Back at the beginning of February I met with the Educational Psychologist at school to see if she was able to offer support with the girls, after much discussion it was eventually decided that as she was only in a position to address the needs of one of the girls, she would look in to baby girls needs.
Sometime within the last 3 months she has observed baby girl in her classroom setting once for around an hour. We met on Wednesday with the SENCO to discuss her observations.
She remarked that baby girl seemed very excited to have a visitor in her classroom, and was even more excited when she also joined her in her small phonics group. She said baby girl was confident, happy and eager to please, so eager in fact that during her phonics group she put her hand up that many times to answer the questions (always correctly might I add) that her teacher encouraged her to let some of the other children have a turn. She remarked that she saw baby girl doing a drawing as part of her work that morning. She said baby girl was clearly putting in lots of effort to create her masterpiece, but that it was so teeny it was barely recognisable. There was talk of her posture and sitting position which her teacher apparently assured the Ed Psych that she is aware of and regularly reminds baby girl to sit ‘properly’.
Being the sceptic that I am, I sat thinking quietly to myself about how her teacher was great at telling people what they wanted to hear, just like she did when CAMHS offered to support her with baby girl last year and she told them baby girl wasn’t an issue and she was managing her quite well (even though she was telling me she was at her wits end and running out of idea’s). I also listened to all the comments about baby girl trying to impress the educational psychologist with her art work, phonics ability and good behaviour and all the while I was thinking to myself that, of course she would be doing all these things, there’s a stranger in her classroom, she’s going to want to impress them and not only because she’s compliant, and not only because she thrives on positive attention, but because keeping the people around her happy is how she keeps herself safe. But I don’t expect that someone who’s met with me once and seen baby girl for 1hour to really understand that.
The meeting moved on to talk about my thoughts on baby girl and what improvements it was that I wanted to see. I talked about her mood swings and the things I felt could trigger her stress. I mentioned how she seems to get very distressed by certain types of noises, how she has a fixation on smells and is obsessed with food. I talked about her fascination with other peoples ‘hurts’ but how she can also become overly distressed and distracted if a child is hurt or crying. I talked about her behaviour when she’s stressed and how it is different to her ‘normal’ behaviour. I talked about her inability to regulate her behaviour herself and how I help her to do this. I mentioned her unpredictability and shared my concerns about possible ‘sensory’ issues.
The educational psychologist suggested some work around helping baby girl recognise her own stress levels by perhaps using some sort of 1,2,3 style gauge similar to those used in ‘anger management’ techniques, and that her and I could use it to communicate her mood. I was happy with this suggestion but a little disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any suggestion of this gauge being used in school, or even for them to help prevent her becoming stressed in the first place.
I manage baby girl quite well at home, I prevent her becoming over stimulated because I know she can’t cope, and I recognise when she is unravelling and I help her to calm by pulling her close and giving her a cuddle. I commented that whilst I had sent baby girl in to school that morning having had a great nights sleep and appearing to be in a good mood, there was always the chance that a loud noise, a crying child, or a funny smell could change that in an instant and someone else needed to recognise these triggers with her and help regulate her instead of allowing her to remain dysregulated for the entire day.
But there was no talk about how her teacher could help to keep her calm by keeping her close through the day, or school being able to offer her any support/reassurances during unstructured times, there was no mention of her teacher becoming more aware of the triggers and being able to reassure baby girl that she was ‘safe’ and was ‘ok’ in order to calm her. There was only talk of her helping herself by recognising her own emotions and stress levels. This made me feel quite sad, she’s 6, she needs to know she is being looked after, she needs to know the people around her will ‘see’ her and keep her safe and meet her needs. Taking care of herself is something she had to learn within the first few weeks of her life, she knows how to do that!
I later learnt that whilst we were in this meeting talking about how her teacher is apparently managing her just fine and I was expressing my concerns about this, baby girl was sat in her classroom, at her table, cutting her school dress and cardigan with scissors, again.