Friday, 3 July 2015

Peaks, troughs and doubts.

It's been  roller coaster of a few weeks here which saw a final straw being added to my difficulties.This led to a trip away to think, decisions were made and unmade, tears were shed and frustrations expressed. I am calmer now but still with doubts and worries.

One of the problems when raising a child like J is trying to make the best decisions at the right time, as a parent I know I won't always get it right and my fear is that I will cause J long term issues because of decisions I make or don't make at this point.

Currently education is giving me headaches and nightmares despite the best efforts of individuals within J's school. I recently attended the parent/teacher evening where I met most of J's teachers and it was very reassuring. Everybody made nice comments about J, he was described as polite, enthusiastic, friendly and a lovely member of each class. Academically he has progressed a little since Easter but all in all he has made no progress at all this year.  In some cases he is now a whole two levels lower than when he left Y6. My problems with this is that J is not unintelligent, he is bright, he knows what he wants to say and has lots to contribute.  All his teachers said the same but commented about his poor handwriting, about his struggle to concentrate, also his fast paced brain thinking ahead and asking about stuff the teacher has not yet covered. Yet he remains in all the bottom sets and his assessed levels put him in the bottom 15% of achievement. Something somewhere is wrong and I suspect that is mainstream education with its fast paced approach and one size fits all ethos.

A local education advocacy service is now offering me support and their opinion is that J is in the wrong setting, the problem with this though is that the ideal setting does not exist, at least not in the state sector. I have requested a change to a happy medium,a special school which will meet J's needs more than adequately but at a slower pace than mainstream school. In making this request I am going to war with the local authority but I am beyond accepting the cheapest most convenient option for them.

So all the paper work went in on Tuesday along with a diary of incidents to show what J has experienced this year. A covering letter tells the Local Authority that I have no faith in the mainstream system. It also says that I have little faith in the Local Authority either as I suspect they are prepared to accept the lowest possible achievements and outcomes for J in the name of saving money.

I have news for them,  they are not balancing their budget with MY child as a casualty...not now and not ever.

Watch this space.





Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Left hand/Right hand confusion part 2

So following a productive meet up between the SENCO plus myself and M on Monday, a few plans were made.

The SENCO agreed that J should not be writing down his homework and said she would email all teachers to remind then of this.

Today....J has come out of school telling me he has a lunchtime detention tomorrow for not doing his IT homework. Oh really, what IT homework would that be then? Something they evidently have not written down.

Secondly on checking J's homework book I found he had yet again been left to write in his French homework.  I have now asked three times for an adult to record the homework
 J has hypermobility in his joints, this means that writing is difficult for him. Asking him to write down homework in the rush that is the end of each lesson means barely legible scrawl.  Add to this his
impaired executive function issues and you have a problem. Not only can I not read J's writing. ..nor can J!

Got home, phoned the school and left a terse message for the SENCO and the IT teacher pointing out that J's Statement was not bring adhered to and that I wanted a call back from ons or both of them before midday tomorrow . In fact scratch that as tomorrow morning I am going in there. ....again.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Oh dear, the left hand and the right hand are not talking!

Today I went into J's school to discuss the letter I recieved at the beginning of half term.

I spoke with the SENCO, the conversation regarding the letter went like this.....

Me: "Were you aware this letter was being sent out"?

SENCO: "No I wasn't".


Great!

So the school has my child with a Statement of SEN, the teachers are experiencing problems with J and are expressing concern about effort and level of progress.  Wouldn't you think the obvious thing to do would be ...er....speak to the SENCO about the concerns?

Instead they sent out a blanket letter with no real plan beyond signing a report card each day which reports on how he has been in class with regards to his work. I have no issue with this per se as J has just had an increase in medication. Monitoring how he is responding is a good thing and will allow me to see how effective the increased dose is.  I am not happy for it to be used as a punitive sanction though, especially when there has been no discussion with the SEN department.

I then had the joy of a discussion with J's caseworker at the LEA, I wanted to know if his case had been to Panel yet for possibke admission to a local special school which offers a mainstream curriculum.  The caseworker's response was "actually no. I didn't think we were going ahead with that'."
"Ummm.....yes we are, in fact J's Dad is especially keen for this to be looked at....as I explained to you at the Annual Review."

I despair, I really do.

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Handwriting hell

J's handwriting is, it's safe to say, a nightmare. There are several reasons for this but the bulk of the issue appears to be his hypermobile joints which mean he finds handwriting difficult and gets aching hands and fingers when trying to write for any long period of time. 
At junior school handwriting was less of an issue because although J can rush he could be told to repeat work and slow down.  At secondary school the pace is much quicker and he is keeping up at all. At the end of September I asked the SENCO if I should buy some handwriting practice books to try and help J increase the speed and accuracy of his writing. I was told there was no need because they woukd do a handwriting assessment and they would look at alternative methods of recording work for J. At the beginning of March this had not happened and I was told again that they would do a handwriting assessment. Today we are almost at the beginning of June, J's academic progress is going backwards and his handwriting is virtually unreadable. I have asked him if anyone has assessed his handwriting or sat down with him to check how fast he can write things down. The answer was a predictable "no". 

So a whole academic year has gone by, much has been promised but little has been delivered apart from a once a week session with his lovely key worker who is good with him. Things that should have happened have not. 


So tomorrow I will be in the school and waiting to speak to someone or arrange a meeting. The Local Education Authority can expect a call too. I want J out of this school and placed in an educational establishment which can meet his needs properly and which won't make plans and promises they cannot keep.


Thursday, 28 May 2015

Tears and Frustrations

J has now been in his secondary school since September, to say it has been rocky is an understatement. The school carefully chosen for its small size and good reputation for special needs is proving to be something of a let down. To be fair this is not the fault necessarily of the school but of the whole "one size fits all" approach of mainstream schools. To be frank, most mainstream schools will struggle if they have a large cohort of students with special needs, the staff don't have the experience, teachers are overworked and underpaid for the job they are expected to do, Statements and support plans will be skimmed over rather than read properly and the funding has decreased in a major way. Schools now have to find far more of the funding for their students with additional needs than they used to.

J is struggling, the SENCO has noted that he is more subdued than before (good observation skills there, as J can be pretty "full on"). In addition his results academically are going backwards despite the Statement and despite a meeting at the beginning of March which was goug to address the change in J's needs.

Now we have a letter, like all "not good news" letters from schools this arrived on Saturday morning right at the beginning of half term.  It says that they are not happy with J's level of work or his effort in class.  So okay.....I need to address this with J and with the school as the letter is meaningless without some detail.

Is J being lazy and difficukt in class? Yes that is possible as J can be very lazy if a subject doesn't interest him or he finds it difficult. I have ways and means of tackling this.

Is J not showing sufficient concentration? If this is the case I have recently had an appointment with his paediatrician who feels that based upon his weight and height he needs a higher dose of Mediknet so it's been increased. If this IS the issue then we should quickly see a change in the situation.

Is it down to homework not always being completed? This is possible too as J hates homework and doesn't see the point of "schools stuff" at home. Homework is a regular nightmare here not made any easier by the fact that it is not always written down for J as it should be or even worse....J is left to write it down at the end of a lesson. Given his dyspraxia and hypermobile joints this is a disaster as even if he DOES record it in the right place (rarely), the fate he is rushing means it cannot be read by me and more importantly by J! The annoying point here is that I have asked the school several times to ensure an adult writes down J's homework for him so I have a fighting chance of u dear standing what is being asked of him.

Whatever the reasons are I need yet another meeting with the school to try and address what is happening. I have noted that J is frequently mentioning run ins with other pupils once again...and on Friday when I collected him he mentioned difficulties that day. Apparently he stormed from one classroom after being teased by another pupil, in another lesson a teaching assistant had to take him out and wait while he calmed down after a similar incident. Again, if these issues have contributed to the letter then I need to raise it with the school.

I think what is making me the most uneasy though is the fact that nowhere on the letter does it mention any liaison with the SEN department and my concern is that they know nothing about it. If this is the case then I have a decision to make as I cannot place my faith in a school where departments and staff do not communicate....especially when the subject is a child with special needs who is showing obvious signs of struggling.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Resurrection.

With secondary school looming for J it is time I resurrected this blog, if only for my own sanity at times.

J is now 11 years old and it seems a lifetime since I started this blog when I had just a quirky little boy and no idea why. I have ridden over the assessments, the diagnoses and the decision about medication for ADHD. I have seen my son go from barely able to read and not achieving National Curriculum Level 1 at age 8 to the giddy heights of NC Level 4 just three short years later. I have recently watched him receive an award for the massive progress he made in Key stage 2 and I have witnessed his confidence grow, it has been a difficult but very rewarding few years.

His temper? Ah yes we still have the temper and the rages, but the bedroom door frame has been reinforced and a new cabin bed prevents the door from being slammed. He can still be very oppositional at times and sleep can still be a closed book for both of us. We live with that though and muddle through.


So Jnis doing well, I am still doing well too, the black beast of depression still rears it's head from time to time but on the whole I am on top of it. I am also much much aware of the warning signs now which allow me to take some kind of action to veer away from it (mostly).

J will be attending a mainstream secondary school from September, the school in question being chosen as the smallest one in our town with just over 750 children on roll as opposed to 1500+ in all the others. Happily it is also the school his primary feeds into which means he will have many familiar faces around...a relief for him and me.

 So we are now well into school uniform purchasing which is why I am currently broke ..ah well such is life. I am expecting the bill to be around £350 by the time I have finished...and no second hand shop either.

From September I will be working every day in my newish job as a teaching assistant. I love it and the extra hours will help me financially as well. It does mean though that I will need the odd hour out here and there for meetings. I have the first meeting at J's new school on 24th September to discuss their plans for his first year. I am hopeful that with the additional support they have asked for and got that J will do well.

Monday, 2 December 2013

30 day blogging challenge

Resurrecting the Blog for this 30 day challenge......if I complete this it will be a miracle!

So J.......J is amazing, wonderful and achieving ....did I mention he was brilliant too?

J recently joined a local drama group with me, they are an adult group but needed children to take part as they were doing A Christmas Carol.

J showed no great enthusiasm when I suggested this but came along willingly with me......as long as he could bring the iPad with him.

I rapidly noted that he was showing interest in the rehearsing and he LOVED the read through we did before the parts were assigned.

Eventually J was assigned the part of "Cockney Boy"...the one Scrooge sends for the turkey after the ghosts have been. I was assigned the part of "Old Hag",  according to J's Dad this is called "typecasting"....he will freeze when he next stays here.

We had several weeks of rehearsals and J discovered that acting was not all glory and simplicity but involved a lot of waiting around and boredom in between his lines.

Despite J's little quirks the drama group were AMAZING with him, not once were any of his issues a problem for the director. If he couldn't look at Scrooge when delivering his lines then that was no problem, just look upstage. One of the other cast members is a drama teacher and once we got into the theatre spent just five minutes with J on the stage by which point he delivered his lines loudly and clearly.

On performance nights he was a star, family and friends who came to see him were amazed by what he achieved.

As for J the success was a massive achievement for him and a wonderful and welcome boost to his self esteem.

This Friday we perform the show again in a local church, this promises to be very atmospheric and I cant wait. J though, is relaxed and nonchalant...he knows his lines and is taking it all in his stride....am very proud of him.