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Help needed - how can I get my son to school?
  • FlorenceB
    Posts: 5
    New to this forum as our son was only diagnosed with autism with a PDA profile last month. He is 5 and HATES school which is mainstream, small and rural. He's currently in year 1 and with a July birthday is one of the youngest. He's always struggled going - lots of tears and meltdowns but until recently we've still managed to get him there most of the time. His assessment report highlighted he masks extremely well at school which suggests to me that he's incredibly anxious there most of the time. The last few days he has been at home as I can't get him in. He's distressed and adamant that he's not going in and I don't know what to do.

    Has anyone got any suggestions or ideas that have worked for them in the past? Any advice greatly appreciated.
  • Rubytuesday
    Posts: 263
    Hi, sorry to hear you’re having such a hard time. My daughter is 14 and hasn’t been at school for two years as it all got too much. She struggled on and off through primary school too, but much worse at secondary. It’s awful seeing them so unhappy. Have you been into see the SENCO at school and does he have any sort of SEN plan or support in school? There may be things they can put into place in school to reduce his anxiety. I’m a primary school teacher and this is a few suggestions that have helped children I’ve taught: coming into school a few minutes early so he avoids busy playground first thing; a quiet/safe space somewhere in school he can go to if things get too much, maybe he could have a card to show teacher/TA if he needs this; fiddle toys to play with on carpet to reduce anxiety; a named person he can go to or who checks in with him during day to see how he’s doing; some sort of comfort you or object to help him separate from you (maybe a small cuddly toy that could go in his pocket)... Hope school can help you, just because he’s not showing anxiety in school doesn’t mean it’s not there. My daughter was an expert masker too, makes it hard for everyone xx
  • FlorenceB
    Posts: 5
    Hi Ruby and thanks for your post. We have our first SENCO meeting on Monday and that's where I'll bring up some suggestions for helping my son in school. I'll definitely mention the ones you've suggested here so thanks for these. What sort of fiddle toys work? My son tends to chew his cuffs a lot. Did you always manage to get your daughter into school or was it ever such a battle that you couldn't? She's done so well to have made it through primary and part of secondary. I think we might need some sort of gentle re introduction to school. He has a real issue with friends as no one 'gets' him and I'm struggling to see how we can get him back in! Thanks again xx
  • June67
    Posts: 778
    Hi Florence as an infant teacher and parent of a PDA child I agree with Ruby's suggestions also as a younger one in the year group is the Year 1 environment meeting his needs would he benefit from spending part of the day in the reception class where their may be less demands on him? Just a thought. Regarding fiddle toys it's really anything he likes that wont disturb the other kids too much, my youngest went through phases sometimes using a fidget spinner or cube but often preferred a ball of bluetac, a couple of pipe cleaners or a few small beads on a bit of string. You say he chews his cuffs a lot, a self soothing activity perhaps, maybe a textured chew toy that he can have in his pocket or even on his clothes. It will probably take some time and training for school to get things going but some small simple steps like a phased return for increasingly longer periods might help. If school apply for an EHCP it will take time but the extra funding for a TA is important. Good luck
  • HannahH29
    Posts: 48
    Hi Florence,

    This sounds a lot like us too. My son was diagnosed two weeks ago and at the moment he doesn’t mind school too much but it’s because they have free child initiated play and he loves that. Any expectation to do ‘work’ and he can’t be bothered and makes excuses ‘ my arm hurts, I can’t do it’ etc. We know that he is going to struggle massively with the change to Year 1 and I am also moving him to a smaller school nearer to home which where they will be more accommodating of his needs. I was a
    Senco before I left after having my twins and school should be putting in place ‘reasonable adjustments’ to support your child in school- Ruby Tuesdays’s suggestions are brilliant. Have a look at ‘Chewlry’ we used to buy this for children who needed to chew something at school etc. Maybe there is a safe space he can access for some calm time at lunchtime to prepare himself mentally for the afternoon. The expectations and demands change so much from year 1 onwards and it’s such a shame it can’t be run like Reception for the whole of their schooling life!
  • FlorenceB
    Posts: 5
    Hi June and Hannah, thanks for your replies. I will be taking all these suggestions to the SENCO meeting on Monday and I'm inclined to tell them that until these are put in place including a phased return, then I will be keeping my son at home and educating him here.

    My husband was here this morning and we managed to get him in to school but it was HORRENDOUS and we've agreed we're not doing that again. He was incredibly distressed, had to be carried most of the way and was biting/kicking etc. It did not feel right but the school needs to see how difficult it is for us. Surely we shouldn't be having to do this every day to get him in? It seems beyond cruel. I've said I will pick him up at lunchtime as I don't believe he should be doing a full day at the moment - is this the right thing to do?!? It is so hard to know.

    Any replies greatly appreciated xx
  • HannahH29
    Posts: 48
    Are the staff at school seeing him in this state Florence or does he just put his mask on when he gets to school ( this is what mine does). If they are seeing how hard it is for you to get him in, at my previous school I would have already been meeting with you to discuss how to help. We were lucky enough to have a sensory room and we used to have some children arrive a little earlier to calm and then transition in to the class that way. Or I used to run a club in the morning which was basically children that struggled coming to school helping with little jobs- most of the time sharpening pencils or helping the site manager to put chairs out etc but it was usually enough to get them to forget about the demand of it all.

    It’s easier said than done- I could advise parents and help children in school and I’ve been at a loss with mine! Familiarise yourself with the SEN code of practise before you go in to meet the senco as the school have a duty to meet these needs. Also if you have had back your diagnosis report and there were recommendations the school must be working to implement these to help your son xx
  • HannahH29
    Posts: 48
    Btw don’t bother reading all of code of practice it will take an age! Just chapter 6 outlines the expectations for schools supporting children with SEN xx
  • FlorenceB
    Posts: 5
    Thanks Hannah. Teachers have seen him in this state but they've always said "as soon as he settles down he's fine". I'm well aware that he has probably put his mask on by this stage and I'll be bringing it up in the meeting. We've had a few meetings but these have resulted in things like reward charts which is not really what he needs! Someone now comes to meet him as soon as we get in to school which has helped - this was my suggestion. I like the idea of 'jobs' in the morning and I think I'll suggest this as it may help him.

    I've just printed off the school's SEN policy and am looking at the code of practice.

    The odd thing is that when I went to collect him at lunchtime, he decided to stay for the afternoon as they're doing nice things apparently. This is fantastic and seems to show that he can enjoy it - we never know what to expect from one minute to another.

    Thanks for all your great advice xx
  • HannahH29
    Posts: 48
    Let us know how you get on at the meeting, school should absolutely be working with you to accommodate needs and ensure reasonable adjustments are in place. It’s so hard when they can enjoy some things, when I watched Harry Thompson’s YouTube blog it made sense to me- he explained it as when his interests and the curriculum were congruent it resulted in him being the top pupil, as the paths were meeting in the middle if that makes sense. My son masks so well ( he’s 5 1/2) that I told a former colleague and friend about his diagnosis today and she said ‘ but he doesn’t look autistic, he’s so good’. This in comparison to the child who has left bruises and bite marks on my arm this week..... keep strong xx

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