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Help and advice needed please.

(13 Posts)
EvilTwins Thu 13-Oct-11 20:42:45

I originally posted this in Special Educational Needs, but it was suggested that I re-post here as I had had no responses.

I am head of a small VI Form at a comprehensive school. We have a student in Yr 12, who was previously at a different school. He has ASD, and did have a statement. Unfortunately, his parents didn't decide until 3 weeks into this term that they wanted him to come to our sixth form rather than stay at the school he had been at for yrs 7-11, and so we have very little in terms of resources (and money) to support him. The parents didn't want him to stay at his previous school because he was bullied, badly, by kids both older, younger and in his own year group. Parents have been in, and seem a little in denial about their son's needs (we have info from previous school). Also, he is the youngest of 3. The other two went to the prestigious grammar school in our area and so this boy seems to be treated as the "black sheep" of the family. Academically, he is very bright, and is doing well in his AS courses. Socially, he is quiet and withdrawn, though has made great progress since joining us 3 weeks ago, and will now sit with a group of other students in the common room. He doesn't tend to join in with conversation, and none of the others are pushing him to do so, but he seems content to be with them. He has a support teacher whom he can talk to at any time, has been supplied with a notebook as he prefers to communicate in writing, and has been made to feel welcome. He has stated that he doesn't want in-class support, and that he would prefer to use his support teacher "as and when", rather than at a scheduled time.

So far, so good. However, the boy has a fixation with a particular, totally inoffensive and very common word. He decided some time ago that this was a trigger word for 9/11, and he gets very stressed when people use it. His reponse to the stress tends to be to write notes, sometimes fairly bland, sometimes incredibly offensive, which he either puts on the walls, or leaves on people's chairs or tables. Twice this week he has violently overturned chairs in the common room after he heard his trigger word used. He has flown at a girl, shouting in her face after she used it, and yesterday spent one lesson sticking his middle finger up at anyone who glanced in his direction. He also sent an email to four random students (only one of whom is VI Form) which was also about his trigger word.

I really need some advice as to how to help and suppport this boy. I am new to being Head of VI Form, and new to chidlren with autistic spectrum disorder of this level. Can anyone help me please - things which we can put in place to help short term - he will only be with us for 2 years, so we need to start to help immediately. The other students are beginning to feel intimidated, and I feel like I'm failing all of them!

Sorry for long post. Thanks if you've got this far.

NotOnUrNelly Fri 14-Oct-11 00:20:07

I'm sure others will be along shortly who can give you a clearer answer, but a few thoughts that occur to me are:

Is there any chance you can get help /advice from SENCo or his support from at old school - ideally parents should be able to fill you in, but sounds as though they aren't being too helpful - ideally you need a bit more info about what is underlying the 'iceberg'...his past behaviour might offer some clues - I would say that you need to try and work out
a) what is causing it - eg. settling into the new school is likely to be worsening any of his usual stress responses - especially if his parents only decided suddenly to move him without much preparation for the transition - trouble is you really need help from home with easing him in more gently.

b) how has he managed unreasonable behaviour like this before? has he been coached in a particular way to get stop himself when he is about to meltdown?

While his behaviour may be an undertandable response in his terms - but he still needs to know what is / isn't appropriate - even if he has to take the journey to appropriateness in very small steps. And don't forget you need to SPELL things out as though he were an idiot- forget about hints, inferences, common sense.

Obviously all autistic children are unique, so I may be completely wrong here but the following statement worries me "He has stated that he doesn't want in-class support, and that he would prefer to use his support teacher "as and when", rather than at a scheduled time."
the fact that he is bright/articulate may be masking a poorer than average ability to judge how he should be helped. He may need to be guided along the path a bit more than a child who has say, dyslexia or a physical impairment. But obviously this may be a complete red herring - but it might be worth looking at this aspect again. For many autistic children, structure is very helpful, yet he seems to think he wants unstructured support. he may be right, but...

generally does he have a very clear timetable and aids to organising himself?

you say you don't have resources - I suppose it would be too mcuh to hope that you have any kind of autism outreach available or active local NAS group?

NotOnUrNelly Fri 14-Oct-11 00:27:37

How about starting by giving him ONE agreed outlet for these notes? - to stop him from posting them randomly - with severe extrinsic penalties if he fails to comply - though you mustn't make assumption about what he sees as a punishment /reward or his ability to understand your reward/punishment regime. Maybe he could have his own 'trigger-word' blog or postbox for the notes?

EvilTwins Sat 15-Oct-11 10:49:08

NotOnUrNelly - thank you. I love the idea of a postbox for his notes. Blog would be more problematic as we've removed a lot of his ICT privileges to stop a repeat of the random email sending. I will put that into place on Monday.

I didn't think to try looking for outreach services - I'll investigate. Really helpful - thank you.

StarlightMcKenzie Sat 15-Oct-11 11:02:27

EvilTwins Just playing devils advocate for a second, but what makes you think the parents are in denial, or treat him as the 'black sheep'?

Often a child will reach 6 form (if they are lucky) having had extremely patchy support at best and parents for whom the journey has been extremely stressful and often neglectful. Low expectations are rife for children with SN and our model in this country is a baby-sitting one rather than an educational one.

Having said that, having a child with ASD doesn't automatically mean you are a reasonable and helpful parent, but it DOES mean that you have at least 16 years of having dealt with the child and cannot possibly have survived the journey to this age without having at least some strategies that work well.

Personally, I would call in an independent behavioural analyst to work with him 1:1 for a few sessions to help redirect and 'play out' appropriate ways for him to deal with and control his reactions to his obsession. I would divert money away from his 'in-house' support to do this as it is likely to be the most efficient and cost-effective solution.

Ineedalife Sat 15-Oct-11 12:00:54

I just wanted to say that the massive transition that this lad has just undertaken, whether by choice or not is bound to have some affect on him.

Also he might be saying that he doesnt need help because he doesn't recognise when he needs help, my Dd3 who is also bright and has ASD finds it really difficult to accept help or even to know when she needs it. She is younger than this lad but I think it is quite a common issue for people with ASD not be able to ask for help.

FWIW, I think you need help from someone who knows about ASD, my frist port of call would be his parents, find out what techniques[sp] they use for calming him down. They could give you vital support.

Good luck and I think it is brilliant that you have come on here to ask for help, sorry if that sounds patronising it is not meant tosmile.

EvilTwins Sat 15-Oct-11 18:41:05

starlight - the "black sheep" comment came from his previous school, though having met his father, I can see where it comes from - there are two older brothers, both of whom went to the pretty prestigious grammar school in town, and both of whom are at university. We have had far more contact with the older brother than either parent, and neither parent likes to talk about it. Also, they delberately hid the extent of his issues from us, so clearly they are not comfortable discussing their son, or how best to help him. I've had an email, since I started this thread, from the C&I advisory teacher in our county, and she said that the parents didn't notify either the previous school or them about him changing school. After the first aggressive outburst, at the end of his second week with us, the father came to school to discuss how best to proceed, and there were two things which he said which has made me think he is in denial to some extent - firstly, the boy's statement says that he has ASD. The father denied this, and said that he has "autistic tendencies". Also, when we explained about the notes (which we know he also wrote at the previous school) the father apologised (obviously unnecessary) and said that he could "guarantee it won't happen again".

Unfortuntely, diverting money from his "in house" support is impossible, since his in house support is simply the VI Form TA/Pastoral Assistant, who is a Special Needs teacher and is with us in VI Form because we had another student who has ASD two years ago. She is employed full time, and this boy's support has simply been added to her duties - she is not someone who has come to us specifically to support him - this is one of the issues attached to him coming to us two weeks into term, and from a school which was expecting him to return to them for VI Form (they had everything in place for his return)

So really, what I need is some advice about how we can help him using the resources we already have. From what I've understood so far, from the posts on this thread, I will make sure he always has a copy of his timetable available, and will timetable a specific time each day for him to spend with the support teacher. Should I ask her to support him in lessons anyway, even though he has said he doesn't want it? His teachers say he is doing fine, academically, though obviously there have been the behavioural issues I have mentionaed already. I will give him access to a post box for his notes. I've also been advised that perhaps a laminated card saying something like "I don't like that word, please don't use it" which he could show to people when he hears his trigger word might help. Does that sound sensible?

Thanks so much for the advice - I want to be able to help him, but also have 80 other students to keep happy.

ThePumpkinofDoomandTotalCha0s Sat 15-Oct-11 18:51:37

if he prefers to communicate in writing he might find it easier to e-mail/write to his support teacher than meet with her.

StarlightMcKenzie Sat 15-Oct-11 18:53:34


It's just that I know of quite a few other people who have 'played down' their childrens difficulties to get them into another placement and they all had very good reasons, namely to dodge as much as possible under the LA's radar.

It sounds like the previous school were unable to meet his needs and that is why the parents moved him, and that too could be why the school label the parents as they have.

Evil None of this is directed at you, but you absolutely would not believe the shit that parents of children with SN go through, at the hands of professionals who are paid to help them. I am aware of the conspiracy that that sounds but that is exactly why no-one believes it or does anything about it.

Our education model is based on nothing more than keeping children in as cheap a placement as possible for as long as possible until they become the remit of the social care budget which the educational establishment believe is much larger.

The SN teacher needs to work with him, in a safe environment to practice his reactions to the word he dislikes. She and him have to work out socially appropriate strategies for coping with it. Perhaps tap quietly on the table 3 times, excuse himself for a quick run around the playground, or perhaps redirect his thoughts to something healthier. It should be thought up together and then practiced, with the teacher perhaps writing it first (if he can't cope with that, then just the first letter, then the second etc.) then whispering the whole or part of it, and he can practise his tapping, running whatever. Then she can introduce one or two understanding peers to practice with and do it in a controlled way, then eventually, practice in a whole class situation in a controlled way, say at the very end of the lesson so the teacher can deal with any fall out.

EvilTwins Sat 15-Oct-11 19:20:16

starlight -that sounds manageable. I will speak to the support teacher on Monday and we'll find a free period in which we can try that at the beginning of the week. I think the previous school did quite a lot to support him- I've seen his file, but did not do anywhere near enough to deal with the bullying he experienced. I don't blame them for wanting to move him, but really do wish they'd decided sooner which would have given us time to sort out support and strategies prior to his starting at the school, rather than doing what we're doing now. I understand what you say about parents of SN kids getting shit and I think that's dreadful. I do feel though, that if the parents of this boy had been more open, we would have at least known what to look out for- his trigger word is a very commonly used word, and his first notes, and first outburst were unexpected, which meant we were reacting to a situation, rather than anticipating or managing it. Inevitably it took a week or so for the old school to get his file to us do we were unprepared. His father says he is much happier with us than he was at the old school, which is great, and I want to make sure it stays that way.

He has begun to sit with the same group of students each day- they would be a good place to start with working on the coping strategies alongside him.

lisad123 Sat 15-Oct-11 20:43:58

I agree with post box idea and also maybe he needs a social mind mapping on cause and effects of his behaviour.

StarlightMcKenzie Sat 15-Oct-11 21:33:19

Oi Lisad, why weren't you at Gambados?

lisad123 Sat 15-Oct-11 21:35:33

Because I was at a wine tasting grin
Was very tempted by hot soft play with kids but the wine won grin

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