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Big Girls letter to her new teacher.

Published July 1, 2013 by thefamilyof5

I’ve put together introduction booklets for the girls new teachers in September, last year I shared Big Girls letter and many of you commented on how much you liked it so I’m going to share them all with you this time.

Hello my name is Big Girl

My mummy has put together this little booklet to help you understand me.

In 2010 I came to live with my new mummy and daddy. I’ve had a very difficult start in life and this has meant that I’ve developed a little differently to other children, I’m emotionally and socially very behind so I might need you to be extra considerate of this sometimes and not expect me to be the same as the other children my age. I’m also autistic which Mommy says makes me very special as I get to see the world differently to everyone else.

Sometimes the adults that were in control of my early life did things to make me feel scared and frightened. This has meant that I sometimes find it very hard to let adults be in control, sometimes I feel like the only way I can keep safe is to be in control myself. I might do this by being super helpful or chatting to you a lot. This sometimes means I forget to just be a little girl and do little girl things so I might need you to help me do things children do, rather than things adults do by helping me to feel safe. I sometimes forget the differences between adults and children and might try to get you to be my friend instead of my teacher, I’ll need you to make sure this doesn’t happen but please be careful not to reject me, I’ve suffered enough rejection my mummy says.

I’ve been finding school very difficult, my old school is big and busy and noisy and I don’t always cope with this very well which is why Mommy thinks your small, calm school will help me to feel relaxed and safe. Sometimes I might still feel scared and frightened, but I won’t know how to tell you this so I need you to keep a close eye on my behavior and my mood, I’m very good at pretending to be ok.

Classrooms can be quite scary for me. There are children all around and people walking around outside and up and down the corridors. Please help me by sitting me close to you and with my back to a wall and not a door, that way I don’t need to be worried about what’s going on behind me. My hearing is really good, I developed this early on as a way to keep myself safe, this means that I may become easily distracted by other noises inside and outside of the classroom, I might also hear conversations not meant for me, please don’t be annoyed with me, I’m just trying to keep myself safe.

I don’t have much confidence and my self-esteem is rock bottom my mummy says, so sometimes when you ask me to try to do something I’m so scared of getting it wrong and upsetting you that I choose not to even try. I will need you to gently encourage me, but please don’t try and force me as this will scare me. I will always try to keep you happy as that’s when I will feel safest so just because I say I understand what my work/homework is, it’s doesn’t mean I really do, I just don’t want to annoy you so please make sure I really have understood what you’ve asked me to do by asking me to explain it back to you.

Sometimes when it looks like I’m having lots of fun and behaving ‘silly’, I’m actually very anxious and need your help to calm me down and reassure me that everything is ok. I might worry about new topics, new tasks and tests. I will find it really hard to talk or read in front of the class so please don’t make me if I don’t want to. When I’ve learnt to trust you I might feel a bit braver and more willing to try.  I also might get worried if someone new comes into the classroom or even if I see a new face in the corridor, I might worry it’s a social worker coming to take me away. I might get upset if we do any work or topics on families or about when we were babies.  Some of my memories may be difficult for me to think about as well as talk about, there may be things I don’t know about my early years making it even more difficult for me to take part. I might get worried about trips or new activities and will need you to explain to me exactly what is going to happen and what I will be doing and who will be keeping me safe, but if you can, please don’t tell me about things too early as I may worry about it at night when I’m trying to sleep. If I get really anxious, please let me know I can ring my mummy, sometimes just suggesting it is enough reassurance to let me know I’m safe and it’s all ok.

I find the playground very scary. I don’t really know how to make friends and I’m scared that if I try to be someone’s friend that they might not like me. There hasn’t been much in my life that I’ve been able to control so I prefer to do things  my way as that’s when I feel safest, the other children don’t always want to do things my way and I find this frustrating and sometimes get angry and hurt myself. It would really help my mummy if you could tell her about any upsets, sulks or strops I have at school.

I don’t like telling my mummy when I’ve had a bad day as I worry she might be disappointed with me. Mummy likes to help me when I’ve been finding things difficult by keeping me close and calm so I can feel safe again.

My mummy has put this book together to help you understand me, I hope you will read it. If you want to talk to my mummy about anything in this book or anything you see me doing or hear me saying, she will be happy to chat, she can talk about me for hours and she knows me better than anyone else.

My mummy has put lots of useful information in this booklet, please copy anything you might want to refer to again or keep as a reminder, please give this book back to mummy when you’ve had a good read so she can give it to my next teacher next year. Mommy says she knows me better than anyone else so if she can do anything to help you, help me, she will.

I hope we have a lovely time learning together.

Copy of Education Now and Understanding Why Included.

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Education Now – My Review

Published June 4, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Teachers in the UK get very little training if any at all, on attachment and the effects of early trauma, so its hardly surprising really that so many adopters struggle to get the needs of their children understood in school.  So I’m always trying to find ways of helping school to understand and support my girls better. Can you imagine how excited I was when I stumbled across Adoption UK‘s magazine called Education Now. I was elated. I quickly purchased several copies for school and a copy for myself.

“Education Now takes a more in-depth look at education and the various ways parents and teachers can work together to create a successful environment for children who have suffered early trauma, abuse or neglect.”

I’ve never written a ‘book review’ so I’m not sure if there is a right or wrong way to go about it, but I love this magazine so much that I almost feel morally obligated to tell you all about it. So here goes.

The magazine is introduced by Adoption UK’s editor Karam Radwan. She talks about the effects of early trauma and neglect and goes on to  talk about the impact of these and how it results in the child developing differently. A particular extract that I like is:

“Adopters and foster carers are nowadays taught about brain development and how to make up for early losses so they are able to parent their children therapeutically. That is helping the child to calm and regulate him or herself so they can deal with everyday situations without reacting in primitive ways of flight, fright or freeze.

It is obvious then that parents can come into conflict with teachers that may wonder why this child is any different, why they should do things differently for this child.

This magazine sets out to explain why things are indeed different and the type of strategies that can help this child or children to really move on from their past towards a much happier and emotionally stable future. These are strategies that could benefit a whole classroom or even school as it is based on providing a calm and safe environment for all.”

There is also then an introduction from Adoption UK’s Chief Executive Hugh Thornbery. Hugh talks about adoption statistics in the UK and how Adoption UK receive many calls from adopters seeking help with school related difficulties.

“For over 40 years, we at Adoption UK  have been providing support to adoptive families through those who are the real experts – other adopters.”

Following this is a great article by Helen Oakwater. Writer, coach and adoptive parent herself, she talks about ‘Why are these children any different?’ she starts by saying

“‘Its ok, I know all about dealing with adopted children because lots of the children in this class have divorced parents’ replied a teacher when i attempted to explain my daughters unique needs due to adoption. Oh how I wish I’d had this magazine; one copy for her, one for the staffroom”

This is such a great article, perhaps my favorite, being an adoptive mother of a sibling group for 2 decades she has a wealth of experience to share. She talks about everything from how looks can be deceiving right through to challenging erratic behavior. She covers how a child’s view of the world is impacted by what she describes as ‘toxic parenting’. She has some great illustrations throughout her article as well as a very easy to understand explanation of how unmet early needs creates insecurities. Just like ‘Wall Demonstration’ shown on Adoption UK’s website.

Next is an article by Adoption UK’s editor and adoptive mother Karam Radwan, she talks about ‘A different kind of parenting’.  Her article is very informative covering adoption process and some of the struggles that adoptive parents may face. She also talks about the effects of neglect and trauma and goes on to offer input on therapeutic parenting techniques and how and why they work.

“parenting and teaching a child can become very frustrating if after all your best efforts, attention and sympathy you are still confronted with a child who remains hostile and resistant or distant and disengaged.”

Then we have an article by the Chair of PACS (Post Adoption Central Support) Eileen Bebbington. She talks about ‘learning the language’.  She talks about hyper-vigilance, and how children may be too scared to ‘show weakness’.

“This calls for ingenuity from teachers. Again, they can say to the whole class that you know some of them will find it hard to ask for help and see if they can come up with non-verbal ways to do it. Perhaps children could have a coloured card they can place on a table when they need help.  Alternatively a code word.” 

She talks about other language barriers that the children may present with and how this might look in a classroom environment. She also talks about school policy.

“These issues are so important that they need policy decisions at school level, not just by individual teachers”.

Next Dr Caroline Ross-McCall, an educational psychologist working for a London Borough, recently completed a doctorate which focused on the education of adopted children. In this article, Dr Ross-McCall summarises what would make a difference in they eyes of teachers and parents.

“A finding from this study was the call for the profile of adopted children in schools to be raised, so that there is greater recognition of their potential vulnerability and priority given to quickly identifying and responding to any needs that may arise.”

Following that is an article by experienced teacher and adoptive parent Sue Gott. ‘She draws on research into attachment, resilience and neurological development and the therapeutic approaches used in counselling to develop realistic classroom strategies to nurture and support the learning of children struggling with social, emotional and behavioral difficulties’.  She uses ‘Demi’ as the name for the adopted child she refers to throughout her article. She talks about how star charts and conventional behavior management strategies didn’t work for Demi. She talks about how a ‘different way of teaching’ might offer opportunities to go back and fill the gaps. She talks about the benefits of Nurture Groups but also the reality that for some schools this is just not a financial option. I particularly like that she comments of the differences between chronological and emotional ages.

“For the child with insecure attachment difficulties recognition of emotional age is the key to effective differentiation and intervention. The phrase ‘Thinking Toddler’ coined by Caroline Archer, herself an adoptive parent, neatly sums up the discrepancy between chronological age and emotional age.”

Next is an article about supporting children affected by insecure and disrupted attachments, trauma and loss by PAC schools trainer Julia Clements. She explains the importance of nurture and structure for traumatised children. She gives lots of tips and advice on how to offer nurturing opportunities even things as simple as offering thick drinks to drink through a straw, or sucking a drink through a sports cap as these are known to soothe children. She also offers tips and advice on structure and boundaries and things as simple as sitting on the same spot on the carpet each day and visual timers etc. I particularly like her suggestions of Louise Bombers ‘Calm Box’

A calm box is a tool that can be used by an adult that has established a good relationship with a child, once the adult is working well with a child, they may want to use a calm box to help the child to regulate their emotions. A calm box is a box with a lid which contains cards which outline simple activities which are known to reduce a child’s level of arousal and help them to feel calm again’

She then goes on to talk about sensitive issues that may arise with particular subjects, most are fairly obvious, baby photo’s and family tree’s etc but some are less obvious, for example some children with a history of abuse may feel uncomfortable changing for PE in front of others.

Next is an article by Louise Bomber, as a teacher and therapist she has worked in schools on many levels. She starts with thought provoking opening line.

“Have you ever been misunderstood or felt bewildered, suspicious, confused or frustrated  well, this is familiar territory for the pupil who has experienced significant relational traumas and losses”

She talks about how a child that has suffered significant relational trauma and losses may view the world, there’s clearly a reason why she is so highly regarded in her field, she offers great insight in her article. Here are a few of my favorite lines.

“If the world was viewed through an insecure attachment lens anything can happen at anytime”.

“Pupils are not the same: each pupil is different in their developmental needs and therefore so are school staffs required and necessary responses.”

“Experience has shaped their world and influences the present as if the past were reality right now”

Next is another great article by Marion Allen, adoptive parent and educational consultant, this article is available online and can be read in full here “What you dont know will harm them”

Next Sue Clifford, adoptive mum of nine shares some of her experiences with her article ‘How to Avoid Triggering Trauma Memories’.  she talks about the adoptive parents role in helping and supporting the teaching staff involved by helping them to understand the effects of trauma on the child’s development and helping them to see things from the child’s perspective, past and present. She also covered the curriculum and how some area’s may trigger trauma memories.

“History:  The study of World War Two with stories of children being evacuated and move to other families resonates with children who have been moved from family to family with no control over what happens to them”

‘Working with parents’ is the next article by Sarah Allkins, Co founder of Chrysalis Associates,  adoptive parent and former foster carer.

” To help a vulnerable young person in school, teachers and parents need to work together and understand each other”

She details some of the problematic behaviors that are presented in school and how schools need to work together with parents and find strategies that work. She details common danger area’s in schools such as ‘unstructured times’ and even gives examples of specific consequences that don’t work, and those that do.

Finally there is an article titled ‘Helping children to Start Again’ by play therapist, drama therapist  and registered adoption support worker Joan Moore. She shares her top tips for teachers to help understand and work with children who have extra needs. She uses a great case study as an example of how engaging in play can help children. She talks about the difficulties children face in school and also cover’s the effects trauma has on development.

“Traumatised children are always ‘on guard’, their normality is a state of high arousal that leaves them unable to think straight, liable to misread a troubled expression on an adults face as anger and disapproval  and suffering shame at her lack of control. Some dissociate but their suppression of feelings may only delay their return to equilibrium (Carroll 2001).”

I really don’t think my review covers just how great as resource this magazine is, the best way to find out for yourselves is to buy a copy or 10, and share it with schools in the hope that things will change. In fact I think ALL schools should have at least one copy!

The Home School Diary

Published May 14, 2013 by thefamilyof5

If your a regular reader you’ll know that we’ve had some behavioral issues with baby girl at school. Since we made the decision to move middle girl from their shared room, baby girl has been sleeping considerably better and consequently the frequency and severity of her ‘difficult behaviors’ are much less. They haven’t gone though.  I recently asked our GP to make a referral for baby girl to see our community pediatrician as I’m wondering if baby girl might have some sensory issues. If she does, it would explain the issues she had with sharing a room and also explain why she becomes so easily dysregulated.

Anyway, I knew a long time ago that baby girl was struggling at school for various reasons, so I put together a helpful guide for her teacher before the start of the school year last July, I did one for all of the girls, you can read big girls here. I also included a copy of the National Children Bureau ‘Understanding Why’ booklet. Baby girls letter was obviously different to big girls as it focused on her needs, here is a  small extract:

Sometimes when it looks like I’m having lots of fun and behaving ‘silly or excited’, I’m actually not coping very well and may need your help to calm me down and reassure me that everything is ok. I find unstructured time at school a little overwhelming because I can’t regulate my behavior. Mummy says I’m a bit like a bottle of fizzy pop, and the excitement of school shakes me up and up, but when I get home I take the lid off and fizz all over the place. Please help mummy by helping to keep me calm throughout the day. Sometimes I might just look like I’m an active bubbly little girl, but really that’s just me not coping very well. When I’m coping I’m very kind, considerate, thoughtful, chatty and sensitive. 

I’ve had my suspicions that baby girls teacher hadn’t bothered to read the information I gave her for a while. Today I read another message in baby girls ‘home school diary’ that just reinforced my suspicions.

‘XXXXX was distracted this afternoon and although she was asked several times to avoid distractions she still put herself in distracting positions. Silly behavior this afternoon as well  Mrs B’

I wont tell you the words I initially used when I read this, but lets just say I tut’d, a lot!

I spoke to baby girl about her day at school she talked about children ‘being very naughty’ and her teacher ‘using her shouting voice’ , one particular incident I suspect would have been quite worrying for baby girl, they were doing some maypole dancing and one of the boys tied the ribbon around his neck and the teacher shouted, I expect there was a lot of panic around the incident which would have frightened her and also a lot of shouting which she also doesn’t cope well with. Baby also tells me that during one of her own many telling’s off this afternoon her teacher informed her ‘Mommy wont be very happy with you when you get home’.  I’m not even going to tell you how furious that remark made me as I’m not sure I could refrain from swearing. It was the wrong thing to say to a child with a background such as hers and generally just wrong on more levels than I can count.

So, do I waste even more breath trying to get her teacher to understand, or just hope September brings a new teacher who doesn’t think she knows my child better than me!?

 

To Play, or not to Play…………………………

Published March 29, 2013 by thefamilyof5

‘Play’ is a topic that often fills me with frustration and despair.

You’ve heard the saying 2’s company and 3’s a crowd, well its never been truer than it is here. Remove any one girl from the equation and the chaos and competitiveness of their play departs and calm is restored.

But dynamics isn’t the only issue with play that we struggle with. There are many difficulties around play in general for my girls, mostly because the leader of their little pack, the one that they all look to for guidance and reassurance, has very few play skills. I’ve no doubt that big girls ASD plays a big part in her lack of ‘play’ skills and imagination, but as the eldest, her younger sisters are following her lead.

Baby girl has a wonderful imagination, she can play for hours with something as simple as a cracker toy and loose herself in an imaginative world of fairy’s and unicorns. She’s expressive and fun and imaginative.

Middle girl also has a good imagination and great concentration skills, she will focus on her task/toy and immerse herself in whatever activity she’s chosen. She’s determined, eager and passionate.

Big girl has the attention span of a gnat and the play skills of a goldfish. She has no interest in games as these require turn taking and playing fair. She lacks the imagination to be able to play with toys and is generally only happy when she’s ‘in charge’. This means most of her play is based on learnt behaviors/roles. For example she’ll play ‘teachers’ providing she is the teacher, or ‘mommys and babys’ providing she is the mommy. She also struggles to entertain herself which means she constantly manipulates and controls her sisters in to playing what she wants to play.

The end result of this is that baby girl and middle girls ‘playtime’ is suffering. They don’t get the opportunity to use their own play skills often because they become sucked in to big girls version of play whereby they become bossed around and treated as inferior beings whilst big girl dominates over them.

I’ve tried everything to free them from her grasp, I’ve separated them and made them play alone but big girl really struggles with this and will require 1on1 attention from us, which if she gets, evokes jealously from her sisters thus distracting them from their own play and defeating the object.

I’ve assigned specific activities, but again big girl will struggle with this and will manipulate her way in to their activity or entice them in to hers, honestly you have to see it to believe it.

I’ve even removed big girl from the equation, she attends an after school club for an hour a week, but its just not enough time for it to be of any real benefit to her sisters.

We have every toy you could imagine in our playroom, there are piles of toys gathering more and more dust each day, we have building and making, dolls and tea sets, cars and horses, books and puzzles, arts and crafts, music and films, dressing up and imaginative play. But with big girl not having the skills to use these items, or the ability to learn the skills, we may as well have nothing, for in the playroom, she is the leader of the pack.

2 Sides to Every Story – The Schools Side

Published March 22, 2013 by thefamilyof5

Continued…………

So it seems my 3 girls did all managed to excuse themselves from class just like they told me! The series of events they described to me actually happened.

The deputy head at school approached me on the playground today, I braced myself for a defensive story. What I got was an admission of guilt and an explanation as to how it had happened.

As I suspected the teachers had each assumed that the girls had been summons by the office to attend their dentist appointment and allowed them to leave class.
We now know this was not the case.

School has assured me that this will never happen again and that ALL staff have been advised that they are not to release a child from class based on the child’s hearsay and that a member of staff or parent should be accompanying them out of the classroom.

I do feel confident that this particular scenario won’t happen again, however it has raised huge concerns within me about the unpredictability of the girls, this wasn’t a group decision, they didn’t collaborate a plan during their lunch break, they each individually made these choices, albeit the same choices.
Something inside them that day told them that they had to be responsible for themselves, they had to make sure they got to the school office ready for their dentist appointment themselves, they couldn’t trust the grown ups around them so needed to take matters in to their own hands in order to survive, just like before.

They did it remarkably well too, not that I’m surprised, not a single bag or lunch box was left behind, they remembered everything themselves, big girl immediately took on the role of carer and the other 2 followed her lead they didn’t NEED anyone’s help, they know how to survive.
Once I arrived at school and took over from big girl they relaxed, they were safe again, and the anxiety they’d held in became obvious almost immediately.

My girls can survive, they can keep themselves safe and they can take care of their own needs. But they need to see that the world is a safe place now and the grown ups around them will take charge and keep them safe.

That day, the school failed to show my already insecure and frightened girls that they would keep them safe. Instead their teachers allowed them to be in control which made them revert to those survival instincts once again.

Needless to say I will be making sure ALL their teachers keep a closer eye on my unpredictable frightened little girls in future!

There’s a storm ahead!

Published October 1, 2012 by thefamilyof5

My little baby girl, or should I say whirlwind is kicking up a storm in school.

Since back when she was in reception I’ve had concerns about how she was handling school. She’d come out of school ‘high’ and looking frazzled, she’d cause chaos at tea time and end up falling soundly asleep into her bed at a time too early for most! I often asked her teachers if they had any problems, if they were finding her difficult, if she was manic all day. ‘Don’t worry she’s fine’ they all told me. ‘She did try and mess with a plug one day, and we do have to sit her on the mat besides the teacher because she’s disruptive, and she has been swearing, but she’s fine’ they said. ‘being disruptive, swearing, messing about’!!! this is not fine and I told them that, and they brushed my concerns aside.

Now we’re in to year 1 and I’m seeing the same pattern again, she’s coming out of school exhausted, looking frazzled and that huge chip on her shoulder is back.

We had a CAF meeting friday morning to go over big girls needs, I entered the meeting and immediately said I wanted baby girl’s needs to be included in all future CAF meetings as I’m worried about her at school.
Seems I was right to worry, I collected a guilty looking baby girl after school friday. I asked her if she’d been good, her face told me she hadn’t. I took her with me to see her teacher and then stood listening to her informing me they’d had a very difficult week with. They told me of not listening, not doing, being rude, chatting, fidgeting, messing about and generally being disruptive. It had been so bad that the teacher was sending baby girl to see the deputy head Monday! I was shocked, but more so because this was the first I was hearing of it and even then it was only because I’d asked!

Aside from all of this, its clear to me that baby girl isn’t coping with school very well and school don’t seem to understand that she needs support with this. She isn’t your typical 5yr old that can rationalise and choose and cope. She’s a 5yr old that’s been trapped in a whirlwind of a life. She can’t regulate her own behaviour, so once she becomes over hyper aroused she loose’s control and perspective, she can’t see why chatting to her friends would be a bad thing, she can’t sit still, she doesn’t hear what’s going on, she can’t hold her pencil properly because her hands are so jittery let alone write with it, she just can’t focus. They need to calm the storm within her and help her to regain control so that she can focus, so that she can see what’s happening and understand what’s going on around her.

I do this for her at home. We have a calm predictable, strict routine, there are boundaries, they’re firm and inflexible and she knows this. I make sure she stood still when I’m talking to her, I remind her to look at me and to open her ears and listen, I prompt her to remain focused, I re-engage with her regularly, I remind her of what she’s supposed to be doing, I remind her that she’s a good girl and that she is loved. I prevent her from failing rather than allowing her to fail because I know she can’t cope with failure.

School is a scary place for her, there’s too much going on around her, she has too much freedom, too much choice, too much expectation to cope with (same principle as why sticker charts don’t work, they have an opposite effect. She thinks she’s going to fail anyway, she can’t bare the pressure/expectation, so she fails as quickly as possible). She just can’t cope.

Every time her teacher tell’s her off she’s just reinforcing her belief that she’s bad and will fail. They need to catch her before she falls, not expect her to be able make the right choice. Eventually she’ll learn she can trust them to take care of her and that school is a safe place. When she no longer feels anxious in school, she’ll see that the world is a good place and that she IS good!

I thought I’d show her teacher today how to calm baby girl, how to connect with her and get her to focus. I took her in to her class this morning rather than leaving her at the playground like we’re supposed to. I helped settle her in, she calmly hung up her bag and coat and got her lunch box to where it needed to be and settled to her desk ready for the day ahead.
However, her teacher was away today so instead of the calm I’d prepared her for, she was hurried through a corridor full of hyper kids and into the class next door with more hyper kids for registration, before returning to her class to be left for the rest of the day with a teacher she didn’t know and who doesn’t know her. And I’m not even going to talk about the fire drill that took place a few hours later. I felt stressed out after only being in school for 10 minutes, how do they expect any 5 year old to cope with that mayhem all day let alone a scared one!

Now how do I get school to understand all of this………………….*sighs

Hello, please understand me……………..

Published July 11, 2012 by thefamilyof5

I’m planning on being a bit more proactive this year than I previously have. I’m putting together a booklet for each of the girls new teachers ready for September in the hope that they will be able to support and understand their needs.

I’ve printed off a copy of this ‘Understanding Why’ booklet produced by the National children’s Bureau and I’ve included a cover sheet to personalise it.

Big girls introduction goes something like this…………………..

Hello My name is XXXXX

My mummy has put together this little booklet to help you understand me.

In 2010 I came to live with my new mummy and daddy, I’m finding it quite hard to settle and trust my new mummy and daddy,  I am trying very hard and CAMHS are helping me with this. I’ve had a very difficult start in life and this has meant that I’ve developed a little differently to other children, I’m emotionally and socially very behind so I might need you to be extra considerate of this sometimes and not expect me to be the same as the other children my age.

Sometimes the adults in my early life did things to make me feel scared and frightened. I will always do my best to keep the adults around me happy by keeping them close, being extra helpful and chatting to them. This sometimes means I forget to just be a little girl and do little girl things so I might need you to help me do things children do, rather than things adults do. I sometimes forget the differences between adults and children and might try to get you to be my friend instead of my teacher, I’ll need you to make sure this doesn’t happen but please be careful not to reject me, I’ve suffered enough rejection my mummy says.

I find school very difficult, it is big and busy and noisy and I don’t always cope with this very well. Sometimes I feel scared and frightened but I don’t know how to tell you this so I need you to keep a close eye on my behaviour and my mood.

Classrooms can be quite scary for me. There are children all around and people walking around outside and up and down the corridors. Please help me by sitting me close to you and with my back to a wall and not a door, that way I don’t need to be worried about what’s going on behind me. My hearing is really good, I developed this early on as a way to keep myself safe, this means that I may become easily distracted by other noises inside and outside of the classroom, please don’t be annoyed with me, I’m just trying to keep myself safe.

I don’t have much confidence and my self-esteem is rock bottom my mummy says, so sometimes when you ask me to try to do something I’m so scared of getting it wrong and upsetting you that I choose not to even try. I will need you to gently encourage me, but please don’t try and force me as this will scare me.  I will always try to keep you happy as that’s when I will feel safest. So just because I say I understand what my homework is, it doesn’t mean I really do, I just don’t want to annoy you.

Sometimes when it looks like I’m having lots of fun and behaving ‘silly’, I’m actually very anxious and need your help to calm me down and reassure me that everything is ok. I will worry about topics, new tasks and tests. I will find it really hard to talk or read in front of the class so please don’t make me if I don’t want to. When I’ve learnt to trust you I might feel a bit braver and more willing to try.  I also might get worried if someone new comes into the classroom or even if I see a new face in the corridor, I might worry it’s a social worker coming to take me away. I might get worried about trips or new activities and will need you to explain to me exactly what is going to happen and what I will be doing and who will be keeping me safe, but if you can, please don’t tell me too early as I may worry about it at night when I’m trying to sleep. If I get really anxious, please let me know I can ring my mummy, sometimes just suggesting it is enough reassurance to let me know I’m safe and it’s all ok.

I find the playground very scary. I don’t really know how to make friends and I’m scared that if I try to be someone’s friend that they might not like me. There hasn’t been much in my life that I’ve been able to control so I prefer to do things  my way as that’s when I feel safest, the other children don’t always want to do things my way and I find this frustrating and sometimes get angry. I’m not very good at coping with or recognising my feelings and will need you to help me with this.

It would really help my mummy if you could tell her about any upsets, sulks or strops I have at school. I don’t like telling my mummy when I’ve had a bad day as I worry she might be disappointed with me. Mummy likes to help me when I’ve been finding things difficult by keeping me close and calm so I can feel safe again.

My mummy has put this book together to help you understand me, I hope you will read it. If you want to talk to my mummy about anything in this book or anything you see me doing or hear me saying, she will be happy to chat, she can talk about me for hours and she knows me better than anyone else.

My mummy has put a complete copy of this booklet in the back page for you to keep if you want to, but please give this book back to mummy so she can give it to my next teacher.

I hope we have a lovely time learning together.

I’ll try anything to help make my girls lives easier and school is one of the biggest things they struggle with.

Fingers crossed that this helps.

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