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son choking people and biting at school - advice needed please!

(19 Posts)
FickleFreckle Mon 04-Jul-11 15:34:36

Hello everyone smile have been lurking for a bit due to chronic fatigue issues but am coming out of the woodwork to beg advice.

As some of you may know ds (5in August) is in reception at school and in the process of being diagnosed with ASD. He is in a kind caring classroom with a lovely teacher and support staff but they are really overstretched as the class is full and they have 5 or 6 children with ISPs. DS is bright but has severe communication difficulties (his inability to comprehend explanations or explain/identify his own needs is quite profound although his clear speech and advanced echolalia tend to mask this). His abilities and sensory issues are very fluctuating too so sometimes he is switched on, sometimes not and this can make him hard to work out or predict. He is not toilet-trained and has sensory problems there - school and I are working hard to resolve this but it does add to the general stress all around. DS does not understand cause and effect and consequences very well and has intellectual comprehension of emotions but very little working empathy, although he can be kind.

DS has been cuddling, squeezing, bumping into and more worryingly putting his hands around children's necks, also pulling hair and occasionally biting. The teacher and TA's agree that he does really need 1:1 full-time but there is no funding for it especially as he is not statemented. I think it is sensory-seeking and stimming most of the time as it is mainly children he likes but gets mixed with aggression and frustration when he is stressed. At home we have managed to stop this behaviour by watching out for signs of stress, fatigue, low blood sugar (he has limited diet and won't eat when stressed or overloaded). He also has ways to release his stress at home like running at furniture and slamming into it and getting big "squeezy cuddles" from me when he needs it. Aggression is not much of a problem here and wasn't at nursery; in fact I would say he is a gentle child who dislikes violence.

I've been a nervous wreck waiting for him to do something serious at school and worrying about the other children. Now what I fear seems to be happening: the week before last he wrestled a child to the floor and got them round the neck and I reiterated the need for 1:1 support then. Today he bit a child so badly she had a bruise on her shoulder and the skin was broken sad
This girl is a lovely little girl who has been very friendly to my ds and he likes her a lot but she has often been on the receiving end of his overphysicality. I feel just terrible for her and her equally lovely mum. I got a call from the headmistress saying that they understood that it was due to ds' issues but the child had had to be taken to the doctor and that if it happened again ds would have to be excluded. Later I got a call at lunchtime telling me that ds had tried to choke someone and I came and took him home.

We have agreed that ds will stay home tomorrow but it is not an exclusion or sanction, just a breathing space while we all think what to do. It was suggested that I contact support groups for strategies and ideas (which I am doing now grin) but tbh I know how to deal with this at home -I don't know what I can do to stop him doing this at school. He agrees he won't do it but doesn't seem to be able to help himself. The classroom staff have a sensory box for him, have let him massage their hands, put him on the thinking chair, have talked about kind hands and encourage him to clap instead of touching. They also have done social stories with him. I just can't see any way to stop him though, short of having 1:1 to reduce his stress and control the environment more, or am I unreasonable? Any ideas for what I / the school could do to keep the other children safe and help ds?

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jul-11 15:50:00

I feel for you both in this situation.

I would look at IPSEA's website re exclusions and read the column for not statemented; you need to know where you stand legally here. This could all too easily escalate; they may well end up excluding your son and they have implied as much now.

They want you as well to keep him off tomorrow although they would argue they are within their rights to do this they seem now to have put the onus on you to sort this (re contacting support groups etc). This is the start of a slippery slope; the relationship between you and school could ultimately break down.

Have school arranged for an Ed Pysch to come in to observe your son?. Where's the SENCO; how involved is this person re your son?.

I would argue that although his class teacher has tried, the school have not acted quickly enough and it looks as if your previous pleas for your DS to have more help have gone unheeded.

His school should have already applied for the statement long before now. Its a great shame that its got to this stage anyway because IMO this has all happened primarily because your son's additional needs at school have gone unmet.

Has a statement application been made?. If not this needs to be done asap.
You as his mum can actually make the application to the LEA and I suggest you do this because you'll know its been done then. Some schools can and do sit on such apps for ages.

I would be contacting independent organisations like IPSEA, the National Autistic Society and or SOSSEN and seek their further guidance re school.

FickleFreckle Mon 04-Jul-11 20:22:39

Attila thank you so much for responding -it was very clear and helpful which is what I need as my brain is quite fuzzy at the moment.

I agree about the "slippery slope" - that is how I feel - that there is a limit to how much responsibility I can take as he is not violent at home - we have sorted that behaviour out and in fact when his little sister hits him or pulls his hair (she is 3) he will cry or tell her to go on the "naughty step" rather than hit her back. UNLESS he is what I think of as "knocked off-centre" by something else and then he will usually calm down rapidly with a cuddle and removing him from the situation.

I do feel this is up to the school to sort out but how can they if they don't have the staff? I suggested he bring his big teddy to cuddle when he needs to (to give him comfort and full-body pressure) but that was vetoed by the teacher because she thought it was not appropriate in a school environment.

I said that I would like an Ed Psych for the violence as an aside in a written letter to the teacher on toileting. Nothing was said and I didn't bring it up again as I heard that it was very very expensive to bring the Ed Psych in (although she was present at ds' transition meeting from nursery and I do wonder what the point was of having her clued in on all this personal information about my son if I am not to have access to her advice later...)

I said right at the beginning of the year - in my son's first week - that I thought he needed full-time 1:1 and the same pattern has been noticed in the classroom over and over - with 1:1 he thrives and comes on in leaps and bounds, without it he actually goes backwards. It is very frustrating for me as I keep seeing problems ahead and yet it seems they actually have to reach crisis point before anything becomes urgent.

I think also that he is just too young. His birthday is in the last week of August. I wasn't advised well when it came to putting him in for school and if I had my time again I would have applied to put him in the school nursery and then applied for school next year as he will only actually turn 5 in the summer holidays when he is heading for Year 1! I had a Parent Support Worker from the Child Development Centre but she was focused more on ds's "giftedness" (he is hyperlexic) and not on his social and emotional immaturity.

I kept mentioning statements but all concerned seemed to think that we would not have much of a chance because ds was only meeting the criteria for School Action on paper. Then they agreed to go for statementing but I was under the impression there had to be a lot of evidence collecting before applying. Only I'm not seeing the evidence of the evidence collecting, IYSWIM - the episodes of violence weren't even recorded in his home and school communication book which isn't getting written in by anyone. So I suppose it is up to me to drive the statementing process.

Thanks so much for the names of the organisations - am off now to look them up - and thanks again for the sympathetic response, I really do appreciate it. smile

LeninGrad Mon 04-Jul-11 20:36:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

farming4 Mon 04-Jul-11 20:54:46

You as the parent can apply for a statement if the school are dragging its feet. Check out IPSEA as they have model letters and advice on how to go about it. The main thing seems to be is proving the school cannot cope with your ds's needs and I should say that your op more than proves that! Good luck.

farming4 Mon 04-Jul-11 20:56:50

Oh and the other thing is that legally your ds does not have to be in school full time until the term after his 5th birthday so you will be well within your rights to either let him do half days if it would help. Or even keep him home from now until the end of term - theres only a couple of weeks left! grin

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 04-Jul-11 21:05:04

Hi fickle,

re your comment:-

"I kept mentioning statements but all concerned seemed to think that we would not have much of a chance because ds was only meeting the criteria for School Action on paper. Then they agreed to go for statementing but I was under the impression there had to be a lot of evidence collecting before applying"

Re your first sentence you can go straight to applying for a Statement; a child does not have to languish on either school action or school action plus (this is where outside agencies are involved, for instance paediatrician, Speech therapist etc) beforehand. Ignore the naysayers who thought you would not have much of a chance re statement anyway; the LEA and not them decide that. If the LEA refuse to assess you can (and must) appeal their crass decision!!!!.

There is already a lot of evidence that school are not fully able to meet his needs here with the support they have already provided so you can cite that; the surest way your son will get 1 to 1 is via a Statement.

You are your child's best - and only - advocate here. Do not forget that.

Let us know how you get on.

holidaytime Mon 04-Jul-11 21:21:53

I had the same thing when my ds started school in the end I had to do a parental request for statory assessment. I also rang the ed psych myself and made her aware of the problems. I then followed the phone call with a letter so she couldn't ignore me. They began the assessment pretty soon after.

Agnesdipesto Tue 05-Jul-11 00:30:35

Ok the school do have money - ask them how much is their sen budget and how are they spending it

If his needs are beyond what school is required to put in they can get local authority to put emergency funding in pending any statement. They can employ more staff.

Sending him home is an exclusion not a breathing space and its unlawful IPSEA website is excellent on this

EPs are expensive but this is what they are here for. If they were not seeing children like yours they would be out of a job.

behaviour is not always sensory. Sometimes it can be avoidance or frustration or lack of empathy etc etc (my DS has no idea it hurts when he hits people or pulls their hair) You can try behaviour approaches eg earning tokens for when behaving well and clear consequences for when unwanted behaviours. This needs proper behaviour support eg from behaviour outreach team or autism outreach team to design a reward system unique to him. The school should get support in from outreach or local special school asap

If the school threaten to exclude him again ask them what help they have sought. Have they alerted the outreach teams and requested support? If so when? What was the reply?

Even if you get fulltime TA support its not going to be much use unless they have a behaviour plan in place to reduce rather than just contain the behaviour issues.

I would also make it clear you do not intend to pick him up from school again if they can't cope. its up to them to put in the support to ensure he and the other children and staff are safe.

You can also try Parent Partnership - they are funded by LA so not always as independent as voluntary agencies but should be ok in a case like this and will be able to come to meetings with you and explain rules on exclusions to the school and give you some support

Start collecting evidence even if this is just an email to the school 'to confirm our discussion today that DS excluded for x and y and school have asked you to keep him home tomorrow'. Once you start putting stuff in writing they might start realising how this is going to look to the SEN officers at the council when you put in your statement request.

Ring Parent Partnership tomorrow and explain what has happened and ask for them to see you asap. Also ask them what emergency support can be put in and which outreach teams are available. Send off the (IPSEA model) request for assessment letter - you have several weeks to come up with your evidence for why its needed.

I cannot believe they have told you to find out about support and strategies! I would contact PP and once you have got their availability ask for a meeting at school asap. and ask PP to make your DS known to the SEN officer tomorrow and that you want an emergency meeting with them and school.

Stop feeling guilty about how much it all costs. Your DS is worth it and support now will save much money further down the track.

suzylovesshoes Tue 05-Jul-11 01:05:34

My son aged 6 sounds very similar to yours and unfortunately we have made it to the end of the slippery slope and he has been permanently excluded from year 1. He does have an SEN and one-to-one support when he was at school.

Your son definately needs a statement and diagnosis so that you can find the right school for him. My son was referred to CAMHS for his diagnosis of ASD, this took about 5 requests from school and my GP.

The school are acting illegally as a previous poster stated. However you maybe happy to have your son going to school for half days.

My advice would be to very organised, file everything and write a diary of all the events and appointments ect, as they easily turn into a blur.

Follow excellent advise from previous posters.


salus1 Tue 05-Jul-11 11:35:53

I would agree if he is being suspended (illegally) this is a clear indication that the school cannot meet his needs and would apply for a statement.

on the other hand two children in my ds's class have full time 121's and they are not statemented. One of the children sounds very much like your son and he has 121 at all time inc lunch and break times.

wasuup3000 Tue 05-Jul-11 11:50:19

My 4 year old can be similar to yours but the school have reacted differently and are getting an Educational Psych in to see him. I would refuse to agree to any unofficial exclusion and tell them that you want an offical letter from them detailing the exclusion and you want them to book their EP in to assess your son. Also apply for a statement yourself.

BialystockandBloom Tue 05-Jul-11 14:51:54

Absolutely agree that it should not be up to you to research strategies or manage his behaviour in school - this is their job and they do have immediate resources to provide some help in the absence of a statement - school action plus would provide funding for 15 hours a week 1:1 support, and I think that schools must have a pot of funds they can draw on already.

And definitely go for a statement. I can't see how the school would say he wouldn't get one if he's been unofficially excluded because they can't manage his behaviour - that is evidence in itself that he needs additional support.

Your son must not be prevented from accessing the education he is entitled to because it's easier for the school - it is their responsibility to provide the support he needs. And he needs a plan to help his behaviour, not simply short-term strategies so he doesn't disrupt the the class.

My ds has some behaviour like this - although there is no aggression, he does hug his favourites and not recognise if it's ott or if they don't like it. It' doesn't stem from aggression or sensory-seeking but from his impairment in communication - he doesn't know how to interact appropriately. Our approach is an immediate consequence, including time-out or removal if necessary, but teamed with specific work on interaction, and positive rewards for appropriate behavior. The 'kind hands', social stories, and sensory stuff makes absolutely zero difference, but actual consequences do. Does he respond to things like reward charts? Or providing alternative forms of interaction - one thing that worked with my ds was a rule to do high-five rather than hug.

On the issue of his age and readiness for Y1 - would it be out of the question to consider keeping him in reception for another year?

FickleFreckle Wed 06-Jul-11 06:36:44

Thank you so much, all of you, it really helps me with this strange Alice-through-the-looking-glass world I seem to be in where between my ds and professional bodies I wonder if I am actually completely deluded. Everyone is so nice as well - nice, and calm, and firm, and confident, and professional, and it feels like I am banging my scruffy overanxious overanalysing incompetent-mummy head against a smiling reassuring brick wall. Attila, I think I am going to stick that bit about being my son's best - and only - advocate on my bedroom wall so that it is the first thing I see every morning and gives me the determination to keep going.

LeninGrad - I don't want to appear ignorant but I don't actually know what a specialist teaching team is as none has been mentioned to me - does every school have access to one? My son is on SA+ and gets an hour of 1:1 plus whatever informal 1:1 they can manage. I've been told to get any more I would have to have a statement. We do have a paediatrician but see him only every 7-9 months. I have suspected ASD since ds was 2 but he is only now willing to move towards diagnosis and we have sent off checklists.
DS' behaviour is worse in the afternoon and I do think he would benefit from half days. I'm not sure if it should be mornings or afternoons as I believe sleep-deprivation is a major factor in the worsening of his behaviour. He does get very tired and he finds it very hard to get to sleep at night sometimes (we have lots of strategies that work some of the time). Left to his own devices he will often sleep until 9.00 (yesterday it was 10.40!) but we have to wake him up by 7.30 for school. So although he loves the morning curriculum sending him in at afternoons would allow him to sleep in...will have to think about this.
I agree I need a meeting with the school and tbh I am surprised a time wasn't set right away - there seems to be a bit of a "go with the flow, catch us when you can" sort of attitude about it which seems inappropriate when you are talking about a child being potentially excluded.

Oops, can hear dd from upstairs, more later smile

bumblingbovine Wed 06-Jul-11 10:19:29

Ds behaved like this in nursery and reception. The school started off with a TA allocated to him 1:1 for 5 hours a week (in nursery) then 10hours in reception, then upped to 15 hours a week in reception. By the beginning of year 1 he had a 1:1 TA for 20 hours a week. That is from 9am to 1pm (included lunchtime). This is WITHOUT a statement. Even with the TA we had many hurting incidents but thankfully in the last two months Ds seems to have stopped hurting people, though his behaviour can still be difficult in class. He is just finishing year 1 now.

The key thing in all this was that the school was very supportive. We have not always been completely happy with them over details such as how they are implementing recommended actions (eg OT breaks and visual timetables) but they have always provided a great deal of 1: 1 support for DS and this is in a class where they have a child with ADHD and at least one other with very difficult behaviour, over and above the normal stuff.

The school are now applying for a statement for Ds with our support as they are providing a very high level of help for ds but his behaviour at school continues to be quite difficult to manage. They are hoping for additional funding from the statement so that they can continue to provide 1:1 support and also possibly to increase it to full time support.

It is possible to get some 1:1 hours for a child without a statement.
Don'y let the school fob you off, they must put in some regular 1:1 TA support as soon as possible .

bumblingbovine Wed 06-Jul-11 10:21:56

School do have a SEN fund which can be used to provide up to 15 hours iof 1:1 support without a statement. Please don't let them fob you off by telling you that regular set 1:1 time is only available with a statement. That is not true

bumblingbovine Wed 06-Jul-11 10:37:35

Sorry my final point on this is that Ds's Ta has been the same one since he started nursery. She has a similar way of woking with him as we have at home. This includes a lot of talk and explanation, modeling different behaviour etc along with strict consequences for the worst behaviour.

DS has had two incidents of strangling children. On the first occasion as well as the school punishing him, Dh was very firm with him that if he ever put his anything (arms, hands, string etc) round someone's neck again he would lose one of his favourite posessions and would have no screen time for a week.

The second time Ds did this, his TA reported that afterwards he was crying that they shouldn't tell us as he would lose a favourite toy so he definitely remembered what we had said. We took the toy away which ds accepted reasonably calmly and it has been 6 months since he has strangled anyone. We try and save punishments for very dangerous (to himself or others) behaviour.

Another thing we do is try and provide simple rules to help him manage his reactions. So one is "never do back to someone, more than they did to you". So if someone calls him names or shoves him, he can do similar things back but nothing more severe. This seems to have helped ds to choose an appropriate respnse. Before he was always completely overreacting to any provocation. I found saying that he should ignore all provovation unhelpful as he couldn't do it.

This has taken a while to work but Ds has developed a good relationship with his TA and this has helped a great deal, though it definitely took time. The reason Ds behaves better at home than school is because he is less anxious here. It has taken time for his anxiety at school to reduce but over time, with a trusted adult nearby (his TA) it has started tio happen.

Agnesdipesto Wed 06-Jul-11 21:05:17

You might be able to get some help with sleep strategies from community nurse team at hospital

PP and SEN officer will know about specialist teams which schools can call on and also the no of hours of TA time schools should put in from own resources. Its 20 here.

Once you apply for the statutory assessment you will be on the SEN officer radar. They will tell you its too early, school need to do more etc etc but just appeal - you will have ample time to get the evidence before you get a statement it can take 6-18 months depending how often you have to appeal

Some outreach teams work with parents at home too, but not all.

FickleFreckle Wed 06-Jul-11 21:43:27

Wow - so much helpful feedback here I can't reply to everyone by name or I would go on for pages! I can see that my ds is by no means the only child who has this issue and that schools vary widely in their response. I have taken ds out of school temporarily because the little girl he attacked is still upset and reluctant to go to school and the mum is very distressed. sad. I have promised her that I won't have ds in school without promise of 1:1 at all times when this behaviour could be triggered.

Unfortunately I was not well this morning and my speech and concentration were affected so I could not go in to talk to the teacher. My mother was going to a craft group there (my parents are staying with us atm) and she was not able to talk to staff as class was starting but she managed to catch head teacher who was vague, said it was fine for me to keep ds off and she was going to a meeting at 10.00 (I hope this was about ds) and they would contact me.'s been left hanging in the air and cynically I wonder how long it would take for them to sort this if I just kept ds home and didn't chase them.

DS has got it through his head that he is not to touch people and says emphatically "I promise I won't hurt children. I promise I will keep my hands to myself" if the topic is raised. But when I got him to talk (with great difficulty and in return for a tedious game of Jumping Frog) about what happened he said he bit child X because "she looked like an apple" "I had my happy face on" "I like biting X". He also says he doesn't want her to be hurt. He is quite sincere about not wanting to touch people, saying it hurts them etc. and gets very distressed about it wondering if he is bad. But he doesn't seem to have the two bits at the same time IYSWIM. It's like one switches on, the other switches off. I don't understand it yet. It is particular children he targets, the ones he likes, usually girls sad Then there is lashing-out type behaviour and frustration-linked behaviour, but this is more like a compulsion. I think a behavioural support team is a good idea especially if I can get a customised reward scheme as I think it would have to be tailored very precisely to him as rewards tend to either not work or go wrong very quickly.

I do feel indignant about the school suggesting I access support and strategies, come to think about it - because we have got this sorted at home, it hardly ever occurs now and when it does we can stop it quickly. They are the ones who are out of their depth and frankly I would be too so don't blame them, but then they need to get the experts in and work out a strategy not think my having ds out of school unofficially is meaning they have less urgency! I have only got him out of school because I am worried about the other children (ds is very big and strong for his age) and because I fear for ds' self-esteem and social chances as he really loves the children in his class and thinks they are all his friends even though we never go on any playdates. He said to me "I can't wait to see everybody again". So I don't want to risk this happening again.

So - tomorrow - quick chat with teacher and request to see SENCO, find out what support and funding precisely is available to draw on, request meeting, and go back and put it all in writing. Does that sound like a good plan?

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