Back to it…

It’s the Sunday evening before the new school year. Part of me has been hanging on for this day for about the last 5 weeks… the other part wants for the school free days to last forever.

Today has been a hard day; and that is saying something in a holiday of hard days. Boyo went for walk in his socks; he kicked his wellies off (he did put them on eventually). I have several bite marks (both boys). Jelly has refused to eat. Toys have been thrown. There has been a lot of noise – random noise. No-one has managed to play/or do anything for any amount of time.

Tomorrow I have to go to work. I’m not looking forward to it as a change in management means I have a less than supportive boss. The boys go to school; a new area for Boyo with new arrangements (and no afternoon play). Jelly is going to do two half days, then start full time on Wed. I give it until Thurs before we hit a major problem, but I do have a back up plan in my head.

Tonight will undoubtedly be relative sleep free; because who wants to sleep when they are full of anxiety. The only person not worried about tomorrow is himself – as he has a week’s parental leave starting tomorrow! Mind you – he has to get the boys to school and collect them again.

So here we go… we will see what happens.

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Nearly there…

I have done it… tomorrow Himself is off work; Monday we all go back to school. I have managed nearly 6 weeks with the boys by myself. I would love to say that we’ve had an amazing summer, but we haven’t… and I stood last week with some of my best adopter friends, who have all had a difficult summer and one of them commented, ‘next year, will be different’ and I recognised the truth in that, no-one can promise it will be better, but it will be different.

I had hoped I had planned well enough, I had hoped we were going to sail though. I forgot to factor in my children or at least Boyo! Early on in the holidays; I had made a commitment not to fight where it wasn’t necessary… this meant when he refused to go somewhere (which irritatingly he would have loved) I accepted it and agreed we could stay at home.

Of course there was plenty of arguments/shouting/screaming/kicking/biting/hitting and just general horribleness. We have had some amazing moments; just yesterday Boyo spent a long time playing (yes, playing) with another child! Okay, it involved mud and grass, but they played and planned together. Jelly managed a 3 and a bit mile walk without any carrying. There have been giggles and laughter. But when overwhelming the summer has felt ‘hard’.

We were spoilt in the middle as we had a break; 3 daytimes without the boys. We did catch up on some sleep; we talked (a lot) to other adopters. We made memories, with help from other people. And this holiday, that was our saving grace, because without that time, it would have been too hard. The boys had an amazing time.

I haven’t done half of what was planned, it hasn’t been possible. I have mostly mixed with other families who understand. Who don’t care when someone lies on the floor and screamed. Who agree with me, that we have to get out whatever the weather.

So now, my thoughts are turning to September, which hopefully will be another entire post. I am sad, because I know it will bring it’s own stresses and anxieties, but equally welcome the return to routine and structure.

 

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A diagnosis…

Once upon a time there was a lady. She was pregnant (again). She had a difficult life, more difficult than we in our lovely middle class lives can imagine. She was stressed. She was having a really challenging time (for a variety of reasons). She didn’t want to acknowledge she was pregnant, because that might lead to interference in her life that she did not want. So she denied she was pregnant. She had a few alcoholic drinks to help her deal with her lot in life (this last bit is assumed, the rest is fact).

There is no joy in hearing that a pediatrician thinks your son has brain damage caused by drinking during pregnancy to go alongside his other issues. And by ‘think’ the comment was, he has Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) but she can’t yet formally diagnose it as we are waiting for some cognitive tests, in the absence of any admittance by his birth mother that she drank when she was pregnant. We have been aware of this real possibility for over a year now, but it was still a complete moment of heart ache for him.

So now, our precious boy is deemed to be suffering from complex neurological trauma and FASD with learning difficulties alongside his attachment difficulties. Which doesn’t take away from the amazing boy that he is. He is caring and loving and empathetic. He mostly wants to please. He is trying hard to not upset most people.

He is struggling big time at school, he cannot access what other pupils his age can, so can be upset by comments when he is doing different work. He doesn’t the unspoken rules. He doesn’t know how to play in an appropriate manner. He is strong believer in rules, and therefore will tell over another child when they don’t follow the rules. He wants things to happen his way and doesn’t get that sometimes other children’s ideas might be better.

He likes to know who is in charge, how they make themselves in charge. He needs to be liked by whoever is in charge, because then he will be safe. He spends a lot of time whilst at school making sure that he is ‘safe’, which doesn’t help him academically.

Because so much effort is taken up in being safe at school, he gets really tired. He doesn’t show that effort often at school – although will chew anything that is close to him when he is anxious. He does however, show how much the school day takes out of him when he is at home. We cope often with meltdowns after school. Sometimes they happen in the car, sometimes he manages to wait until we get home.  Sometimes they are short and manageable, sometimes they go on and on and on. Sometimes he just screams, sometimes he aims to hurt.

He needs routine and structure. School holidays are hard. Different is hard. I had plans this holiday to arrange to see some of his school friends, but he is struggling so much.

You cannot know what a child is living with, you cannot know what a family is dealing with.  I am grateful that the majority of his class accept him for who he is. They know he is different, but don’t necessarily worry about the different. I am amazed by the understanding shown by parents. I hope that other people who are living with children who are struggling are surrounding by understanding, because it helps.

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A difficult week…

I meant to write last week about the pleasant week we’d had, but never quite got round to it. This week has been the opposite, which we predicted, but it was as though a switch was pressed on Friday afternoon and this week has been hard.

There came a point this week when I thought this is it, our life with two children with additional needs. Jelly had a speech and language assessment on Tues, where the therapist commented on his low concentration span… I’d not noticed because it is considerably more than Boyo’s was at the same age! I lie, I’d noticed, but his lack of ability to speak appropriately and his frustrated behaviour because of it, is a bigger concern to me.

Boyo has struggling not to argue this week. At times we went down the line of ‘accept or argue’ mostly when we were out, with the knowledge that ‘argue’ meant going home. We have ignored the nonsense. We have asked him to think, to use his thinking head. We have asked him to listen. Not much has worked, and he has had meltdown after meltdown as he has struggled with the lack of arguments, or when needed the instance that he does need to do what we have asked.

We are full on in anxiety city and therefore Boyo is struggling. Because Boyo is struggling, Jelly is struggling. I have been bitten by both of them today (several times) I have been hit and spat at. I have had them sat on opposite sofas in the front room and refused to let them move. They had they iPads and headphones. I sat on the floor between them.

We are two weeks down into a long 6 week holiday. Last week was planned, this week less so, because Boyo has been doing a Tennis Camp each morning. Thankfully the coaches are familiar with him and know that he wobbles. He has chewed the handle on his racket this week to the point it’s had to have a new grip on it. He has also chewed tennis balls!

Next week will be different again. At some point, I have things I must do, my ironing pile is now in two bags. Our paperwork is now into the third box. I have lessons to plan (yippee!) for the new GCSE (double yippee!). But right now the boys need me to be available to them, when they need me, so after full days, I sit in the evenings and think…another day got through.

There came a point this week when I thought this is it, our life with two children with additional needs. But we have got through worse. Better will come. And in the meanwhile…there is always gin!

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Onwards and upwards…towards the holiday!

 

Apparently, I am a poo poo head and I am also stupid. I have been a poo poo head most of the week… with occasional (at least once a day) stupid. I am not looking forward to him learning more interesting words! It will be no surprise to most adopters (& my friends) that this is the result of several days of ‘different’ at school.

However, transition day at school went okay for both boys. Boyo’s teacher (newly qualified) has obviously be told about him and sent home two booklets the Friday prior to transition day…one was photo’s of the new area (Y3&Y4) and one was a booklet all about her.

We arrived in the new (KS2) playground after dropping Jelly off and immediately Boyo grabbed my hand and refused to let go – I couldn’t blame him, the noise of 240 children was immense. When the bell went, we eventually, along with everyone else figured out where to line up and again, he was clinging on. She saw and she asked for him to go to the front of the line! She is making the right moves in my books and I hope it continues. We have a meeting just before the end of term with her, SENCO and present teacher. Things weren’t great afterwards, but no worse than we expected.

Jelly’s also had a transition morning and managed okay. The nursery staff have already been taking him into reception, so the space is familiar. He didn’t hit anyone. He didn’t bite anyone and he didn’t throw any toys (or at least that anyone saw). His teacher has been here to meet him in his own space – he didn’t talk to her to start with, but eventually warmed up a bit. I have to trust things will be okay, but I have warned her I have huge issues with reception as Boyo had such a horrid time and I will do my best not to pass those issues onto Jelly, but I will be in touch at the slightest issue.

So transition day went okay – sports day less so. Jelly did a runner across the school field. In a separate incident he fell over and split his lip. There were photos on FB. There were snotty comments about not been allowed to put photos on FB – and neither of them competed in actual sports day, just the activities in the morning.

I was also caught by the SENCO last week; and I have a bonus meeting with her next week to read through the EHCP paperwork. And to discuss a plan for Jelly. I am officially the Mum with two children with additional needs.

Two weeks left to plan the summer – part of me can’t wait, but part of me is worried that one of my plans (for one day a week) has fallen through.

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Stick it back together…

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This picture is a symbol of our life at the moment. Jelly received a certificate for sitting really still whilst having a hair cut (this is big deal for him). Boyo ripped it up and put it in the bin because he was cross.

For the last few weeks couple of months, life here appears to have lurched from one crisis to another. We can pick it, stick it back together, and something else happens. I can laminate the certificate back together, but tomorrow, or the next day it’ll be something else.

Last week, it was the news our Social Worker hadn’t done what he was meant to do. The fact that Boyo has an NQT for a teacher next year. That Jelly has his best friend in reception with him, but none of his other friends. The confirmation of a diagnosis for Boyo, well in fact 3, 2 definites on paper, one that needs more testing, but paediatrician  said she is sure he has.

The week before, a family wedding to highlight the differences between our boys and other children. And the high level of anxiety surrounding it. And another conversation overheard when someone asked my MIL refuses to admit that there are any differences.

This week, the come down from a 2 1/2hr wait to see paediatrician. The destruction of toys. The idea of transition day and all the other wonderful ‘differences’ that are happening at school at the minute.

No-one is sleeping well. No one is coping well. Himself and I are doing our best, but it doesn’t feel quite good enough at the minute. I don’t dare think about things too deeply, because I just feel overwhelmed. Tomorrow I have to go and see the head of the boy’s school, because I need to know the plans; but I need her to know that at the minute, this is hard; but I need not to cry.  I don’t dare cry, because I might not stop.

I know this is a bad patch, we will get through it. We will stick it back together again. We will manage the meltdowns, the biting, hitting & kicking (from both of them of course). We will limp along, until we realise that things are calmer. But right now, this is hard.

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Education thinking…as a teacher & adoptive parent

A few weeks ago I saw a statistic that bothers me… at the end of KS2 75% of pupils ‘pass’ (whatever that means in today’s education world). It has long been recognized that looked after children don’t do as well – 46% of them ‘pass’. Until very recently the data simply hasn’t been available for previously looked after children, it is now – 49%. Which as a mere science teacher, looks closer to 46% than 75%.
 
There were many things mentioned in the Queen’s speech last week; but one that most people will have ignored is one that effects previously looked after children. Virtual School Head’s roles will extend to cover them. And schools should have a designated teacher for them, much as they do for looked after children. The school will have a duty of care to ensure that previously looked after children have their needs met.
 
I work at a secondary school, where there are 6 (I am told) adopted children – I know who 3 of them are. This worries me… how can I help them to achieve; how can I understand them if I don’t know who they are? I make sure each year that D’s teachers are aware of him (to be fair the entire school seems to be aware of him) and his background, I will do the same for H. What happens at secondary school; should the information be shared more?
We are constantly been reminded to consider our pupil premium pupils, but there is no differentiation between the different causes of PP/PP+. If we should be as concerned about the pupils who were previously looked after as the data suggests we should be; should we be more aware?
There is a lot of debate around at the minute, regarding adopted children and education, and generally about education. And I think the discussion is important, but there has to be learning as well as discussion. The data is starting to exist, we should react according to the data that is there. More data will be added over the years, it would be good to see that these early feelings about the information can be changed. That 49% is starting point, from where things will improve.
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