to trial a short period of no detentions and see if it helps in the mornings.
I think you could make this a lot simpler. If her uniform is still in the tumble dryer in the morning sometimes, this is just leading to chaos and panic
All uniform out the night before on the bannister. Including socks and pants. Blazer hanging up with tie attached to it
Drink made before and popped in bag with snacks at night. Add a sandwich that you've made the night before in the morning.
Books in bag night before.
Bath or shower before bed so no need in the morning if this helps
If you do the above, all she needs to do is grab clothes, brush teeth and brush hair
But if you want to assist in lessening her panic, the first things to do is not have clothes still drying when she needs them
No diagnosis here but anxiety has always been an issue.
We decided back in primary that if they weren't dressed before coming downstairs then time would just disappear.
It's like a weirded phenomena.
Dressing after breakfast seems to take much longer than before.
Get more uniform if possible so nobody is waiting for anything to dry.
We do a lot of talking with our anxious child.
What's the worse that can happen?
And then what?
Why is that so scary?
This sounds so familiar.
You need to remind school of the Equality Act and their obligation to make reasonable adjustments for disabled children.
May e Kay our her uniform the night before and get her to work through a check list as soon as she gets up so that she feels ready? My son has the same sort of worry so I have his toothbrush stuff and uniform all ready for him. I don't leave it till the end before we go, I let him start that stuff as early as he wants to.
Definitely shower night before too!
Thank you all for the replies I appreciate you taking the time to respond.
First - uniform not washed every night but most nights someone's uniform is on an overnight dry. So the uniform is dry first thing but in the dryer still. I try to get washed and dried the night before but when I am working till 5 and DH till 7pm. It is not always done. The kids have sensory issues so there is additional uniform that could be worn but dd in particular has a favourite school hoody that is the right amount of soft. Autism and clothing issues is a thing!
I try to prep and usually things are done night before but not everything always. I don't think dd is the only one with ADHD 🤔
The kids always set off on time! Being actually late is unlikely.
The issue around anxiety and detention is being discussed all the time I do use the what is the worse that could happen approach. But for dd she is desperately trying to be well thought of and have no negative "behaviour points", she gets positive points all the time. All me and DH do is tell them how little we care if they get the odd negative point, how much we appreciate her, how much her teachers appreciate her. This is not a fear of being in a room for 20 minutes it is about anxiety. An irrational little monster that lives in your head. Dd knows it is irrational and then beats herself up for being irrational. She has had counselling and knows CBT methods so she can say the words but it doesn't always help in the moment.
I do my best in other words. But I think I need to do better.
Always shower the night before God the thought of that in the morning 🤯
Getting dressed first thing and before going downstairs seems the obvious solution? The routine of waiting for a uniform to be taken from the dryer every morning sounds stressful to me.
Is there a quick cycle for the favourite dryer? If it is put into the dryer at 5pm or 7pm - it could be ready before you go to bed? My tumble dryer’s eco cycle is 4.5 hours so if I put it on at 7pm, it would be ready before I went to bed. If you go to bed early yourself, could you pop down to the dryer first thing in the morning and bring it to her when you wake her?
My children are younger but I try not to allow DC1 in particular to go upstairs once they are down. Far too easy to get distracted and lose track of time.
I understand the issue isn’t just the dryer and morning routine and you are already undergoing CBT for anxiety.
Could she be driven to school?
I feel sorry for her tbh. Getting so stressed first thing in the morning must be a terrible start to her day. Every day.
Oh you could be me! It is so familiar.
Favourite hoody - was it only on Friday/Saturday, so dd knows it is available for school.
But the anxiety over being well-thought-of, and over-thinking about detentions and behaviour points must be addressed by the school. They are the triggers and there's very little you can do about it. Her feelings about this are all centred around specific locations and people, and she will our much more weight on what they say about it then on what you say about it.
Speak to the Senco. It's not about saying "my kid is exempt from discipline". It's about your dd working so hard at school, and masking her anxieties to the extent that she is struggling to function. Yet throughout this she continues to work hard. The school need to support her so that she can function to her best ability, not just about get by.
There is an app called Tiimo (I think) designed for people with ADHD and autism that helps with exactly this. My nephew uses it and finds it very helpful.
Many useful tips about improving the morning routine above, but the school is being unreasonable about refusing to make adjustments to a child that has documented SEN. Talk to Senco and take action.
Sounds so stressful for all of you! Can you have a meeting with the Senco? I think you probably need to get a bit stroppy and lay down the law to the school. They need to make some reasonable adjustments. None of this is good for your DD's mental health and her high levels of anxiety around this are impacting on you all as a family. I truly empathise as I have a houseful of husband and DCs with similar traits. Best of luck!
Does she have a visual timetable of her morning routine? In fact, probably best to have an evening routine visual timetable too that lists all the prep she needs to do the night before (eg pack bag, put bag by front door, take uniform out of dryeretc).
Could DD put her own uniform in the wash when she gets in from school so that it will be ready earlier?
If it’s anxiety related the additional control might help.
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