I have only mentioned this on the Facebook page, but the school visit a few days ago didn’t go well, at all. So there will not be a ‘Dinky starts her new school’ post for a while… let me explain.
Tuesday was a very busy day… I had got dinky a day place at the local adventure playground play care as I had an appointment and Dinky’s 1:1 couldn’t do the whole day.
I started with getting Dinky ready, then walking the dog, and then meeting with dinky’s 1:1.
All was going well, until my appointment… which I shall come back to later.
The social worker picked me up and we drove down to the school that had accepted Dinky.
We got there a little early so we took a look at the biggest issue I had with the school originally which was the wall which was not very high and Dinky could climb over quite easily and run into the main costal road for the large town, or into the sea if she made it through the cars with out being hit.
The social worker walked round with me, there was fencing around the ONE side of the school, but not at the wall I was concerned about, instead of putting up a fence they had planted some bushes. I was quite disappointed when I found a perfect Dinky sized escape route which was given a mound of soil for a run up towards it. I instantly turned to the social worker and said that Dinky would be up that mound, through that gap – afterall we don’t call her Dinky for nothing!- and out into traffic. Meanwhile an adult would have to run to the gate (about 300 yards), unlock it, and run round (adding another 150 yards) before dinks had managed to cross the pavement… Completely unsafe! The social worker said that it may be that they were having additional safety measures added before Thursday. I was doubtful.
We were just about to go in when the head came out, she was covered in paint but invited us in. She introduced me to Dinky’s new teacher.
We chatted as we were shown the classroom- I am not going to recite the whole visit, but the main points of note.
-I was looking around as the room seemed to be quite the visual assault, Dinky’s statement clearly says she needs a very carefully thought out classroom as she can be easily distracted by visual stimuli. During my wondering whether or not this would actually pose an issue to Dinky I saw that they had mixed up the alphabet on the wall display, this irritated me so much I couldn’t pay attention to the conversation, so I had to say something. The teacher looked quite embarrassed.
- We were discussing something and instantly I knew that it would not be good for Dinky with her PDA. I asked her if she would still use that technique with Dinky, she looked stunned and asked why I had asked. I said because of her PDA, I asked if she knew what PDA was. She got all flustered. She said PDA is relatively new as a diagnosis and that she wasn’t really that sure. Couldn’t fault her honesty, but I was more than a little disappointed!
- I asked about the IEP and implantation of the sensory diet. She asked me what a sensory diet was.
**** As you can imagine, I was getting more frustrated by the SECOND****
- We discussed Dinky’s current ability, she was unaware that Dinky was 1, possibly 2 stages further in reading since the school had managed to get her to read stage 4 on the oxford reading tree back in October 2013!
- I asked about the wall leading onto the coastal road. There was a TA in the class fixing a computer and he got up and said “Does she know the area?” I replied no. He said “Oh, that’s good, because we don’t ever take the young people the same way twice in a row as then they would know which way to run”. By this point I was almost speechless, I couldn’t believe that this school was so open about their disregard for pupil safety!
- Eventually we got the head to come back in and discuss the lunch arrangements, and I asked her about the wall and the safety, she said “it will be better once the bushes grow”. By this point I thought nothing else could be worse…But we shall come to that later!
-The head was talking about the plan for Dinky to go in just 3 days a week to begin with, and she began talking about the to other boys who would be in Dinky’s class. We went to set up a date for the next meeting and the head said it was decided last week that she would be in the classroom in the afternoons due to the needs of the lad who is starting doing afternoons only. I didn’t think of this bit until I got home.. they had worked out the needs of this one particular child, but not even bothered to research PDA for Dinky!
- Then… oh boy… then I was asked if I wanted to see the sensory room. The last time I was there she was discussing the fact that they had put a corner of a room aside for a sensory area. I was optimistic (how I was after the meeting we had just been having is beyond me!), Oh how I should not have been! The sensory area was basically a small 2-3ft in diameter round table with a cheap novelty bubble tube and two lava lamps on, and underneath were about 5 or 6 £1 fiddle toys, a few different textured fabrics, and a small square of bubble wrap. I said that the bubble tube was more than likely to be broken within a week, because I had made the same mistake with buying one for Dinky, they are not SEN standard at all. I also said that I wasn’t keen on the bubble lamps as they get hot.
I am astounded that this school can offer any type of placement for an autistic child! They assured me they could meet the needs on Dinky’s statement and that they were going to sort my safety concerns. They hadn’t. At home I had a think, and it didn’t take long for me to decide that I was just going to have to look for an alternative as this school was just never going to take her safety seriously.
If there is ever a time that I needed to hear some evidence that I made the right decision it was that very night. Dinky came down the stairs after bedtime and told me that she had wanted to come home and had climbed the fence at Play care. This was a demand free, play centre- the more mess the better the fun- attitude… she would have been hit by a car within the week! I felt awful that she had tried to escape, but vindicated that I had made the right choice for Dinky.
Onto the ‘me’ aspect of Dinky and me. I have only got a few actions on dinky’s plan and to be honest only one that I had to start doing as the rest is all ‘interact with professionals’ and ‘go to medical appointments for Dinky’. So the only one on there I had to do was ‘to have time to work on mental health’. Which in itself is quite insulting to have on there as it really is none of their bloody business, especially considering that I do not do any of the 3 things which would actually see me get support for my ‘mental health issues’, the only reason it is an issue, is because it was easier for the old school to make out I was a basket case than to admit they got it wrong and completely failed Dinky for so long.
Anyway, in the spirit of working WITH the social worker I went along to my appointment which was an assessment for more counselling. To be honest, it is pretty rubbish, 20 sessions and you should be cured, working on a recovery model for long term mental health issues is not exactly the way forward.
So I went in and we had the usual ‘I have read your notes from the doctor and your previous counsellor’, followed by the condescending ‘you have been through so much for someone so young’.
So she asks why I am there… I had to fight very hard not to treat it like a big joke and say ‘I thought you read my notes’. Instead I told her the truth- the social worker set it as an action, I am doing it.
She asked why I have a social worker, She is Dinky’s. That just confused the woman more! SO I explained about Dinky’s PDA and what the old school did regarding social services ect.. so many times she let out audible gasps and tuts, we kept going further back to the first school and a brief about PDA and autism. There was more talk and the further we delved into the chaos that is Dinky and the battle, she caught me off guard..
“And how do you feel about the diagnosis?” and “How do you feel about putting her in a special school?”, do you know, not a SINGLE professional has asked me those questions. They have all seen me fight to get her assessed and to find a suitable placement, but none asked me how this impacted on me as a person.
I told her that we didn’t have time to delve into that, she looked at her piece of paper asked me some more questions and ran through the list of the crappy aspects of my life and then put her paper down, sat back and said “how you haven’t had a breakdown is beyond me”.
We talked about what I wanted from the service, I told her they cant provide me with what I need but I need to seem willing, but she said that she will set me up with someone, if only just to sound off about the current situation considering that I am not exactly rolling in actual support.
so it has been interesting… the last few days I have been school searching and come to the conclusion that the neighbouring county which doesn’t diagnose PDA has better schools with PDA experience!
If you don’t hear from me.. I shall be continuing my juggling act of looking after an ASD-PDA and possibly ADHD child while making calls, researching schools and sending off emails, waiting for respite days to start my driving lessons and visit schools and meet with the LEA!
(Like I said to the woman from the counselling service… its not like I have TIME for a breakdown ;-) haha)