If I sneak this in today I can claim to have written a blog for January, get me!
I’m sorry things have been quiet the last few months. The book deadline certainly hasn’t helped, but there has been other things going on as well. Since September, school has become the same old problem it has been for The Boy all his life. The same, regular pattern that we seem to go through every two years started – meetings to express concern, part time hours, exclusions, more meetings and so on. And as always I’m stuck with how much to share about it here.
So, for now, The Boy is out of education again. The fourth school that “can’t meet his needs”. There’s so much I want to say and scream about, but for the time being I feel it would be unwise to speak out while I’m raising concerns with those involved and the relevant authorities. Rest assured, when the time comes I’ll shout things loud and clear and will keep on shouting until somebody, somewhere finally sits up and starts to listen.
I’ll just say this (can't help myself...). For all those involved in providing care and services for some of the more vulnerable members of our society, in particular those within the private sector, you need to take a long, hard look at yourselves. There are methods of restraint and containment used within schools and care homes that even some police forces in this country have deemed inappropriate. And that is just wrong. And just because you write a policy to justify their existence, that doesn’t make it right either. If the general public knew about one half that goes on, there would be bloody uproar. Instead all we have is Mr “here’s 48 hours notice for you to hide things and pretend everything is rosy” Ofsted. I know I may come across as just a pain the backside parent who doesn’t accept how difficult his child can be. But I strongly believe that so many of the policies, procedures and strategies used to deal with “challenging behaviour” only serve to contribute to the problem rather than solve them. It's time to look at things differently, and I know this might seem a bit radical, but maybe just once to try and see things through the eyes of the most important people in all this, those within your 'care'.
Mini-rant over. I’m sorry I can’t say anymore at the moment, but bloodyhell that feels better! The Boy is doing okay, if not a little bewildered and saddened by it all. The irony is that for him exclusions have become as much a part of school as the uniform, he's well used to the process by now. I think that's what I find hardest of all - we're not dealing with someone who refuses to go to school or challenges authority because he hates being there. Far from it, The Boy is someone who loves school, otherwise I would have given up the fight long ago...
Anyway, for now the situation is what it is. We continue to look for a new school, but each time the options get narrower and narrower. We'll get there I'm sure, as will the hundreds, if not thousands of families up and down the country who find themselves in the same boat - I wish our story was a one-off, but as I know from all those who contact me we're far, far from it. But I suppose if there's one thing this process has taught me, it's that if I'm going to shout and scream when things go wrong, then I need to ensure I also speak up when things go right. It's a crap system, but within that system there are still a great many individuals who manage to shine. So to finish, here’s an open letter to Mr Teacher who has featured in this blog so often:
Dear Mr Teacher,
I just wanted to say thank you for everything you did for The Boy while he was in your class. You know how much you were missed from June onwards. It was only a couple of months ago that I discovered you were a newly qualified teacher, and that surprised me (not because you look old beyond your years, you’ll understand…). It’s just you had a natural way with all the students I saw you teach, in particular The Boy. You understood him more than anyone.
Sometimes in teaching, like in life, it’s the little things that make all the difference. Like in one of the emergency meetings held recently and as The Boy left he started picking his nose. Everyone present was oblivious, but you stopped him immediately. You took him aside, and said you knew that when he picked his nose it meant he was nervous or upset, and you asked him what was scaring him. You just knew, instinctively, how to talk to him. You’re the first person outside the family who ever took the time to understand and see him the same way we do, and for that I will be eternally grateful. It was my guilty pleasure, watching the way you interacted with him.
On the last day of school I was called to collect The Boy and he’d decided that lying under the school minibus was the perfect place to escape the world for a moment. He was refusing to come out, but you knew that the best way to get him out wasn’t to drag him, it wasn’t to chastise him… You ‘laughed’ him out of there. You made him feel safe and happy until he just forgot why he went under the minibus in the first place.
Thank you. Your science lab was the messiest, most fun classroom ever. I'm sure you're not bad at teaching the subject either, but apparently what singled you out as the best teacher ever was that you used to bring chocolate muffins in on a Friday.
This blog is about bringing up The Boy. He's 12 years old and autistic. It's written by The Dad. It's my words, my view. Other people will think differently and have different opinions. Good.