adoption

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Pausing for summer……….

Published July 14, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I haven’t written anything for sooooooo long!! For those that don’t follow me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, I’m still alive, just been super busy!! 🙂

Right, where to start!?

Home education update:

We’ve just completed years 4, 5 and 7. The girls have improved so much, especially in maths as we have a tutor! My own knowledge of verbs, pronouns and conjunctions has also improved, vastly! 🙂

We’ve enjoyed too much to list. The girls favorites seem to be our weekly visits to the library, they’re each reading 2-3 books a week now! We also listen to audio books on car journeys, we’ve listened to lots of Roald Dahl and David Walliams, we’re currently listening to Matilda which is being read by Kate Winslet, we’re all really enjoying it, especially the bit about the newt in Miss Trunchballs water jug! We’ve also done some gardening, which is a first for me. We have some potatoes and herbs growing as well as some sunflowers and lovely wild flowers that we planted especially for the bees living under our decking. We’ve done lots of arts and crafts, the girls have really enjoyed some YouTube tutorials for sketching and crafting and really enjoy catching an episode of Deadly 60 and Operation Ouch, thank goodness for recordable TV. We’ve also recently started a bit of bird spotting, inspired by a trip to a local wildlife sanctuary. There’s more, so much more.

Therapy update:

We have continued with our DDP therapy, the girls have been so much more engaged in the sessions now that they’re no longer anxious all the time. We’ll be continuing with our therapy for sometime yet I imagine. We plan to also start some additional sensory based therapy towards the end of the year, so it will be interesting to see what becomes of that.

I’m still trying to get some support from our LEA with regards to funding for tuition and have 2 EHCP appeal tribunals to look forward to at the end of the year. One is for the refusal to assess middle girl for an EHCP and the other is for inaccurate information and lack of support from Big girl’s EHCP. I also have a formal complaint with our LA regarding the lack of support available for my girls education, they failed to address it formally though so I’m still awaiting a response, it is neither my fault, nor the girls fault that they are unable to manage a school environment. Like I haven’t got enough on my plate eh!

I’m exhausted. Being mom and ‘tutor’ is really hard and not something that comes easy to me. Its really hard to find the energy to be theraputic or even just have fun after a few hours of pre-learning the English curriculum and then trying to teach that to children with a high level of need. It was never something I’d ever considered but I can now safely say that I’m not teacher material! 😉

Its become even more apparent how hard middle girl finds her learning and how her auditory and memory difficulties impact this for her. She can totally forget how to do something whilst doing it i.e she can be doing a full page of 3 digit multiplication grids, get half way and suddenly have no idea how to do them any more and start putting random numbers in odd places. Also what she hears and thinks, isn’t always what comes out of her pencil i.e when we were listening to the ‘Billionaire Boy’ audio book, she was able to tell me what it was called, yet what came out of her pencil when she wrote about it in to her diary was ‘Billy the Miner Boy’, to which both she and I were quite surprised to discover. I’m worried that there is something else going on with her but I’m not sure what, perhaps dyslexia or maybe something else, I don’t know. What I do know though is that she shouldn’t have got to year 5 without having her learning difficulties formally investigated. To my knowledge, she has never been assessed by an Educational Psychologist or any other learning specialist in school despite me asking teachers about a statement/EHCP since she was in year 1. However, despite all her difficulties she never gives up, constantly strives to succeed and really glows with pride when she does. Middle girl is fantastic at concentrating, she can really immerse herself in her work and enjoy it. She’s picked up multiplication really well but still struggles with her phonics/reading. I’ve bought the Toe by Toe reading programme in the hope that this will help her. She is absolutely loving dance class and her swimming has improved dramatically! Her speech is more fluent, her word finding has improved and her ability to say ‘I cant think of the word’ (rather than remaining silent), demonstrating her confidence, has been lovely to hear. She’s been doing a lot of imaginative play with baby girl, and whilst sometimes she can still be a little awkward with her play, she is certainly improving and enjoying her new ability to just relax and have fun.

Baby girl is, well baby girl. Cheeky and sassy and generally full on. She needs constant re-focusing and gets bored with ‘work’ very easily. She rushes everything, makes lots of silly mistakes and is always eager to get on to the next task so she can go and play. She is really enjoying learning new things though and often tells me about some interesting fact she’s read in a book. She is no longer obsessively collecting things, she is sleeping better, she is playing nicer and she is enjoying life. However, I think she’d really like it if we just watched TV, ate cake and cuddled her teddies all day 🙂

Big girl is so much happier, she no longer rages, she no longer self harms and she actually enjoys maths! She’s got quite good at it as well, which is lucky because I’ve needed her to explain subtraction with carrying to me so that I could help her sisters with their homework! There are still lots of gaps in her learning, so for example whilst she now knows all 12 of her times tables, 12hr and 24hr clock, she still struggles to use basic number bonds, for example she’d still use her fingers to add 10+5 or 6+4 etc. Her self confidence has improved massively too, she knows she’s better at things and she feels proud of those achievements and likes to tell people how proud she feels. She’s really enjoying the weekly dance class they all attend is happy to confidently demonstrate her new moves to family. Her reading has come on brilliantly too, she’s not only moved on to harder books but her comprehension has improved and she is really enjoying the stories she reads, taking real care with her choices of book when we visit the library.

So that’s us and our first academic year of home education! I have a lot more grey hairs and the circles under my eyes are darker, I have a billion unanswered emails, my to do list is getting ridiculous and the dust in my house has its own dust, but the girls are positively flourishing so its all worth while. For now, we’ll be taking a deep breath and pausing for summer 🙂

I will try my hardest to write more here, but I urge you to come follow me on Facebook or Twitter, I update those with regular little snippets because its quicker 🙂

 

 

 

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The things you’ll never hear me say…………

Published April 20, 2016 by thefamilyof5

Being an adoptive parent means having to constantly fight for what our children need. It’s never easy. Putting on that brave face, that armor every day, means it can sometimes be too hard to let that more vulnerable side of us be seen. There are some things you will never hear an adopter say…………………

I’ll never tell you to stop telling me about your child’s latest achievements, but its sometimes just a tough reminder for me of the things my own children are not achieving right now.

I wont tell you how much of a failure you make me feel, every time you say ‘all kids do that’.

I wont tell you how utterly out of my depth I feel with all this attachment and trauma stuff, I’ll just smile as I confidently explain it all to you.

I wont tell you that I cried myself to sleep last night or the night before, you’ll just hear me say tomorrow is a new day.

I wont tell you how hard it is, every day or how I’m not the lioness everyone thinks I am.

I wont tell you how much I worry for the future and cry about the past.

I wont tell you that I’m lonely, that I haven’t seen or spoken to another adult outside of my family for weeks, I might just casually suggest we catch up soon, hiding the desperation from my voice.

You wont hear me say I feel like I failed my children today when I shouted and saw that look of terror in their faces, you’ll just hear me say ‘we’re fine thanks’.

You’ll never hear me scream ‘I cant do this’, unless your inside my head that is.

I wont tell you the real reason I don’t sleep at night.

I wont tell you that the highest aspiration I have for my child is simply that they manage to stay on the right side of the law, instead I’ll joke with you about how they plan to rule the world!

You wont hear me scream and stamp my feet and beg for someone to just listen, you’ll just see me gracefully appealing yet another decision that’s been made for my child.

I’ll never tell you how many times I’ve wished I could just run away and pretend this life wasn’t mine, I’ll just tell you its been a shit day and tomorrow is a new one.

You wont hear me ask for help, I cant, I’m too busy putting on a brave face and fighting my child’s corner, I don’t have time to show you any weakness, heck I don’t even have time to reply to emails.

 

I will however tell you that this blog was inspired by an article I read today by Ger Renton on themighty.com

Who’s to blame?

Published March 22, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I’m feeling really annoyed right now, REALLY annoyed, let me fill you in.

When we first heard about the girls we were told there were no developmental or learning concerns, we met with their school and nursery and were told they were ‘an absolute pleasure’, meeting all their milestones and learning inline with average expectations. Alarm bells should have rang in my head when Big girls year 1 Teacher couldn’t quite remember who her friends were or whether she wrote with her left hand or her right hand, or ate school dinners or packed lunches, ‘she’s a happy little soul’ we were told. Baby girl and Middle girl attended a nursery together and aside from lots of wishy washy information about how lovely they were and how pretty they were, they didn’t really tell us much either. Id never spoken to a teacher before that day, in fact the last time I’d been inside a school at that point, was as a student myself. I didn’t know what to ask, or what to look out for and none of the professionals supporting us gave us any pointers either, they were all too busy telling us how great it would all be. And we believed them.

We enrolled them all in school/nursery before we’d even met them, on the advice of the social workers that did know them. Apparently getting them in to a routine was paramount. No one suggested a period at home attaching to their new family, might be of benefit and I didn’t for one minute think it would be, why would I when I was surrounded by social workers that I believed to be experienced and far more knowledgeable than me about the needs of these 3 children, I hadn’t yet met. So they started school a few weeks after placement at the beginning of the school year in September with everyone else, apparently this was important to helping them feel they belonged. In hindsight, a year at home, attaching and building secure foundations would have been what would have really helped them feel like they truly belonged in this world, never mind in school.

It quickly became apparent that the reading that the foster carer had said big girl had been doing every day, was a lie. Turned out big girl did ‘read’ a book every night and she ‘got’ a sticker on her reward chart for doing so, but she read alone, in her head, with no one listening to her and apparently she never really got a sticker either because they didn’t get round to buying any (hardly surprising she finds it so difficult to let people know her needs is it). Big girl had become very skilled at being invisible, that’s why her teacher had been so vague, she barely knew big girl. She started year 2 at her new school barely able to read her own name.  The social worker and schools answer to this was to use a fund available for Looked After Children, aged over 5, for educational support to fund some additional tuition. So at ages 5 and 6 Big girl and Middle girl went off to a tutor for an hour a week for around 12 weeks (that’s all the fund would cover). Yes its true, I’m not making this up, and yes, I was stupid enough to believe this would be beneficial learning for them. Of course it wasn’t and had absolutely zero impact on anything other than the placing authority being able to tick a box. We plodded on. They fell more and more behind as their anxiety levels increased.

It was approximately 4 years before we requested the girls adoption files from the placing authority, they didn’t make it easy for us to access files and refused to share most of them with us. We discovered, along with some more alarming stuff, that Big girl and Middle girl had been in their nursery setting when the social workers arrived and took them in to care. No one thought to mention this, or how the impact of being taken away from their family, whilst in an educational setting, might impact their ability to feel safe in similar environments in the future ie anywhere away from home. I don’t know ‘how’ baby girl was taken, how traumatic that may have been, I guess that information is within one of the withheld files, given her issues with separation anxiety, I’m guessing it wasn’t pretty.

We battled on through primary schools trying to educate school staff about trauma and neglect and the lasting effects it has on children, whilst also trying to get to grips with things ourselves and navigate our way through an education system, with its confusing abbreviations that no one ever really explains to you; IEP’s, EYFS, EHCP’s, SENCO’s and SEN, with no one there to help us, or even guide us. There is no parent support school advisory service that is experienced, or even has a vague idea on the needs and rights of Adopted children. Hell, schools don’t even know this stuff. Your on ya own!

Here we are, 6 years later, battered and bruised, at our wits end and forced to Home Educate 3 traumatised children. They are all academically many many years behind their peers (despite cognitive results that say they’re more than capable of average progress, in fact baby girl should have been top of her class, not years behind), all completely unable to feel safe in a school environment, and at least 2 of which appear likely to be dyslexic. Its all now left to me to close those gaps, recap the missed EYFS, provide an education and do what schools have been unable to do with their loud busy unpredictable environments, oh and with zero help. Their entire future prospects now lie in my hands! No pressure eh!

Yes zero help, you did read that right! The girls are finally in a position whereby they actually CAN learn, their anxiety is at an all time low, they’re feeling safe in their environment and they’re finally learning! Our LEA have decided though that because we have ‘chosen’ to home educate, yes they feel its was completely our ‘choice’, that they are under no obligation to provide any support, not even via the EHCP that provided £1000’s of pounds worth of funding to school to support Big girls needs, or even a sniff of the £5700 (£1900 each) in pupil premium plus that schools got to support their needs, no, nothing, not a penny, no tutor, no help, no support what so ever. Because apparently ‘a school can meet their needs’. Pah!

Now is it just me that thinks that if a school could meet their needs then they wouldn’t have progressively fallen so far behind academically, that mental health wouldn’t have deteriorated to the point that Big girl needed antidepressants, just to manage school!? Does that sound like ‘school can meet their needs’ to you? No, I didn’t think so. It is in fact just a pathetic excuse for the LEA to absolve themselves of any responsibility for providing my already vulnerable children with the education they deserve and so desperately need due to not having had their educational needs met in school for the last 6 years!

So who’s to blame?

The placing authority for not being realistic about what my girls really needed in those early days?

The Local Education Authority for not providing a good enough education for my girls for the last 6 years?

The local authority for not helping us now?

Or me, for trusting them all?

I guess the real question is which one do I take to court first!

 

 

 

Trust

Published March 18, 2016 by thefamilyof5

TRUST

Firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something:relations have to be built on trust

I have spent the last 6 years trying to earn the trust of my girls, we’ve engaged in services designed to encourage the relationship and promote trust. I have engaged with professionals from various departments always maintaining a very open relationship. Secrets aren’t helpful are they. Helping my girls has always been my one and only agenda.

I have spent the last 6 years trusting that the professionals and support services around us were focused on supporting us to the best of their ability. I have been open, honest and trusting. I have placed my faith in the system.

I made a SAR (subject access request – request for files) with the placing authorities adoption department last year. I also made one with our local authorities education department last month and the high school we withdrew big girl from last October.  They made for interesting reading to say the least.

Trust. Seems it is possible to be too trusting.

I’m finding it increasingly more difficult to place my trust in the very ‘systems’ designed to help and support us. It seems their agenda is different to mine. Theirs involves a lot of finger pointing, back covering, box ticking and secrets it seems.

How can I help my girls to invest their trust in me, in this world that we live in, how can they know who they can turn to for help, when even I am unsure of who I can trust and who I can turn to for help.

Did you know?

Published February 14, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I want to write about the Adoption Support Fund (ASF) because I’ve been shocked and saddened by how many adopters are unaware of its existence. Ive also been appalled at how many adoptive families are finding it difficult to access the ASF. So I’m hoping you’ll all share this with friends and family so that awareness can be raised in the UK adoption community.

The Adoption Support Fund (ASF) is a new fund established to help pay for essential therapy services for adoptive families as and when they need it.

In December 2013 the DFE released a prototype of the ASF to 10 Local Authorities, in May 2015 it opened up the ASF to include ALL 152 local authorities, added 19.3million pounds to the pot and stated “We encourage all Local Authorities to make applications for funding to provide pre and post-adoption therapeutic support”. Funding was initially only secured for 1 year so there was quite a bit of uncertainty about accessing services that would be required for longer than a year. In January 2016 the DFE announced that it would be continuing to provide funding for the ASF with plans to increase it year on year over the next 4 years!

The Department for Education (DfE) is keen that adoptive families have early access to therapeutic parenting training and attachment based therapy – both of which will help to establish relationships and create a stable family environment.

So how can the ASF help adoptive families?

The Fund will provide money for a range of therapeutic services that are identified to help achieve positive outcomes for you and your child

Such as:

  • Therapeutic parenting training
  • Further more complex assessment (e.g CAMHS assessment, multidisciplinary assessment including education and health, cognitive and neuropsychological assessment, other mental health needs assessment.)
  • Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy
  • Theraplay
  • Filial therapy
  • Creative therapies e.g. art, music, drama, play
  • Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing Therapy (EMDR)
  • Non-Violent Resistance (NVR)
  • Sensory integration therapy/Sensory attachment therapy
  • Multi Systemic Therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Specialist clinical assessments where required (e.g. Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder)
  • Extensive life story work with a therapeutic intervention (where therapy is used to help the young person understand and cope with the trauma and difficulties that their life story work might revisit)
  • Respite care (where it is part of a therapeutic intervention)

There are other things you can access the ASF for, this is just a few ideas. You will note the ‘therapeutic theme’ in the above suggestions. The ASF is focused on providing funding for therapeutic support services. It’s not there to fund support groups (even though they can be hugely therapeutic), or provide you with an adoption allowance or even basic life story work for your child, the DFE believe all of these services should be provided by your own local authorities post adoption team and I tend to agree.

Is it easy to access the ASF?

Well it should be, sadly it seems this isn’t always the case. My own experience of the ASF with my own local authority has been hugely positive. We accessed the ASF to provide funding for the DDP therapy the girls have been receiving. Our post adoption social worker came out to visit, completed an assessment of our needs and submitted the application to the ASF of which a reply was received 5 days later. So all very smooth, painless and quick! Honestly, that’s how it should be for all adopters.

Sadly it seems not all LA’s are as informed on the purpose or ease of access of the ASF as our LA are. Some adopters are being met with resistance by LA’s who are reluctant to apply for funding insistent on sending their social workers to provide services that they’re really not qualified to provide or using their own budgets to fund services. This really makes no sense at all, the ASF money isn’t part of own budget so no real reason why they shouldn’t want to use it, in fact, its saving them money in the long run and freeing up their social workers to provide the services they’re supposed to be providing! Then there are also adopters that have been told there is a loooooooooong wait for the Assessment of Needs to be carried out, sometimes as much as 12 months!! This is probably the same authorities that are reluctant to access the fund and instead their social workers are so busy trying to provide therapeutic services that they’re too busy to carry out the very important assessment of needs by new applicants! madness!

My advice is find your required service, present it to your post adoption worker, ask for an assessment of your families needs, which the LA are obligated to carry out, with a view to access the ASF. If your met with resistance, go higher, to the top if you need to, the fund is there to support adopted children and their families, end of, don’t allow yourselves to be fobbed off! As with everything ‘adoption’, it seems some of us even have to fight for the stuff meant for us!

Below I’ve added a couple  of links to information, some of the information/facts I’ve used here ha been taken from these websites. If you didnt know about the ASF please take the time to read through these websites, and if you did know about the ASF, read them anyway, you might discover something new 🙂

Finally, please remember to share this with everyone you know involved in any shape or form with adoption! 🙂

Official ASF website : http://www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk/

First4Adoption : http://www.first4adoption.org.uk/adoption-support/adoption-support-fund/

Also if you want to chat some more, or are having issues accessing the ASF you can tweet @talkadoptsupp or one of the parent representatives on the ‘Expert Advisory Group’ @jenniferj432, @sallydwrites or @nadjasmit who will hopefully be able to answer all your questions 🙂

I’ve linked this post up over at The Adoption Social for their ‘Weekly Adoption Shout Out’ (#WASO), please visit and have a look through all the other great adoption blogs.

How are you feeling today?

Published January 16, 2016 by thefamilyof5

Emotions and feelings is something that middle girl and big girl really struggle with. Outside the safety net of ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ their emotional vocabulary is very limited. They also struggle with recognising emotions in others as well as themselves. Baby girl on the other hand knows all the different types of emotions, but sometimes isn’t able to put them in to the right context and is pretty oblivious to the idea that anyone else even has any feelings.

So I thought we’d incorporate some work around feelings and emotions in to our learning, The girls had great fun making these flip books and colouring them in.

We had a little play with the books and looked at all the different emotions we could make with them. Then I set them a task, I asked them to make a face each, decide what emotion the face was showing, give the face a name and then make up a story to go with it, they had to think it all up in their heads, no help, no sharing ideas.  It took a few attempts but we got there.

They  then shared their emotion/person/story with everyone else. It was so much fun, we laughed a lot!

Baby girl made Bob, Bob was soooo angry because he’d made a special trip to the lego shop and when he got there they didn’t have any lego!

This is middle girl, she made James, James was shocked because he went to his bedroom and found that his little sister had taken all of his toys!

IMG_20160112_1131173~2

Big girl chose Liam, Liam is feeling sleepy and happy apparently. He’s happy because he’s going to a party today and sleepy because the excitement kept him awake all night! (The face she pulled to demonstrate sleepy and happy was toooo funny, I wish I could show you!)

IMG_20160112_1133330~2

We’ve kept these books, I intend to re-visit this regularly with the hope of improving big girl and middle girls ability to recognize and express their own, and other peoples, emotions and hopefully baby girl will start to realise that actually, she isn’t the only person on the planet with feelings!

Ive linked this up with #WASO over at The Adoption Social where you’ll find loads of really great adoption blogs to read 🙂

*edit I found the idea here : http://blog.theautismsite.com/smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet/?utm_source=aut-autaware&utm_medium=social-fb&utm_term=010916&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet&origin=aut_autaware_social_fb_link_smarty-teaching-emotions-booklet_010916

Our school to home ed Journey…………

Published January 8, 2016 by thefamilyof5

I have some new followers, I guess the new ‘Home Education’ tags have drawn interest from different circles so I guess I had better do a quick post to fill everyone in! are you sitting comfortably, you might want to go wee and grab a coffee before you start!

We tried school, it didn’t work for us, we now Home Educate

Of course there’s a lot more to it, so here goes……………….

The girls first came home at the beginning of summer meaning we had to get their names down for school before we’d even met them! We knew nothing of schools, or the education system never mind what the needs of our soon to be daughters would be so we had to rely on local advice when choosing the school/nursery. We opted for our largest primary, within walking distance, it came highly recommended by some of our older neighbors who had sent their, now grown up, children there. We visited, had the guided tour, I even took my mom along! It seemed lovely, they had lots of space, lots of staff and lots of experience with SEN apparently. We filled in the forms.

It was fine for about a year, well kind of, but then, so were the girls, kind of, it took about a year for us to realise that they were ‘too fine’. We soon realised this was compliance. Once they realised that we’d realised they were faking it, well the masks came off and the games began. We paid more attention to the subtle clues they gave us, we connected the dots and we noticed more. Baby girl, well she was a unraveling at school. She didn’t feel safe, there was too much going on, too many faces, too much time where she wasn’t supervised, and she knew it, she was stealing food/milk, cutting up her school clothes, being disruptive in class, being unkind to her peers, her name spent more and more time in the ‘red zone’ on the classroom wall. ‘She needs to know your watching her and keeping her safe, think toddler’ we said, ‘We are’ they said ‘So how did she manage to cut her dress up in class if you were watching her, she knows your not watching her, and your behavior system is making her feel ashamed’ we said.

Big girl was also struggling, she didn’t have any friends, she was constantly falling out with people in her class, her work was falling more and more behind, she was getting more and more frustrated, she began self harming at break and lunch times, she shouted at teachers and ran away from lunch time staff. She was scared and didn’t feel safe.

Middle girl was invisible. ‘she’s so helpful isn’t she’ they said. ‘she’s trying to please you because she doesn’t feel safe’ we said, ‘she’s got such a lovely smile’ they said. She became more and more invisible, hiding her fear behind her smile.

I cant blame it all on the school/staff, this was before the Pupil Premium, they had no real experience of traumatised children and neither did we. We didn’t know what they should be doing to support the girls needs and neither did they. But we knew the girls didn’t feel safe in school, we gave it 3 years before we realised we needed a smaller school with less faces, less space, less visitors, less everything.

So the hunt for a smaller school began. We narrowed it down to 2. One within our local area and one further afield. The closest one had a warm family feel about it, but the head openly admitted she knew nothing of attachment or trauma but would en-devour to do her best to support their needs. The school that was further away was marginally bigger, had that same warm friendly family feel about it and a head teacher that said she knew all about attachment and trauma as they had lots of adopted and looked after children in school. We signed the forms.

September came, by October it was very apparent that the head teacher, nor the staff knew anything about the needs of truamatised children, the open door policy the head teacher claimed to have was more like a door slammed in your face policy. Thankfully November bought her resignation. It took the best part of that academic year for a replacement head teacher to be appointed, it was a difficult year to say the least, a wasted year really, no relationships were made, no trust was gained so no learning took place. We then had quite possibly the worst summer ever, the anticipation of the return to a school that didn’t understand them was just too much for the girls. We entered a new academic year weary and tired. Thankfully that September bought a new head teacher and with it renewed hope. My hope wasn’t misplaced either, he was/is amazing. He listened, he accommodated and he did his very best to understand. He put measures in place, the most important of which was a Key Worker, she was/is also amazing. Between the two of them they did their very best to support us all as a family during what was Big girls last year in primary school. They used some of their pupil premium money on attachment training, removed the girls from their behavior modification systems, put in specialist support at crucial times throughout every day, added flexibility/consideration to the curriculum and vast amounts of extra learning support.

So the hunt for a high school began. We researched all the local and not local high schools, we knew a big school would be too much for her so we opted for a smaller one (same size as the first primary school but smallest we could get) outside our catchment area but everyone agreed it was the only suitable place for her, well everyone except the LEA, without knowing anything about her, they were adamant our local high school, 3 times the size, would be fine so they refused to support us with transport. We knew our daughter best and applied for the smaller one, it was there or Home Ed, we knew that much. We got the EHC plan the high school said she’d need and we did our best to make it through the year. Big girls tantrums worsened as her anxiety increased, baby girl got closer and closer to school refusal needing more and more support each day and middle girl finally found the courage to remove her mask at home and tell us and our therapist that even though she said she did, she really didn’t like school at all, she found it scary. There was a lot more to all of this, I’m simplifying it, many incidents, many indicators, many sick days due to stress, many tears and much hard work and relentless support from the school.

September came and before we even got big girl to high school, there were problems. Aside from discovering that the tutor she’d met during her transition meetings was going on maternity leave, We discovered days before school was due to start that the crucial key worker that they’d assigned to big girl, the one person that had the ability to help her feel safe in school by taking the time to build up a trusting relationship, was also key worker for many many other children most of which outwardly displayed their needs, unlike big girl who would need time and patience and trust before she would be able to even consider to ‘open up’. I feared she would become invisible, her needs over shadowed by the needs of those more secure needy children. I wasn’t wrong. By mid September Id already had a meeting with school, exchanged several heated emails and already requested an emergency review of her EHC plan. Her needs were going totally unrecognised, they were utterly unable to see past her compliance. Her anxiety was very apparent at home, once she got home and felt safe it would all come out, often in violent rages. Things were also made worse because despite her EHC Plan being in place with details of 17.5 hours worth of support including social skills support, reading support, emotional language support, classroom support, she received nothing more than a room to spend break/lunch times in, where she would build a den under the desk in order to feel safe, and a busy key worker to share with various other needy children. She’d scraped through a level 3 in SATS just a few months prior, yet was expected to do level 5 work, or at least try, without any support. By October things had become completely unmanageable for all of us. Big girls anxiety was through the roof and it was effecting the entire family. Middle girl had completely stopped ‘learning’ and was needing more and more support, she was withdrawing and showing signs of underlying anger, baby girl wasn’t sleeping, crying, clinging to me each morning and not wanting to go to school and becoming more and more ambivalent in our relationship. CAMHS had agreed to prescribe big girl with medication for her anxiety 😦

Half term came and the week was spent agonizing over what to do. Id asked both the LEA and high school for a review of big girls EHC plan several times, no action was ever taken. I was about to medicate my child ‘just’ so she could manage school. Middle girl was withdrawing from ‘relationships’ and becoming ‘shut down’. Baby girl was a mess, she was angry with me for making her go to school, but clingy and needy at the same time. All of this, just for school! We had to draw the line. We’d spent 5 years trying to get the girls to feel safe in school, things were getting worse not better. How much more of their childhoods could we spend unhappy and stressed out, just because of school!? They needed so much more joy in their lives, they deserved happiness!

So we made the decision to home educate. It wasn’t a snap decision, it had been on the cards for over a year, we’d discussed it with several professionals as well as family members, Id made no secret of it. It certainly wasn’t my choice, but I knew that we might at some point have to accept that they were just unable to manage a school environment. Id really hoped that the high school would get it right, if they had, well maybe things would have been different, if things had been going well for at least one of them, maybe it would have given us enough ‘hope’ to carry on. But it didn’t, it was falling apart from all angles, even with a super supportive primary school, baby girl and middle girl just weren’t improving and big girl, well she didn’t stand a chance at a high school that couldn’t even see her needs, never mind meet them. If we’d just de-registered Big girl, well, there was no way Id have got the other 2 in school, and if I’d forced them, the damage to our relationship would have been catastrophic. This was a make or break decision for our family.

So here we are. Big girls anxiety has reduced so much that we no longer feel she needs anxiety medication. Baby girl is happy, I can almost see her heart smiling, middle girl, well, her confidence has soared!
My only regret is that we didn’t do it sooner!

PS remember the LEA that insisted our local huge high school was the best place for big girl, and as such wouldn’t support us with transport to the smaller further away school, well since I asked again for her EHCP to be reviewed in November, with a view to name Home Education and apply for a personal budget for tuition, they’ve now decided that the smaller high school, that they refused transport for, is the best place for her and are still refusing to review her EHCP (Education Health Care Plan)! Couldn’t make it up could ya!

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