Parents evening and arts week

There have been two events at school this week…

The poor teacher looked so anxious at the very thought of them!

First up ‘parents evening’. It wasn’t really a traditional parents evening where you get 10 minutes to talk to the teacher. We have hour long LIAM’s (Learner inclusion and attainment meeting) every half term, which is ours. This parents evening was just a chance to see the classroom and get a feel of what the kids have been up to and spend some time in their school environment. Dinky stayed at school until I got there at 5:30 as I was doing some volunteering for the parent carer forum.

So I am escorted to the classroom (as every 100 yards there is an electronic entry only door, so the kids cant escape too far when they run), and I cant help but giggle…

The door opens, there is a happy kiddo laying on a mat, the teacher has flour hand prints and random patches of flour over her, she leads me to the outdoor area and dinky is waiting for the trampoline. Two TA’s have random flour patches and one, one looked like the rest of the flour had gone over her head. There was absolutely no need to ask who had covered her with flour.. Dinky has a thing for pouring and pouring on people.

Dinky ran over bare footed with a different pair of trousers on and charged me. She then showed me the science experiment they have been doing, Dinky added a mint to a large spoon of cola and giggled and flapped as the cola came out the top of the bottle like lava from a volcano! The next 40 minutes were spent chasing Dinky around the school as she ‘showed me’ different parts of the school that she liked. She was hyper beyond all hyper!

The evening ended with us going to the hall and Dinky wanted tickle time, so I kept tickling her, which was weird because tickle time usually doesn’t have an audience!

I spoke to the teacher and she said that Dinky has really struggled the last week or so and was more than ready for half term, and needed that break from school. She hasn’t been eating very much and the teacher thinks this might be a control thing, but it is something we are going to keep an eye on, she is also not attending forest schools and not going horseriding. Hopefully after half term she will pick up these things again.

Today was the end of arts week and all the classes had made videos for a show. Dinky had been sad that I don’t go to see her swim but another child (who lives 5 minutes from the school) has a mum who goes often. So I had been invited to watch dinky swim as I was going to the show that day anyway.

I was not anticipating a great day, with what the teacher said on Wednesday, and knowing that it would be swimming, the show, then lunch then one of her classmates was having cake for their birthday.

True to form, I only made matters worse because I forgot to give her taxi escort dinky’s swim bag. Which to most people wouldn’t matter, but I knew Dinky would be cross and quite annoyed because she wouldn’t have her swim bag.

I got to the swimming pool (eventually-after following some old Honda Jazz at 35-40mph on a national speed limit road, and willing it to turn off at every junction!), and had Dinky’s swim bag. The minibus got there 5 minutes after me and I could hear Dinky from the bus “YOU FORGOT MY BAG!” over and over and over. I really had screwed up. She was NOT in a good mood!

I managed to lighten it a little by saying how silly I was, and reminding her that even though she didn’t have it on the bus, she can now get changed and it is all ok. It was nice seeing her swim. If you have read any of the early pre diagnosis blogs about special needs swim class, you might understand my apprehension at watching Dinky swim. The amount of times that I had to restrain her was horrible.
She was really good, it wasn’t a swim lesson, just a chance to play in the pool! She really enjoyed her time in the pool. She was really good at getting out, I was very impressed how the school transitioned the kids out. No messing!

we did however hit a problem at the mini bus.

Dinky wanted to go back to school with me in our car, but the teacher wanted Dinky to go on the minibus. The teacher tried the ‘its not my rule’ strategy, which was a 50/50, but is known to work, it was going really well, until Dinky caught us out as trying to get her on the minibus. She was then given the choice ‘minibus, or mummy car, but mummys car means mummy might not be able to watch swimming again.’ Oh my, Dinky was not happy. She started crying and refused to move. I was torn, did I try and help (which at that point I don’t think I could have done anything)? Or do I leave the teacher to try to solve it? Again at this point I didn’t see any way we were getting round this, if we pushed her to make a decision then it would escalate- PDA style, if we left her to decide, she wouldn’t, if we decided for her it would be wrong.

I took over and said that I will talk to the head teacher and make sure that even if she came in my car that we would make sure I could see swimming again. The teacher could see that I was just trying to resolve the issue as two of the kids were on the bus, and they did not handle waiting well. Also the show was going to start with or without us. I finally managed to get Dinky in my car, and with lots of shouting I managed to get her to school. Myself and the other parent signed in and went to watch the show. When we got there the show was almost done, and we just walked in as the credits for Dinky’s class. Dinky was NOT happy! Then she sat behind one of the college students and couldn’t see. So I put her on my lap. We watched some live performances of the older students, and each class was given a trophy.

I left her to (not) have her lunch, and went back for the cake and to pick her up to come home.

We have had a pretty rocky afternoon, but hopefully things will settle down now that she is on half term.

I am hoping that Dinky will go back to horse riding after half term and that she starts eating more this week.

Transport nightmare

When I was looking at schools for Dinky one of my main concerns was how far away it was. This was for many reasons, one of which being, that at the time I didn’t own a car and I was still taking driving lessons. More reasons included

  • What if they didn’t turn up?
  • What if they were late? Dinky isn’t a fan of waiting around
  • What if they didn’t get Dinky? were too bossy, too strict, too much for her
  • What if Dinky couldn’t cope with the journey?
  • What if she had a meltdown at the end of the day because she hadn’t finished and couldn’t get in the taxi?
  • What if Dinky doesn’t like them?
There are lots of variables and I can tell you that I am not a fan of variables! Too many what if’s. The problem is that in the end that choice was taken away. It was ‘go to this school that is out of county’ or her not go to school at all.
While I love my child, I utterly respect those parents who are able to make that decision and home school, but 11 months at home with Dinky showed me that we both needed our space and that 8 hours a week respite at the time just wasn’t enough to recover from the challenging behaviour and the constant walking on eggshells. I felt that if this became the only option then of course I would happily take it on board, but I felt we owed special education at least a try to see if Dinky could cope with it.
I have written quite a few posts about the fact that she goes to a school for children on the autism spectrum with moderate to severe learning difficulties and while Dinky hasn’t got a diagnosed learning difficulty (except her reports from school say specific learning difficulty and to be honest I haven’t asked them what that is because I keep forgetting due to the reasons I have had contact with them lately). The reason I am happy with this is it gives her the slow paced and less demanding atmosphere she needs in her education placement. The school, to their credit, have been very accepting of Dinky’s demand avoidance and have been proactive in coming up with strategies to get the most out of her while not poking the PDA bear.
Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. I’m just so happy that Dinky likes school and that she is learning, might not be anywhere near as much as her peers, but I am more than happy with the progress she has made.
Things are not allowed to go smoothly for us though, it would be far too much of a change for us both and we would start to believe that we had been transported to a parallel universe (Sometimes it already feels like that due to the complete turn around in terms of health, education and social care that we have seen in the last year or so).
Transport.
We have had nothing but problems with the taxi firm since they started in January. Lateness was my main issue with them, the escort that was in the back of the car with Dinky would constantly blame the driver (although how much of that I believed at times I am not entirely sure)! They changed drivers after the summer and low and behold they were still late! Which only confirmed my suspicions that she was the one holding things up before the summer! The second day of this term they didn’t even show up in the morning!
The school were struggling to get Dinky in her taxi and I was having more difficult mornings even though Dinky was more than happy to go to school and play with her teacher and her favourite TA. It got to the point where Dinky had started refusing the taxi and I have collected her a few times over the last couple of weeks. As one other parent pointed out, it was a good thing that I managed to get driving lessons and went through the hassle of sorting out the car and then went through the hassle of getting the car I have now, as I would have been stuffed otherwise.
I was a bit wary of picking her up from school the second time she decided that she didn’t want to get in the taxi and up to that point we (school and I) hadn’t gotten to the root of the issue. There are a few things we thought it could be initially
  • She didn’t like the escort (who is a sour faced moo! And I’m not the only one who has said it), it isn’t surprising as she can be a bit hard on Dinky and gets frustrated with the repetitive songs Dinks plays. I had absolutely no sympathy for her as her husband runs the taxi firm and she knew what she was getting into, Dinky has a transport care plan which points out at various points that she is autistic, if you can’t handle repetition, especially considering the main times it would be used was due to her own poor time keeping which messed with dinky’s routine.
  • She didn’t like the fact that I am now volunteering for the parent carer forum and am not at home where she thinks I am, and this is her way of being in control.
  • She wanted me to pick her up because the other girl in the class that she likes gets picked up by her mum who lives in the same town as the school and isn’t eligible for transport because she lives within 2 miles. (we have to add on 23 miles to that!)
  • She loves the new car and wants to come home in the new car.

This was the list myself and Dinky’s teacher put together.

As it happens it is a mixture of all of them which I found out after a very stressful conversation ‘with’ Dinky ( I say with, but it was more me explaining the situation and her shouting at me in response).

So I phoned Transport last week. She said she would try and sort something, she called me back Thursday to tell me the taxi quit! This initially made me think ‘what cheeky so and so’s! Quitting insinuates they have had enough and decided not to continue but they were the ones who displayed poor time keeping and upset dinky enough for her not to want to go in the taxi!’. However my response was, “Good, Dinky didn’t want them to continue anyway”.

Between school and I we decided it was probably a good idea for me to do the school run up until the contract ended, but I have already promised my time to some very important meetings for the parent career forum, and I could do some afternoons but not the mornings. I gave Dinky the options and she has agreed to go in the mornings and for me to pick her up every day but Wednesday and we are going to go out from school Friday as she finishes early on that day. After half term Dinky will have a new taxi service!

I confirmed this all with transport Friday, who are going to reimburse me the cost of pertol. I don’t think the current taxi company were happy when I text them, but I don’t care. Actually I have been thinking they should re-brand their advertisements, I have some suggestions…

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A little secret- I never wanted to become angry mama bear

Today I am going to a local parent carer event, there will be lots of profesionals from all over the county. 

If they know who I am, chances are I’ve been fierce mama bear to them or one of their colleagues. The one thing they don’t seem to realise is that I never wanted to be. 

I never wanted to learn the law surrounding illegal exclusions, or know the SEN code of practice, or the law regarding social care assessments and having to relearn it all with a change in the SEN code of practice just as I thought I was getting the hang of the first one. 

I never wanted to send angry emails, or have strained conversations through gritted teeth. I never wanted to debate the level of my child’s disability vs criteria that is never fully complete or accessible to parents. 

I never wanted any of it, I was backed into a corner by having a ‘complex’ child who needed an advocate who understood their behaviour was communicating severe discomfort due to being a square peg who was being hammered relentlessly in to a round hole. Real wooden pegs don’t scream, children however don’t always know how to articulate their feelings especially if they don’t understand them themselves, so yes, they might just throw tables and chairs, they might try to escape, they might refuse to engage. 

As a parent I didn’t expect to come up against such rigid and unhelpful systems, I didn’t expect to have to explain my child’s needs to the people who are meant to understand it. 

Frustration and watching your child in such a bad way, it awakens the primal mother bear who becomes fierce and fights. When that fight comes from all angles is it really that far a reach to assume that the mother bear sees all professionals as hammer wielders intent on breaking more of their child, intent on finding ways to mould her just enough to get her through the round hole so they don’t have to find a square one that fits? 

We finally got our square hole for Dinky, mama bear only comes out occasionally now, yet still, I don’t want to be mama bear. I want to just be mum to my wonderful square peg Dinky. 

All too familiar 

Oh how I have not missed fraught mornings full of drama! (Not that every morning is completely drama free, usually only small flare ups which are easily sorted through distraction)

To be fair it isn’t that she didn’t want to go to school (which is a happy change from the last time we went through similar to this morning) but here is a taster of this mornings shenanigans 

Woken up at 5 am to an almighty bang in the kitchen. 

Dinky had been trying to get to the snacks on top of the fridge which are only for after school. 

Cue lots of screaming and slapping from Dinky who wanted a kinder egg.

Dinky was watching her iPad, I told her it was time we both got dressed. Normally she is ok with this- not today! 

“Show ruiner!” (This would have been extremely funny if she hadn’t also thrown a large plastic dinosaur at me) 

So I leave it, and go back.

“What will teacher say if you turn up in your Jurassic world Pjs!?!”

Dinky’s response “go away”

So I leave it, and go back later I get a whole host of dinosaurs thrown at me for merely suggesting that it might be a good idea to be ready when the taxi comes, and was kicked and pushed repeatedly as I left her room

I tried turning it into a race ect. Then I gave up and after much perseverance she let me get her trousers and t-shirt on. 

No jumper, no socks, no shoes and definitely no coat. 

ADHD capsule was chucked in the toilet before I could stop her 

 I only got to attack her curly mop top for about 10 seconds while she screamed at the top of her lungs. 

I grabbed her teddy and the book she wanted to take to school about mythical creatures and we waited for the taxi I tried to lighten the mood which works for 5 minutes before she decided that it was too much fun and that she wasn’t in the mood and it ended with her biting my arm. 

When the taxi arrived I swear I could have punched the escort in the face to wipe off the disapproving ‘you are not ready look’ off her sour face! 

I told her that today Dinky doesn’t want tot wear shoes or socks or a jumper or a coat- “well she just has to!” Was her reply… It took all my energy and restraint to say “actually no she doesn’t, her stuff is in her bag if she changes her mind”.

No wonder Dinky has refused the taxi twice this week! What part of PDA does she not get? It is in Dinky’s care plan! 

I’m pretty sure because Dinky is verbal she pays no attention to the autism-PDA diagnosis- yes because cash strapped LEAs love sending 7 year olds in a taxi over 20 miles away to a school which costs them £81k a year – for the sheer fun of it because all she needs is to be told she ‘has to’. Wow- who knew! 

I have been on to transport and really want them to change the company that takes dinks! 

It will probably cost them more, but that isn’t actually my concern- you pay peanuts- you get monkeys! (Although I never quite got that saying) 

This type of morning used to be typical with added- ‘not going to school!’- so it is at least better that she does actually want to go to school- today there were just too many demands to get her there happily. 

I wonder what type of day she will have today