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Dyspraxic/ASD teen, all gone wrong half way through his GCSE's and I don't know how to help.

(54 Posts)
MrSlant Thu 20-Aug-15 14:14:22

I haven't posted in here for a long time. I was in a group of lovely posters whilst we quietly wept with fear before our dc's started secondary school but after the first year he settled in and I felt a fraud hanging out here when he was doing so well. Really, really well actually and I think this is the problem! He has a gift for science, the headmaster described him as a 'high flyer' and he had plans to study some amazing topics at university supported by the school and made GCSE choices to give him the opportunity to follow this dream.

Cut to results day half way through his GCSE's, it isn't really a surprise as the end of year report had already explicitly pointed out how poorly he was doing. He has done OK in science but not brilliantly but he has failed everything else and it doesn't look like he stands a chance of passing maths when it comes to it and he needs it at A level to any of his subjects at uni. Until the end of this term there was no indication that he wasn't doing as well as always, his report sounded like one for a different child but it isn't. It looks like all the SEN staff have gone off long term sick and there is no one keeping an eye on him (he is school action plus). For his first set of GCSE's there wasn't even a laptop for him (and he wouldn't say anything, the exam paper was put in front of him and he just wrote, it would never cross his mind to challenge something like that).

So what to do? I have a very bright boy trapped behind the wall of dyspraxia, he can't get his clever thoughts out onto paper and he just hasn't got the organisational skills for the independence they are expecting of him at this level. Who do I go to, what do I say? Until a few weeks ago I was expecting him to be applying to Uni in a couple of years and at the moment it doesn't look like he will get into 6th form in 12 months. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a well with no ladder. I've failed my beautiful intelligent son and I have to work out how to support him to do as well as he can.

He has a lovely (nerdy, hard working) bunch of friends by the way, there is no bad behaviour, drinking/drugs going on. For someone with dyspraxia he is turning into quite an athlete, anything involving going fast in basically a straight like is his strong point! Don't ask him to catch anything or he will do himself damage.

MrSlant Thu 20-Aug-15 14:23:57

And now I've written an essay I have to go and take him to the dentist. Teeth brushing is an issue still, how do you get a 15 year old to brush his teeth when it was a struggle at 5? grin

KeepBadgering Fri 21-Aug-15 13:05:42

All I can really suggest is what you're probably going to do anyway, i.e. speak to the SENCO when the school year starts.

You've not failed your son, the school has by not keeping on top of things and informing you when they do not go to plan. This is their job but I'm afraid you've probably learnt the hard way that that doesn't mean they are always going to do it.

I'm afraid you're going to have to apply all those wonderful nagging skills that seem to come with parenthood and and make sure that the school keeps you informed.

I was lucky in that my son's mentor at school was more than happy to get copied in on every email I had with the school and chase things up when necessary. I sent a lot of emails in his time there, and we had a home - school link book so that I could pass daily messages/info to my son's LSA(s).

We were lucky in that the school was very hot on access agreements for his GCSE's (he was in a school with specialist ASD dept) but I did still double check everything was in place.

Over the years I've learnt to not take no for an answer, to question everything, to demand regular meetings and to generally be a pain in the ass!

My son, now 17, also has ASD, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia so I know what you are going through. He is of average intelligence and like your son struggles to get things down on paper (or even laptop) so his GCSE's did not reflect his true knowledge. His school was too academic for him and he went to college instead of th form

It was not a good year as his LDA was cr*p and he got no ASD etc specific support/education. The LDA giving him no legal point of redress for not delivering we were a bit scuppered.

Thankfully now we can get an EHC (still in progress, that's another story) we have legal redress for any failure and suddenly it's amazing the support he's going to get: 1:1 ASD specific LSA, INDIVIDUAL maths/english tutoring and mentoring for ASD specific issues.

In short, keep asking questions, following everything up by email and be a general pain in the bum.

Feel free to DM me if you want to talk.

MrSlant Fri 21-Aug-15 17:06:49

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for replying. I would say sorry that your son has the things he has but I bet like me you wouldn't change a hair on his head because he is perfect, just not made to conform to a GCSE standard!

I am very impressed with the 1:1 ASD LSA, and everything else you have achieved, that sounds like what we need. He did well at maths and has ended up in the top set and is now floundering, too academic a class and he just can't keep up. I may be the only parent in the history of the school to go in and demand he goes down a set!

I hate being a pain in the bum, badgering and nagging but as I have honed these skills on my children I will start applying them to the adults whose job it is to not let him fail exams! I will take you up on the DM offer if I don't get anywhere if that's ok, thank you.

TeenAndTween Wed 26-Aug-15 17:03:41

My DD was finally assessed with dyspraxia December of year 11.
I had suspected it for some time, but school had never seemed to take my concerns on board. However I suspect she is maybe not nearly as 'bad' as your son.

In general I probably made myself a complete pain to most of her teachers throughout year 10 & 11. We had a good system to contact teachers via email that I made extensive use of.

- finding out when controlled assessments were
- if DD couldn't tell me exact requirements, then cutting out DD and finding out info direct from teacher
- asking for info on where she was losing marks in things

- I organised her work at home. So I made her tell me what work was set, and I got her to estimate how long it would take, and we agreed together when stuff would be done.
- In conjunction with DD I devised revision timetables for her, and a lot of the revision I did with her. I helped her write revision cards etc. I set maths questions, I marked science papers, I nudged her to review vocab lists etc.

Luckily I have the time and skills to do all that.

So far so good.

y11 Mocks just after formal diagnosis she did fine in some subjects, and bombed out in English and History. Speaking with the school, we got History dropped, and some extra help for English. She went to every English session going with any teacher and came back and reported to me. I wrote her step by step instructions on how to go about the questions. We found every past paper ever and practiced and reviewed.

She ended up passing everything, and just got her English Language, helped by her good CAs.

So my advice for what it's worth.

If there is a no-hope subject that can be binned then do so.

Ask to move down a set in maths.

Make sure he or the school tell you every single deadline/date for CAs. Get him to plan his essays or whatever upfront, or even practice writing them. Marks in the CAs can counterbalance rubbish exams.

Organise him yourself. Yes he needs to learn to do it, but he needs to pass the GCSEs too.

Practice the 6-mark science questions, as until you get into them it can be unclear what is required.
Practice rearranging equations as these are easy marks for physics and maths.

Make sure you have revision guides for maths/science/... so you can see everything that is needed to be learned. DD's notes were completely pointless, we did more or less everything from the guides.

Sorry if this seems totally useless for your situation. Good luck.

KeepBadgering Thu 27-Aug-15 13:30:11

Echo entirely what TeenandTween said.

It's hard work and time consuming but it was the only way. At least he went into the exams confident that he was a prepared as he could be. Okay, he only scrapped though his GCSE's, but without all this 1 to 1 he would have failed them completely (that's if we could of got him into the exam room)

PrincessHairyMclary Sun 30-Aug-15 04:22:16

If you haven't already get in touch with the 6th Form. The one. I work at has a large range of Level 2 programs for student sto take if they haven't achieved their maths and English and they then progress on to the level 3 programme the following year. Because your child has a SEN he shouldn't have any problem getting funding for 3+ years at College. Obviously it depends on the College but we offer ALOT of support to SEN students many only getting dyslexia etc diagnosis once they reach us. Whilst having to do an extra year may be frustrating it is useful to get students used to a more independent way of learning before they go off to. Uni.

PrincessHairyMclary Sun 30-Aug-15 04:29:37

Also as mentioned above Id get rid of any non essential GCSEs if you can.

Most Colleges (again talk to your local one to ensure this applies) award points depending on what grade you achieved and then divide it by the number of qualifications you have taken, this gives you a score which they then use to determine which programmes you can take at A level. Therefore instead of taking 11 where you might achieve lower grades because you are trying to revise too many subjects which lowers your average score and limits the A levels you can take. Cut back to the most important ones (English, Maths, Science) and a few that interest you most, revise really hard and gain good grades will put you in a much better position.

Obs2015 Sun 30-Aug-15 05:27:09

Taking notes for what I need to ask.

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 09:00:58

Wow, we went away camping and there are loads more people here, brilliant. Thank you for all your comments, I'm going to start writing a big list and getting organised. I was fed up because I don't have many work hours at the moment but it looks like I have a full time job for the next 12 months anyway.

I totally second the opinion that whilst we have to teach them to be independent they also need GCSE's, it's so much harder for our children but I am thankful more and more are being diagnosed as it gives them a better chance.

TeenAndTween Sun 30-Aug-15 09:26:37

I forgot to mention:

DD got concessions
- use of laptop for writing heavy exams and CAs
- 25% extra time
- some exams printed on blue paper
- permission to stand and stretch for longer exams (with the extra time, English Lang came in at something like 2hrs 45mins which is massive).

The first was obtained end y9 due to writing speed v thinking speed or something, all the others were obtained after dyspraxia diagnosis & January mocks, so very late in the day.

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 09:43:40

He has a laptop, although he didn't for his first exam and got a D in English, had it for the resit and got a D in English. So we need to look into that! He doesn't get extra time because he was one mark over the cut off point in the assessment for it in school. Gutted. I'm going to ask if he can do it again also about the standing and stretching, I'm sure we had that in a letter from the consultant.

Do I give them until next week before I phone or go in all guns blazing on the first day? grin

TeenAndTween Sun 30-Aug-15 10:05:50

Maybe day 3? grin

What does he find difficult?
- structuring essays
- organising revision
- focussing during revision
- remembering maths techniques
- logical thinking
- writing essays
- making revision notes

You kind of need to address each problem separately. Some you can help with, some you can't. So logical thinking was hard/impossible, but I organised revision in consultation with DD so that was easy to resolve.

Remember the English is mixed with CAs, so a D on the paper can result in a pass if the CAs are good enough (which is how DD passed in the end).

PrincessHairyMclary Sun 30-Aug-15 10:10:14

Could you email them and arrange an appointment letting them know exactly what you want to discuss so that they can be prepared / talk to other staff that are involved so that they can give you all the info there and then. Otherwise you'll probably be back up the school a week later

noblegiraffe Sun 30-Aug-15 10:12:06

How many actual GCSEs has he sat, and how many were just end of year exams?

It is very odd to have a student go from one planning university to one failing GCSEs in such a short space of time. What were his end of Y9 levels?

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 10:21:07

His CA's are likely to be bad too, his organisation is a HUGE issue. I'm just on a back foot right now because I knew none of this until his end of term report. Even his engineering (which at parents evening we were told was going to be 'distinction' in the Btech) is hard pressed for a pass because of course work I knew nothing about. I feel like they have failed him terribly all the SENCO's are off on long term sick, his consultant retired and hasn't been replaced, there is no one in his corner and he's gone from brilliant prospects to failing in a term. I am boggled and sad.

He has A's for science (in a resit) and D/E/F for everything else. So I guess logical thinking is all there, I think everything else in that list! The problem is he thinks he's worked really hard, got everything done and is doing well, at least until his report came through. So it's a bit of a shock for him too, he felt his english exam went really well so the D's have been unexpected.

Princess that is a very good idea, he needs quite a few people on his case. SENCO/maths/english and his form tutor maybe head of year? <pulls on gloves and prepares to fight>

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 10:25:12

They are the half way point exams? I don't really understand how it works, there were some after Christmas, then he re-sat those and took some more. One was a 'full' result but he failed that completely but I'm not bothered about RE!

Y9 levels were 6/7s, mostly 7s. He isn't predicted a proper pass in English or Maths at the moment from his report. How this isn't waving huge flags to the school I don't know. I can say hand on heart it isn't a behaviour issue, he is a very polite, well behaved boy, never even comes home 5 minutes late and his friends are all into being outdoors hiking and other stuff.

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 10:26:18

He failed most of his end of year in school exams but they didn't know they were sitting them until two weeks before and the whole year had a protest sit in about having them on top of two weeks of formal external exams!

noblegiraffe Sun 30-Aug-15 10:40:18

Is he sitting IGCSE? They have January sittings. I'm a bit confused about why he is sitting GCSE exams in Y10 as GCSE is now linear so they should be taking them all at the end of Y11.

If he got 6s and 7s in Y9, then he is certainly capable of good passes in English and Maths. Given the importance of these subjects to the league tables, I'm surprised the school aren't all over his failure. Are they predicting him a fail, or did he just get a fail now in GCSE papers but is expected to pass next year?

You've only got 9 months to sort this, so you need to go in full-steam from the first day of term. Can he go into school on INSET days to catch up with his BTEC coursework? Stay late after school?

If the school start to wring their hands about the time it will take, lack of resources etc, then you need to be clear that it is their failing as a school to support a student with diagnosed SEN which has caused these issues. Put it back on them.

MrSlant Sun 30-Aug-15 10:51:47

We are in Wales if that makes a difference noble? They did external exams Jan and May and went in for results the same day as the 'full' GCSE results. I cannot help you with his slip of paper with grades as it is all in Welsh and whilst DS1 understands what it says he doesn't have the skill to translate into english. Both languages are equally understood in his brain/interchangeable but he can't translate one to the other!

He got an end of term exam grade and a predicted grade. Neither of which were much good! I think his school have forgotten him really. From parents evening I didn't get a good feel for either his maths or engilsh teachers. One was harsh and the other had cast herself as a whacky/inspirational stand on tables type and I don't think it's working for him.

I will phone school on tues and see about going in to do course work, that's a great idea. I am TOTALY going in on the 'this is your failing, you have not supported someone on school action plus as you should have, if he doesn't get the required grades to do what he should in life I will be on you like a tonne of bricks. Now how do we work together to achieve this?'.

Thank you for your input, it is great to speak to someone who sounds so knowlegable.

noblegiraffe Sun 30-Aug-15 11:07:26

Ah, Wales do things differently so that explains the January exams and resits.

Is he hoping to do engineering at uni? What level did he get in maths at the end of Y9? Has he sat and failed maths modules, or just internal exams?

TeenAndTween Sun 30-Aug-15 11:51:37

(OP, Noble is a secondary maths teacher)

It might help you a lot if you see his internal exam papers, then you will understand where he lost marks. There may be some general exam technique coming in to play, e.g. time management.

DD was useless at revising on her own, could spend hours but wasn't productive, but did so much better 1-1. I tried to set her revision with tangible output like past papers, or I tested her so she could see what she actually properly knew.

With English CAs, DD used to talk things through with me, and I would question her understanding, or challenge her to provide quotes to back things up. This forced her to think things through better so she was better prepared. For creative writing she used to draft the whole thing at home, so when she got into timed conditions, all her thinking had already been done. For Eng Lit she practiced drafting essays, eg main bullet points of what she would talk about.

If he's good a science, I don't really understand why he's struggling with the maths, apart from being in an inappropriate set. Looking at his last internal test will help you see what he can / can't do.

You still have time, hopefully.

noblegiraffe Sun 30-Aug-15 12:06:54

Yes, sorry, should have mentioned I'm a maths teacher!

IguanaTail Sun 30-Aug-15 12:16:54

* I am TOTALY going in on the 'this is your failing, you have not supported someone on school action plus as you should have, if he doesn't get the required grades to do what he should in life I will be on you like a tonne of bricks. Now how do we work together to achieve this?'.*

I really wouldn't go in with that blame mentality. Threatening to be on teachers like a "tonne of bricks". If he has been doing superbly from September of Year 7 until March of Year 10 that is really unhelpful.

A meeting to say how you are worried and would like to do everything you can to support will be more effective. Remember "school action" and "school action plus" get no money and the support is down to each teacher. You need them on-side. People do not respond well to being attached and threatened.

IguanaTail Sun 30-Aug-15 12:17:31


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