support

All posts tagged support

Hello, is there anybody there?

Published November 20, 2017 by thefamilyof5

Its been a while eh, I’ve so much to update you with, especially if you haven’t been following my Facebook page, or Instagram.

So. I’ll break it up in to two parts.  Before July & since July.

Before July

Things were brilliant. The girls were calm, I was calm. They were enjoying their tuition and learning. We were making some lovely memories. Our DDP therapy had mostly stopped, a few sessions with Big girl, but sessions mostly just involving me with the focus on giving me a space to reflect therapeutically. They were attending a dance class and a cookery class and had joined our local ParkRun community event.

Baby girl was really benefiting from having me near, her attachment getting more and more secure. She was also beginning to show signs of maturing. Still clingy, but growing up socially. She was having deeper thoughts that didn’t just revolve around herself and food. She remained adamant however that she would never be going back to school. Ever. Hmmm we’ll see young lady!

Big girl was plodding along. Her difficult ways remained, our attachment was still an issue, especially in respect of school work/home education, but overall things were pleasant and she was happy to work for the tutors. She even found a new love of maths. The issues we faced were simply with regard to her education, she was resistant to do any work for me. It was just like the homework difficulties we faced when she was in school. We decided it was time to look at getting her back in to formal education. She hadnt really ‘grown’ as much as we’d hoped and a more formal setting with social opportunities she could manage, in an environment that understood her was what we felt she now needed. She hadnt grown enough to manage mainstream education as we’d planned so that left us with special school’s. I spent a few months researching local SEN schools and found the one I thought she could manage. I let the SEND team know of our request towards the end of June.

Middle girl, well, what can I say, she has absolutely thrived since we removed her from school.  She’s grown way more confident, her speech is brilliant, in fact some days you cant shut her up, she’s been enjoying imaginative play, messy play, she’s been dancing and singing and being funny, she’s funny, who knew!? She has really started to open up, trusting me with some of her feelings, trusting me to say ‘yes’ when she wants something, trusting me not to reject her, our attachment really beginning to blossom.

Since July.

Late spring the therapist and I agreed that the DDP hadnt been as beneficial as we’d hoped, especially for Big girl. We agreed that some 1:1 basic life story work might help her move a few obstacles that would then allow her to engage in the DDP work later on down the line. Big girls attachment was a big focus, always had been, and the root to all of the small difficulties we were facing, including her reluctance to receive an education from me.

So the work began in the first week of July. It immediately became tricky with her first meltdown less than a few days later. We’d seen nothing like this since she was in school. A few more sessions took place and the meltdowns returned, each time increasing in severity. She became violent again. Always towards me. Baby girl and Middle girl were scared again. And angry that this scary behavior from big girl had returned. No one could understand it, not even big girl. She was being swept under a wave of anxiety that she wasn’t expecting, didn’t understand, and didn’t know how to escape from. She was fighting to control the waves but they just kept coming.

The application for the SEN school slowed down because of the end of year and then of course the school holidays. I went to a meeting to talk about her needs and let them know the importance of her moving to the right school. Especially now, the return of her violence reminded me of how difficult things had been when she was in mainstream school and not coping. We couldn’t afford to get it wrong again. None of us would survive that again.

It was around this same time that our replacement post adoption social worker was assigned to us, our previous one had retired at the start of the year. It felt like she had come just at the right time, had she been assigned to us a month before, we’d have sent her packing, but instead, just like Nanny Mcphee, she was there just as we needed her. Id like to say that she made everything better but I cant. I wont go in to details but needless to say for the first time ever I felt judged and blamed for big girls difficulties. So much for Nanny McPhee!

Things got worse, my bruises got bigger and new ones began appearing before the old ones had time to heal. She was bigger than last time, stronger. Baby girl and middle girl were totally traumatised and big girl had succumbed to the darkness. She was feeling more and more unreachable as every second passed. She was angry, putting her self in danger, defiant, obstructive, self harming, arrogant and generally just bloody awful. We’d opened Pandoras box inside her head, she didn’t know how to close it, she wouldn’t let us help her close it and each therapy session served only to open it more. She wasn’t ready. She was completely overwhelmed, filled with hatred and anger I’ve never seen in her before, she was barely recognizable. By September we were all on our knees and we needed real help.

Our therapist was reluctant to believe that the therapy was the cause of all the violence and aggression, since they hadn’t apparently discussed anything difficult yet, so she wanted to continue. She nor the social worker were able to accept the impact that the volatility and violence was having on baby girl and middle girl (never mind the rest of us), nor did they seem to understand that we had no respite options and very limited child care. we needed help. It was really 24/7. During a meeting with the post adoption team and our therapist they all apparently agreed that the issues we were having were simply ours, nothing related to attachment or trauma, we were simply struggling to parent a typical teenager and needed generic parenting advice. There was nothing they could do. In other words, we screamed for help and they put their backs against a wall and blamed us. Case closed. A referral was made to a generic parenting support team and we rang CAMHS in desperation.

We had the usual difficulties getting access to CAMHS, because big girl has a diagnosis of Autism everything is instantly blamed on it and we get told ‘its normal autism behavior’, this is before they even meet with us, never mind with big girl. We protested and they agreed to meet us to talk through the difficulties. They agreed after lengthy discussion and a few tears from me that it sounded like big girl was in fact overloaded with anxiety and would likely benefit from some medical support. We would need to wait for another appointment.

The SEND department have agreed to a SEN placement for Big girl (she has no idea yet) but do not agree that the school we chose is the best one to meet her needs. Our nearest generic SEN school is adequate they feel and as such will not provide transport to the school we need for her. Without transport she cant go. She wont last a week in the generic school they’re proposing. So we’re stuck. We need to find a way through. She needs an education. She wont accept an education from me. We know the consequences of putting her in the wrong school. She’s too fragile for us to get this wrong. Things have become even more difficult with her at home and at this rate we’ll need a residential school or foster care. This now needs to be sorted out fast but no one seems to be in a hurry.

Since the start of the life story work in July, big girl has either been angry or manically happy. Neither is pleasant. Whilst she’s never been easy, she has always been respectful, kind and gentle. Never one to break rules or be cheeky really. We haven’t seen the big girl we’re used to for many months now. She’s still in there though, I haven’t given up hope of that.

This weekend, after another long week of her anger brewing and tensions increasing things reached a peak. She hurt us and then she put her self in danger by climbing on to a roof, we were left with no alternative but to call the police for help.

The policeman arrived, lovely he was, very gentle and kind and understanding. Whilst the Sunday roast, that I’d popped in the oven in an attempt to maintain some normality, roasted away in the oven, he tried to calm down big girl, reason with her and ultimately diffuse the situation. She finally came indoors but she wasn’t calm. He stayed for over an hour, almost long enough to join us for dinner. He apologised that there wasn’t much that he could offer by way of practical support. He could see she was a child struggling with her emotions. She remained rude towards him the entire time. He made a ‘referral’ which he said should bring help, or at least get us some much needed attention. Baby girl and Middle girl, whilst they still found the entire ordeal traumatic, they coped surprisingly well. He left. We ate dinner, she chose to eat in a different room to the ‘stupid idiots’ otherwise known as her family.

We’re all still feeling quite shell shocked today unsurprisingly. Big girl hasn’t really been able to reflect or even really calm down, we’re all still ‘stupid idiots’ (worst words she knows) but she isn’t hurting anyone, for now. She’s angry at the bruises to her foot and hand that she sustained whilst kicking and punching the (unlocked) double glazed door. She’s annoyed that we removed her from the house, to the safety of the back garden (nearest place), to stop her from hitting, kicking and biting us more. She doesn’t really even understand why we’re expecting her to say or feel sorry. She isn’t able to acknowledge her own actions at all or look at me for fear of seeing the fresh bruises she left on my skin. Again. She is feeling ashamed I think, but doesn’t understand that feeling. She knows only anger or happiness and she isn’t feeling very happy right now. None of us are.

The lady from the generic parenting support place is due tomorrow morning, we might actually terrify her. If she brings a sticker chart god help her!

Despite the events of this weekend, CAMHS are unable to see us any sooner than the already scheduled appointment next week they say.

So that’s us. Hows your year been? 🙂

 

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What price should we pay for an education?!

Published May 10, 2016 by thefamilyof5

Why must everything be one long continuous fight!?

In the last 6 years I don’t think there has ever been a time when I’ve not been fighting for support for something for my children! Social care, medical support, education, its never ending!

I’ve been through some pretty tough things in my life, but being an adoptive parent is by far the hardest. Its a really lonely journey, and not many people, professional or not, truly understand the difficulties faced by children suffering the long term effects of neglect and trauma, which makes getting any support nigh on impossible.

We were forced to home educate the girls last year, it wasn’t planned, and it certainly wasn’t choice. Id hoped that the Local Education Authority (LEA) would help us, Id hoped that they’d recognise that I’ve done, am doing, everything I possibly can to help my girls achieve the very best they can. It seems not. We requested some help to fund some tuition via big girls EHC Plan (education health care plan, replaced the statement of special educational needs), not a lot, just a few measly hours a week, I think I said 3hours. It seems that even though they were giving schools thousands of pounds to support her in school, plus the £1900 for her Pupil Premium, they cant even pay for a few hours of tuition. She’s only 3+ years behind though so what the hell eh! Who needs an education anyway!

I also applied recently for an EHC Plan for middle girl, school had planned to do it just before we removed her. The LEA wrote to me today, apparently they don’t feel she qualifies even for an assessment, something to do with mostly achieving a level 2a in year 4 and being seen by an autism service to be chatting to a peer at school on one occasion and seeming to understand the instructions in class?! Mostly nonsense, the Level 2a was probably the only accurate part.

I currently pay £20 a week for 1hours math tuition for my girls. All I wanted was 3hours! 3 measly hours of tuition!! £60 a week! I’m fairly sure all the EHCP panels and tribunals they’ll make me attend will cost a hell of a lot more than £60 a week! They all attracted £1900 each in pupil premium at school, that’s without an EHC Plan, apparently I cant even access that, so where is that money now, what happens to it? The government set it aside for my children’s education, yet they can’t access it unless we completely risk destroying their mental health, and our family unit, just so they can be in school!?

My LEA would prefer I put big girl on anxiety medication (the real cost of which would no doubt be life long and provided by a different department) and sent her to school, rather than provide a few hours a week in tuition! They would rather that middle girl withdrew back in to herself and spent every day scared and confused in school (with therapy paid for by someone else for her foreseeable future), than provide her with a few hours tuition! They would rather my baby girl gave in to the chaos within her, detached from the world and survived in school (with services funded by all manner of departments throughout her life to keep her on the straight and narrow), than support her in an environment that she feels safe. My LEA don’t care if my children are achieving, feeling safe, happy and content (they weren’t in school) or having a mental breakdown, being medicated, or even if our family breaks down, because the cost of all that comes down to a different department!

It shouldn’t be this hard. ALL of my girls deserve an education and the opportunities that will provide them with, but they all also deserve a mommy that isn’t completely exhausted from providing it.

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

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.

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!

I’m ONLY the mom!

Published October 19, 2015 by thefamilyof5

So things are not really going to plan at High School. My big girl is finding it very difficult and school are finding it very difficult to see past her fake smile and provide the support she so desperately needs, which is mostly free I’ll add, just a little bit of empathy and lot of understanding and a little forethought is really all she needs, We’re not talking laptops and 1:1 staffing here. She’s coming home tearful and sad and feeling inadequate, I preferred it when she was angry I think, at least she still seemed to have some fight left in her. In just under 6 weeks of big girl being at high school, communication between home and school has become quite strained. I’ve been labelled as the neurotic parent that makes shit up. Its all in my head it seems!

So, there is a meeting that’s been arranged by the Senco at high school. Its a very important meeting. Its a meeting to discuss how to support my girl I’m told. Everyone will be there, all the professionals. A lot rests on the out-come of this meeting. Among the lucky attendees will be the autism support services, the head teacher from primary school, our post adoption social worker, even someone from the local authority SEND team is going. Its going to be a big meeting I expect, they’re going to need a really big table, lots of chairs to I expect, probably someone on hand to make tea and coffee and serve the odd biscuit. Everyone will sit around together, work together and discuss my girl, her needs and how they can work together to best support her. Id imagine someone will take minutes, which is a bloody good job really because according to the Senco, I’m not invited, apparently its a meeting for professionals and as I’m ‘ONLY’ a parent, he feels it wouldn’t be ‘appropriate’!

Happy National Adoption Week Everyone! #NAW2015

Dear Teacher

Published October 11, 2015 by thefamilyof5

Dear Teacher,

I want to tell you about my girl, she grew up in an environment where the adults couldn’t be trusted, but you know this because I told you. She learnt that the best way to keep herself safe was to always be ‘OK’, remember, just like when I told you how she likes to always appear ‘ok’ even though she isnt?? She learnt that from a very early age ‘smiling’ all the time kept her safe, when she smiled no one bothered her, but when she cried, or needed a nappy change or even just some food, the adults weren’t always too happy about this. So she smiled, it was the safest way to be, you know, just like I told you.

The thing is, her smile switch gets stuck when she feels scared, the same as it did when she was small. She cant turn it off, she doesn’t even know how to. She really wants to, she finds it so frustrating to not be able to frown, cry, ask for help. She really wishes people would help her, but she just cant let herself be anything less than ‘ok’. Her ‘smile switch’ gets stuck when she’s at school. Remember when I said I needed you to help her even when she looked ok?

You’ll have noticed the lack of anything other than ‘happy’ from her I’m sure. You probably think its strange that a child that received so much support in Primary school is seemingly happy and settled after only a few weeks in high school with very little support. You may have even noticed how little she needs, how helpful she is, and of course the smile she wears, every day, without fail. I’m sure you will have, because these are all the things I told you about before she came to your school.

When she’s at home her ‘smile switch’ gets un-stuck, she no longer feels terrified, she feels safe. She tells me about her day sometimes, how scared she has felt and how hard it was. She tells me its her fault that no one helps her, she tells me that she thinks she is stupid for not telling you that she needs help. She tells me about the times that she really tries her hardest to show you, but all she can manage to do is to tell you, smile intact, that she has a headache. She tells me how disappointed she feels when you still don’t realise that she needs your help. Then, she shows me the only other emotion she’s learnt. Anger. She learnt this one early on too. She saw the adults around her get angry a lot. She learnt all about fear and anger, in fact they’re probably the only 2 emotions she is really familiar with. She’s just as good at showing ‘anger’ as she is at showing ‘happy’.

So I’m wondering why, when I gave you all of this information about her, when I told you all about the signs to watch out for, the smile, the helping, the facade. Why is it that you are still unable to believe me when I tell you that she is feeling un-safe in school? Why is it that you are still not supporting her? Why is it that you are even sometimes careless about the things you say to her or the work you set for her? Why is this so difficult for you to understand?

Perhaps its because you don’t live with a child that has lived a life similar to the that which my girl has lived, perhaps its that you have never even met as child as scared as mine, or perhaps its just that it is too hard for you to think about, too hard to consider that you don’t know how to help her and support her, maybe its just too hard to believe that I know her best. Well you don’t need to worry. Because I’m here to tell you everything you need to know about my girl so that you can help her feel safe in your school. I know my girl better than anyone so your rather lucky to have my insight, but I seem to remember telling you all that before as well, do you remember? It was just before you promised that we could work together to support her. I’m so glad we had all those meetings. I’m so glad that I trusted you to support my girl just liked you promised you would.

Kindest Regards,

Pissed off Parent!

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