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Positivity after so much negativity

I Kelly Chard give my consent to ACTION 4 SEND to share my story publicly online for the benefit of shared understanding. I agree to the terms of conditions set by Action 4 send for the benefit of my personal data and that Action 4 SEND are GPDR compliant. I believe that my shared content is the truth and I will not name individuals or schools.

Today was a different day, I had that dreaded phone call to say there had been an incident at school. This phone call was different, I did not feel dread answering the phone. Probably because the number was not recognised in my contact list, which is always a good sign as it means it is not a regular caller. We are on week four of specialist provision and this is the first phone call we have had to report an incident that needs parent acknowledgment. The main reason was to state that George would not be arriving home as planned, he had refused to get in the taxi. This was not something we had experienced so far in George’s journey into specialist provision.

George is eight and had previously been in mainstream school. Up until year two things had progressed well for him. However, as the expectations of mainstream school and entering the juniors got harder for George, he was unable to mask his feelings. It started to become apparent that there was more going on for George than professionals had acknowledged in his earlier years. The years when George screamed nearly all day, every day from a few months old right up until around two years old. The times when we would be watching the Disney channel and Nick Jnr at 2am because if George could not sleep, the whole house could not sleep. George is number five of six children. You can imagine how desperate we were as parents to get some sleep and the need to keep the other children in good bedtime routines and achieve a reasonable amount of sleep. We were happy to watch cartoons for some peace from the screaming. We were happy to share our bed with George if it meant not being nocturnal.

Just before George was two years old, he had an assessment for autism. The assessment was inconclusive with various opinions from different professionals but reached the outcome of possibly attachment issues. We enrolled George into a pre-school and with time he settled well. He progressed to mainstream nursery and then into mainstream school. His behaviour at home was at times rather challenging but we learnt what worked and what didn’t. We did our best to avoid the meltdowns and we stuck to strict routines, picking up likes, dislikes, obsessions along the way. Fast forward to year three- the first year of the juniors and it was like an explosion. At first, we thought it was the typical new teacher, new term, new classroom stage which is always difficult. Things got worse and we were referred to the ASD pathway with CAMHS. I approached the school for help and support with George, to make small changes in the classroom to help him settle. The school appeared not to listen, and things escalated. George became rather isolated; his self-esteem was very low and socially he was struggling. It was not long before the aggression appeared, the lashing out, swearing and trashing the classroom.

In January 2019 I was horrified when George was excluded for half a day, I had never heard of a child being excluded from primary school. Two weeks later came another exclusion for a whole day. This time I was cross and frustrated because the school were not meeting George’s needs. I had asked them to help make things easier for George and had made suggestions, but they seemed to fall on deaf ears. Through research it became apparent that it was common for children with additional needs to be excluded for challenging behaviour when in reality it was lack of behaviour management and meeting the needs of the child. I complained to the Chair of Governors and we were able to have a successful outcome with help and support put in place for George. The following term George had a diagnosis of Autism and with the support in place he was having much better outcomes.

September 2019, we moved up to year four and once again we struggled with the new teacher, new classroom and adjusting to the expectations of the higher year group. Add to this a teacher that was on long-term sick within the first few weeks and a supply teacher appear; it was a recipe for disaster. George was excluded twice before half term and twice after half term. His behaviour was rather volatile, the phone calls were daily, the incidents were 2/3 a day and I was starting to feel drained. I had parents approach me in the playground and complain that George was aggressive towards their children. I felt uncomfortable collecting my children from school, not knowing what was to come. I dreaded the school details flashing up on my watch, my phone, the landline ringing as I could not face another call about George’s challenging behaviour. I struggled to listen to how George had been shut in the office for his safety, the damage he had caused, the amount of times he had to be restrained, the language he had used at teachers and the fact he had hurt some of them. I was upset that George felt so afraid in an environment he should have felt safe in. I was angry that teachers were supposed to nurture him and raise his self-esteem and his self-confidence, but they lacked the skills to be able to do this. Instead he was labelled a naughty child that was volatile and aggressive. The other children were scared of him and he had little to no friends. He was the child that was never invited to birthday parties and others referred to as a bully.

December 2019 was the most challenging month for us as a family. It was positive because George was finally given some support. He was able to have a 1-1 sports coach to help him achieve some small goals but the main one was to stay at school without isolation or exclusion. We were also told that George was being offered a space in specialist provision and that the EHC assessment would go ahead. I finally felt we were turning a corner; we were on the road to positive things. Then came the social care referral. It wasn’t the first, we have six children and three have additional needs. We had referrals before when our eldest went missing from school and when he decided to roam the streets for a day without contacting anyone. We had a Child in Need plan before and met all the outcomes for the plan to finish. This time within a few days we went from the referral stage to assessment, to needing a child protection conference- all within less than a week. I was suspended from my role as a childminder, and in the days before Christmas we were told to try and enjoy the holidays. We were left in limbo, no explanation, no support, no social worker just a Happy Christmas.

Christmas seemed to pass in a daze due to stress, anxiety and lack of sleep. I sought legal advice for an amazing advocate who is still helping me today and I will be forever grateful to. But with the new year things started to become more positive. The child protection conference was cancelled, we were given an amazing social worker who we worked with previously and George started at his new school. We are at the end of the assessment process and are looking to return to a Child in Need plan so that we can get some help and support with and for George. We meet this week for our first EHC meeting and hope that George is eligible to progress forward with having an EHCP. If not, that will be the next fight.

To conclude I return to my original story about why today was different and why although it was negative that George didn’t have a good day, it was positive for me as a parent. It was positive because I spoke with a lovely man who is George’s teacher. He calmly explained what had happened today, he could pinpoint what had gone wrong and why George had behaved the way he had. He was not angry; he did not judge me and even though when I arrived to collect George and he was restrained by two teachers it was a positive experience. I didn’t feel embarrassed or that I had to apologise nearly fifty times because George had cracked the window in the calm room and sworn at more than one staff member because they just get it. The staff in specialist provision just get it, no explanation needed. For SEN parents this is so much needed, particularly after the negativity of mainstream provision and feeling judged, labelled and isolated.

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  • : Started the process Oct 2019
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1 Response
  1. Thank you Kelly for sharing this with us. I am sure many others will relate to how different things can be when staff understand the child’s difficulties and support in the right way. I am pleased to hear things have somewhat settled down for you all as a family.

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