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AIBU?

to think school is lying to me?

146 replies

MargeSimpsonswig · 10/12/2019 23:51

My 13 year old DS was diagnosed with autism in August this year and is currently having issues with school refusal. One of the biggest reasons for this is that he is constantly in trouble for low level disruptive behaviour and I have been working hard with various organisations to get help with this. I need to add that I genuinely believe DS is unaware when he is being disruptive as his social skills are very poor and he tends to make very awkward jokes with teachers to mask his uncomfortability in social situations. He told me that making small talk with people who he doesnt like and who he knows don't like him is the worst part of school for him and plays a big role in his non attendance.

The school started a nurture room programme for my DS to attend which is supposed to be a relaxed, homely environment where he learns better social skills. At one of these sessions he said he made an ill judged joke to the specialist ASD teacher, something along the lines of:

Teacher: why are you hungry?
DS: because you didn't come to my house and make me breakfast this morning.

The teacher then made a report to his head of year claiming DS was being threatening and rude and upset the other children in the room. DS was placed in isolation the entire day because he wouldnt admit that he had been threatening. He said they wouldn't give him specific examples of his alleged threats and he remains adamant he only made the joke as above and refused to do his work because he felt the punishment was unfair. He was then told he would be placed in isolation the following day for not completing his work and he has refused to go to school since.

Head of year emailed tonight (2 weeks after i first emailed her explaining DS's version and i would like to clarify what happened). She again said son was threatening and that the teacher has been working with ASD kids for 20 years and she had said DS's behaviour was not consistent with ASD and was pure naughtiness. No specific examples of what he said or did was given.

I spoke to DS again tonight and his story is exactly the same, he told a joke and he cant understand why school is saying this. He is adamant and i believe him.

I know I sound like I'm being precious about DS but I know my son and he has never been violent or threatening. He is extremely gentle and kind and it would take him being physically threated for him to become aggressive. I also k nw DS thinks in a very black and white way and does not lie. He has been very open with me about all other times he has been in trouble with school and fully accepted his punishments as he knew he has broken a rule (e.g. saying a swear word etc., forgetting his tie etc.). Before his diagnosis, he was labelled as a naughty child and my parenting was always questioned and I was told he had no boundaries at home and that's why he misbehaved at school. I always complied and worked with school to enforce punishments at home for misbehaviour and supported schools stance on situations like this but now I know it was his ASD that caused him to misbehave and he has always been so misunderstood. I feel so much guilt for always taking schools side when I can see now how tragically my DS was failed by the system and many mistakes were made (this post would go on forever if I explained).

Sorry for rambling on, I just really don't believe the schools version of events and I don't know how to respond. Would a teacher really make up all of this? (p.s I'm not teacher bashing, my mum was a teacher and I have the upmost respect for what they do but there are bad eggs in every profession).

What should I do?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

AIBU

You have one vote. All votes are anonymous.

LastMichaelmas · 11/12/2019 23:57

But it wasn't just "suggesting how it could be interpreted", was it? You said "I actually think what your son said was quite creepy and if said in the way I have understood it, a sexual innuendo pertaining to the teacher spending the night." That's a bit stronger than suggesting it as one interpretation among many. You said that you understand what OP's son said as a creepy sexual innuendo. I'm saying that while it's possible to put it as one of a list of possible reasons the teacher responded the way she did (it was one of the possibilities that ran through my mind, before I put it fairly low down the list for various reasons I won't go into), that's not what you've done. You've put that right at the top of the list and said that that's how you understood it — as sexually threatening. Nobody else has said that they'd put that at the top of their list of interpretations, if an autistic boy made a badly-judged joke about them making breakfast for him.

Chattybum · 12/12/2019 00:03

I hope you get some answers OP, both for yourself and your son. You are right, I didn't read the full thread. I have been sexually assaulted by a fourteen year old whilst at work and previous to the assault he was forever making faux wide eyed, completely deniable sexual innuendos towards me. I was very young and gave him the benefit of the doubt, which in hindsight was the wrong call. It does happen unfortunately, and luckily for me the assault was witnessed by another member of staff, otherwise it would have been my word against his. So yes, that is my perspective and to be honest before being in that situation myself I would have been highly skeptical of similar claims. I do hope you get to the bottom of things if this is a misunderstanding.

LastMichaelmas · 12/12/2019 00:08

In that case Chatty that fits nicely with something I said in an earlier post:

Assuming no lies from OP's DS, his behaviour was not threatening because no threat was intended. Assuming no lies from staff, his behaviour was interpreted as threatening.

This could be because 95% of the population would use that behaviour if they wanted to communicate a threat, and therefore it's sensible to interpret it as a threat.

Or it could be that the teacher sees that behaviour as threatening even when most people wouldn't, for personal reasons.

I'm sorry you've been through that; that's shitty.

Chattybum · 12/12/2019 00:12

Thank you @LastMichaelmas I do appreciate that. It was shitty and it has perhaps heightened my radar. It is possible that this is the same for the teacher in question as you say.

AmaryllisNightAndDay · 12/12/2019 01:05

If it's any comfort, it was the most "experienced" TA who failed to work with my DS. She thought she knew how to lick him into shape. Her expectations were out of line with his abilities, she was bamboozled by his intellect into thinking he was more able in other ways, she made demands he couldn't meet and thought he was disrespectful. After a short time she refused to work with him. The other TAs felt a bit sorry for him, made fewer demands and didn't take his snotty moments personally, and they all got along nicely.

From my own personal experience of what worked and what didn't ... I'd say if you are not 100 per cent certain it's naughtiness then treat it as autism, and if in doubt sssume "can't" not "wont". I always got DS back on track much faster that way. Especially since you have only recently found out your DS has autism, you probably don't know what all his abilities and disabilitiesa are yet.

I know the nurture room is for kids with different disabilities so some not as high functioning as DS but to expect a very intelligent ASD child to discuss a topic like this and not argue that ghosts are real or not is setting him up for failure.

For sure. A group could use a topic like ghosts to teach respectful ways of expressing disagreement, but the teacher can't reasonably expect a child like yours (or mine for that matter!) to sound respectful straight away. I'd expect the skill to be built up and practiced gradually over many sessions. And without blame or punishment for doing it wrong, any more than you'd blame or punish a child for not being able to read on day 1.

Disagreement was one of the areas that DS's social skills group covered. The group also did a lot on how to interact with teachers, they once had an impromptu session on the difference between "I don't need any help thank you" and "GO AWAY!!!" Grin The kids didn't naturally understand who they couldn't yell at even though all of them were in mainstream education and two of them were near geniuses academically.

30 years of experience working with students with special needs and is our ASD Coordinator and Additional Needs Manager.

Well that's nice but she's not (for example) a qualified SALT with years of specialist training and experience in autism and communication disorders is she? So this teacher probably has only a limited picture of autism and she may have very little clue how to interpret anything your DS says or does.

Having said that, you can't directly challenge her qualifications or experience. Instead can you call on someone who is qualified to intervene for him? Would the clinical psych make professional noises at the school if you asked? Write a letter, perhaps, or call them? Now and again we used to ask ours to help sort things out for DS when he had bother at school.

arethereanyusernamesleftatall · 12/12/2019 02:43

The whole thread is about the huge disparity between DS's version and being told by school he was being aggressive which he cannot understand

Do you think there might be a race element here also?

I expect you well know that mixed-race and black boys are much more likely to be perceived as aggressive than their white counterparts, with teachers often not recognising their own subconscious prejudices.

MargeSimpsonswig · 12/12/2019 09:23

I'm sorry you've been through that @Chattybum.

@AmaryllisNightAndDay thankyou. DS was discharged by CAMHS after his diagnosis so I'm not sure how to contact the CP who diagnosed him but I'll give them a ring and see. I may look into specialist ASD counselling too to help get to the bottom of his school refusal.

@arethereanyusernamesleftatall, its something I worry about but hope that his teachers see him as a child first and foremost. There is a racism issue generally at the school as DS1 has also had alot of racist comments disguised as "banter" and he doesnt know how to handle them. I've told the school several times but DS won't name names so they say theres not much they can do.

OP posts:
mummy21l · 12/12/2019 12:28

I think it's like anything - 30 years experience doesn't necessarily make you good at your job. You need to be of an empathetic personality to work with ASD children, to truly understand their needs and behaviour. All the experience in the world can't teach that.

Sagradafamiliar · 12/12/2019 12:45

I have to admit that I assumed that the teacher took offence for the reason chatty pointed out, if a NT child had said it, I would definitely think it was provocative and inappropriate. The teacher insists that ASD doesn't come into it...the truth is that you probably won't hear her side OP as you haven't spoken to her in the last couple of weeks as it doesn't seem to be a priority to you, so why would you pick up the phone or arrange a meeting going forward?
If truancy has been a persistent problem in the past (I can relate to this btw), then the chances are that your DS has latched on this as his reason for his current truancy. Why would he want to be in school if he's placed in isolation? The answer is that he needs to avoid being placed in isolation by sticking to his side of the school contract, as I tell my own DS.

AmaryllisNightAndDay · 12/12/2019 13:55

I may look into specialist ASD counselling too to help get to the bottom of his school refusal.

To be honest there's a likely explananation that's pretty straightforward. If your interpretation is correct, and I don't say why it wouldn't be, then school must be a terrifying, unpredictable and defeating expereience for him. He can't judge when anything he says or does will result in blame and punishment. To him it is random and outside his control. He knows he is supposed to answer the teacher and join in the discussion, he can't just sit in silence when the teacher asks a question, but when he does say something it's the wrong thing in the wrong way and he's in trouble. He probably feels he is at constant risk of punishment at any moment in school and quite helpless. So why would he go there?

The school should really be taking appropriate steps to deal with the causes of this "low-level disruption". Depending if he is fidgeting, chatting to other students, poking other students, talking back to the teacher, using bad language, not following instructions, or whatever else, all those can be dealt with but finding the right adjustments depends on understanding how his ASD affects him. In any case scolding and punishment (which are what you say they have been using to correct his behaviour so far?) are likely to be ineffective.

LittleDragonGirl · 12/12/2019 14:51

@MargeSimpsonswig you mentioned previously you feel you may have ASD but don't want to pay out for a diagnosis, this is not the case and adults can he diagnosed through the NHS, I was only diagnosed in my twenties and know many other adults who have also been diagnosed as adults, and it is very common in female adults as the presentation of autism is different between males and females and therefore traditionally females have not been recognised due to schools and professionals working from the male presentation criteria. Also autism is a difficult spectrum so as others have stated you cannot judge whether someone is autistic by a individual behaviour, as different severity of autism display completely different difficulties and presentations.

@suggestionsplease1 the comment in the context of being asked why he was hungry does not display any ToM at all and is a completely literal response to a question. (I specialised in psychological research in neurodevelopmental disorders throughout university and since as well as having ASD and ADHD myself). As previous people have stated ToM is the ability to understand that individuals have their own thoughts about a situation different to our own, the Sally Anne task is a good example of this, and ToM is a fundamental difficulty in ASD among others. BUT not all autistic people display problems in ToM and exectutive function that dosent make them any less autistic and usually happens due to using social learning/mimicry to display behaviours that would come naturally to NT people so even if he was displaying ToM that would not make his diagnosis of autism any less real, as autism is diagnosed on a multifactorial model across different areas of functioning and comparison to age appropriate development. Hence someone who shows adequate ToM as a adult may still be diagnosed with autism compared to potentially a 6 year old being assessed.

suggestionsplease1 · 12/12/2019 17:59

@LittleDragonGirl I don't know if you read my subsequent responses on this point? You'll see where I suggested TofM could be discerned in this Interaction, and how the communication is not really as literal as first presented. I have my honours and masters in psych, thanks.

AmaryllisNightAndDay · 12/12/2019 18:00

One of the biggest reasons for this is that he is constantly in trouble for low level disruptive behaviour and I have been working hard with various organisations to get help with this.

The main organisation that needs to work on this is the school and so there may not be much help for him if the school don't want to co-operate.

"Low level disruptive behaviour" is a useless label when you want to solve a problem. It doesn't tell you what the problem is, all it tells you is what effect the problem has (disruption) and how severe the effect is (low level). To solve it for DS the staff would need to know exactly what DS is doing that is disruptive - talking, fidgeting, bad language, poking, etc, etc - and identify why he is doing it and what triggers the behaviour, and they would need to know the possible strategies that either stop it altogether or decrease how much disruption it causes. If he fidgets, well that is usually sensory, so can he hold a fidget toy, or sit on a move'n'sit, or wear a weighted jacket, or leave the class at intervals to pace up and down the corridor? If he uses inappropriate language can people not react at all (no disruption!) or calmly remark "X is not appropriate, we say Y" and move on? If he talks too much or pokes other children can he sit by himself for part of the lesson, or have his own workstation? If he interrupts the teacher can he write his thoughts down to show him at the end of the lesson? If he reacts badly to instructions is that because he needs a visual list or hand signs, or because he needs extra time to process instructions, or he doesn't know they apply to him if the teacher doesn't say his name, or... many possible reasons that are manageable once you know what they are. And so on, and on, and on.

Teaching staff don't have time or skill to do this kind of micro-analysis, but there are people who can. Our LA used to have a specialist team who would visit a school, do observations to figure this stuff out, and then propose solutions to improve behaviour and minimise disruption. So those are the organisations your DS needs and the school need to be willng to welcome them, listen to them, and follow (or adapt) their advice, none of which can be guaranteed. Outside of the school, an occupational therapist might be able to advise on fidgeting, and a SALT on rudeness or excess chattiness.

These things cannot easily be helped if the school's go-to response is "Behaviour X is disruptive, so first we will tell him not to do X, and then we will punish him for X, and that is how we manage disruption". If that's the attitude then this might not be the right school for your DCs.

LittleDragonGirl · 12/12/2019 18:39

@suggestionsplease1
You'll see where I suggested TofM could be discerned in this Interaction, and how the communication is not really as literal as first presented.

This last bit confuses me unless I missed something, the response seems like a very literal response to why didn't you have breakfast, so I'm struggling to discern why you don't perceive it as literal as it first seems? Hmm

MonaLisaDoesntSmile · 12/12/2019 19:17

@AmaryllisNightAndDay You suggested a lot of good ideas, the problem is, from a point of a view of an ex-teacher, that sometimes doing all those things is impossible in a setup with 29 or so other students. I taught a number of students who displayed a lot of low level disruption. It is actually not one type of behaviours students display, but a range. And sometimes there is only as much as you can do. Only as many times you can interrupt the lesson to ask someone not to talk or explain them they are being disruptive. Because of that some teacher spent 90% of their time dealoing with disruptive students not having any time to actually teach.
I know that may seem unfair to ASD students/parents of such children, but unfortunately one to one in a big class and dealing with everything else, even if you know strategies, is simply not possible. Not to mention that sometimes students themselves are not that interested to follow up on their end of what they can do to deescalate (f.ex. what you said about write his thoughts down to show him at the end of the lesson) or not able to do it. I once had a student who would shout out and interrupt every 30 seconds. We went through a long list of strategies, but really with a parents being unsupportive, the child could nto even be bothered trying using their diagnosis as a great excuse to do nothing or destroy lessons.

MargeSimpsonswig · 12/12/2019 19:28

Thankyou @AmaryllisNightAndDay, some really good suggestions. I totally agree there is a reason for his behaviour and its pointless to just tell him to stop doing it without any explanation or any adaptations to help him manage.

Also, you are spot on about DS feeling like he can't do anything right. When I said to him that he needs to stop joking to teachers because they don't understand his humour, he replied that he would rather not talk to any of them because he feels so awkward and he can't think of anything to say so he ends up trying to joke.

@Sagradafamiliar, if a NT child had said it, I would definitely think it was provocative and inappropriate. The teacher insists that ASD doesn't come into it...the truth is that you probably won't hear her side OP as you haven't spoken to her in the last couple of weeks as it doesn't seem to be a priority to you the whole point is that he isn't NT and if you met DS you would realise straight away that he wouldn't ever do that. He is very young for his age, he doesn't "fancy" anyone or talk about girls and it wouldn't have even crossed his mind to make a sexual innuendo. If he did try, it would be a very clumsy and very obvious statement because he really doesn't do subtlety. I've explained why this has all resurfaced, because I got an email response which was very different to DS's version of events which I am questioning because it doesn't make sense. The incident wasn't a priority considering everything else I have had going on the past few weeks and DS had already been punished.

The joke is paraphrased from DS's very scatty memory of the day so I'm not reading too much into it because I don't know exactly what was said, only his intention of trying to be funny when he felt socially awkward chatting to the teacher.

I did visit my G.P to ask for a diagnosis after reading Aspergirls. I've never identified with a book so strongly. They told me the referral process would take 4 years and they would have to apply for special funding so I just dropped it because it wouldnt make much difference to my life if I was diagnosed. Maybe one day I will feel differently but at the moment I have enough on my plate dealing with DS's.

Left a message with school today and had no reply. I still have no report and no further explanation.

OP posts:
MargeSimpsonswig · 12/12/2019 19:35

Also, DS has been observed in school by ASD team and the person I saw said he was very complex and she wanted to discuss him with her senior. I've not heard back so another thing I need to chase.

@MonaLisaDoesntSmile, I'm not unsupportive of school. I want to work with them to help DS get an education. I don't take them to task on every tiny incident with DS, I always support punishment of DS when he has genuinely misbehaved and I think this is the first time I have questioned a teachers version of events with DS2.

It's very hard to work with school when they don't respond to my emails or calls!

OP posts:
AmaryllisNightAndDay · 13/12/2019 08:37

@MonaLisaDoesntSmile I do take your point but after only four months it is unlikely that everything that can be put in place has been tried yet, things don't move that fast. There may be strategies that will improve things for everyone, and yes it is also possible that the teacher needs extra resources or that this classroom will never work for him. But all that is very different from the teacher asserting that his behaviour is not due to autism, which I find quite concerning.

AmaryllisNightAndDay · 13/12/2019 08:40

Given that two weeks have gone by in which both your DS and the teacher will have had time to get entrenched in their own version of events, and given that there will be no further consequences for your DS, I think that trying to get at "the truth" may not be the best bet for your DS. Instead it might work better if you try to get your DS to accept that he said something that the teacher took as rude and he should not have said, he was punished, it is over, and that you and the school will work together to stop this happening in future. So that he feels able to go back to school and try again.

And while it's a good idea for you to find out exactly what the teacher thinks happened, I would not bring your DS to the initial meeting if you think he will try to argue back or justify himself. I would talk to the school first, and only get them together if you can get both sides to apologise or agree some kind of truce and move on. Rather than trying to argue about what happened and why, go in with the intention of: listening to her; finding out how your DS is coming across to other people; and to discuss how he can be supported in future. The words "very unfortunate" and "misunderstandings" may come in useful Smile

And do chase the school's autism team. If you can explain the "awkward jokes" thing to them then they may be able to help.

By the way, you are a great Mum, and you have built up really good communication with your DS Flowers

MargeSimpsonswig · 13/12/2019 19:16

Thankyou @AmaryllisNightAndDay. Your posts have been really helpful and supportive and I hope we can move forward with school.

OP posts:
AmaryllisNightAndDay · 14/12/2019 08:20

Hi @MargeSimpsonsWig ,

You mentioned your DS doen't have an EXHP and the school wont apply because of his attendance? You could contact IPSEA for free legal and practical advice. There's a helpline number(you can book an appointment online) and information on how to apply for an ECHP I'm not in England so I don't have experience or much knowledge, but the IPSEA website says you can start the ECHP process with the LA yourself.

There are parents who have fought similar battles on the MumsNet Special Needs threads. You could try posting on Special Needs - Children.

Flowers

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