Starting School

Lots of children are starting school for the first time today, as well as returning.

I received the most beautiful picture of my niece returning to school this morning. In fact, I was privileged to also receive photographs of every first day she’s had at school so far…and they melted my heart. You can see the excitement in her beautiful face, and she looks so smart in her uniform.

I felt so much pride looking at these photographs and then it dawned on me…we won’t experience this with my eldest child, at least not at the same time as everybody else.

We are embarking on home schooling, not through choice, but through having no other option.

We moved house after the school deadline and had to forfeit a school place that was too far away to get to. We were all set to move before the deadline, but our buyer pulled out on us the week of exchange, so we had to start the process all over again.

For those of you who understand what it is like to have a child with autism and sensory processing disorder, getting dressed and ready to leave the house can be a huge effort. Transitions are difficult, and new experiences can trigger all kinds of behaviour and meltdowns. As parents, we know it is likely we will be called into school to support our child, at least while he settles and becomes familiar with the environment. It is therefore imperative that the school is accessible. Travelling to and from school is likely to go well beyond the school run.

He is on the waiting list for two local schools but we have been told that as he is 4, and education is not compulsory until he is 5, we shouldn’t expect a place any time soon. I was even asked if I would be happy for him to wait until September 2020 to begin his school experience, but as he is academically bright, I feel this is not an option.

I have been extremely torn over him not starting school. A part of me feels that maybe it’s for the best. Socially and emotionally he is not like other children his age, so maybe he should stay at home a bit longer. It would give me time to work on some of the skills that hold him back, and I can’t say I’m exactly upset about getting to spend more time with him. However, I also feel it is a huge responsibility, particularly as his 2 year old brother is at home. And quite frankly, at times life can be quite exhausting.

Regardless, our reality is that he is not starting school along with everybody else, and a part of me feels quite heartbroken about that. His experience was never going to be a typical one but there is something sad about his introduction to education.

Starting school in the middle of an academic year is hard for any child, but for him it will be so much harder. He likes other children but plays alongside, rather than with them. Unless it’s a game from his toolkit that he has a script for of course. It hurts to think that he will be joining a class that has already bonded and formed relationships. He comes with his challenges so I believe strongly in getting support in place before he attends school, for his sake as well as his peers and teachers. However, I worry that he will also stand out a lot more, joining a class late.

I mourn for the absence of that first photograph in his school uniform. In returning years, we will have to compare with a photograph from a different time in the year, rather than at the beginning of the first term. That is something we will never have the privilege of experiencing, at least with him.

Bubbles

Bubbles are absolutely our favourite thing in the world…and we find they work on so many levels of the sensory system. Blowing, chasing, popping…

This particular mixture is apple scented so they smell great too! Mummy has worked out how to blow really large bubbles which the children are fascinated by! They love watching them float through the air, sparkling in a rainbow of colours.

Popping Bubbles
Sensory Play
Bubble Finger

Socioeconomic Factors

I had to share this because it is something I have discussed with various different people. Should socioeconomic factors be considered as an additional need, or something that should qualify children for extra intervention?

I believe so!

The article states, “The researchers emphasize that these findings suggest that interventional policies aimed at children living in poverty are likely to have the most positive impact on individual brain development and society.”

I do not believe that children from poorer backgrounds are in any way inferior or less able to achieve, but I do know from experience that some (and I am very careful not to suggest all) children do not have access to basic needs such as nutritious meals and heating, and I refuse to believe that it does not have an impact on wellbeing and the ability to focus on learning.

I remember teaching a little girl who didn’t want to go home because her family had no heating, having to choose between food and warmth. I also remember having to bring extra food in daily for a little girl who never had breakfast or clean clothes. These children were very bright but often unengaged, and who can blame them?

Some parents worked so many hours to provide for their children that they spent barely any time with them, and I also believe this has an impact.

Although this is an American article from 2015, I found this study interesting.

Some people deny that austerity has caused poverty, or at least exacerbated it, but this is the reality for many families, and in the long run, it does our society no favours! We are letting people down!

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201503/socioeconomic-factors-impact-childs-brain-structure

Sensory

I bought this from G & T’s…and it has been a hit. It cost less than £4 I believe, and is easy to put together and pretty sturdy! It dances in the wind and is a great addition to the garden. When they get more in stock, I will be adding more to the collection.

My First Blog Post

Hi…

There was a great citation here when I created the page…I want to say let’s make the impossible ‘senpossible’. I nearly used that name for this blog…there were so many possibilities…but SEN child of mine just felt right!

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. Subscribe below to get notified when I post new updates.

There is lots more to come, but for now I would like to share some useful links:

https://www.ipsea.org.ukhttps://www.autism.org.ukhttps://www.autism.org.uk/…/free-re…/autism-alert-cards.aspxhttps://www.autismwessex.org.ukhttps://www.home-start.org.ukhttps://www.kids.org.uk/sendiasshttps://www.safefamiliesforchildren.com

How it all began…

When I was a teacher, I came across a large number of children with additional needs. It struck me that more and more children were presenting with SEN, however many of these children were not diagnosed. Any teacher will tell you that when you have your own class, the children become your extended family, so you naturally do whatever it takes to help them. Whether it’s spending hours of your own time worrying about and trying to find ways to support them, or indeed spending your very hard earned wages on anything you feel will make their learning experiences positive and meaningful.

I spent hours researching and creating resources to help those children ‘cope’ within the classroom environment but still, some children just could not succeed. This created all sorts of issues such as low self esteem and a feeling of failure, inevitably exacerbating the behaviour. I witnessed children being labelled naughty and this infuriated me. Some children experience chaotic home lives which can influence their behaviour, but I had my share of children who struggled for a plethora of different reasons.

In our society we are very quick to judge parents and assume that children are spoilt brats, devoid of manners and discipline. “Bring back corporal punishment!” I’ve heard people say. “All this ADHD and autism…nonsense! In my day, this didn’t exist and it’s just an excuse for children who can’t behave!”

Well, the reality is, children with additional needs have always existed, but they were not diagnosed and probably spent their lives being misunderstood and labelled incorrectly. It is highly plausible that numbers seem to have increased due to more people being diagnosed, but studies also suggest that genetics have a part to play. I will revisit this further in my blog.

These opinions never sat well with me, but they wounded me even further when I had two children of my own who were both flagged up as being SEN.

Automatically, people assumed my children’s behaviour was a result of my parenting, or pandering as it was once described. I prefer to call it helping my children to feel safe, secure and loved. I prefer to call it having realistic expectations and clear boundaries. I also prefer to call it picking your battles.

Some people didn’t believe they were SEN at all and suggested I was seeing things that weren’t there, completely invalidating their everyday struggles, as well as mine. But again, I will explore this further in my blog.

I have created SEN Child of Mine to share my experiences, to offer support to others, and also to explore the world of SEN today. I look forward to exploring this journey with you and invite you to share your world with me.

Behaviour

I am absolutely gutted…I spent ages constructing a new post and it didn’t save!!!!

I don’t know if I have the patience to rewrite it. I was about to back it up as well. Ok…here goes…

I was discussing behaviour.

Essentially, lots of other parents have told me that their neurotypical children behave like mine and that they believe some of the behaviour is just normal.

I am aware that some of the behaviours my children exhibit are typical of their ages but I urge parents of neurotypical children to understand that we know the difference. If we are attributing a behavour to ASD/SPD, please trust us.

My children are polite and well behaved but as I’ve said before, when they ‘flip’, they are quite extreme and loud, so they stand out.

I am so consistent with my behaviour management that it is sometimes hard to accept that my children can come across the way they do. Generally though, I am so proud of them, and when we go out, despite how much we have to do to keep things ticking over, they behave well.

I think we need to create new terms to differentiate between behaviour (manners/doing as one is told) and SEN ‘misbehaviours’. This is mainly because lots of behaviour exhibited by SEN children are due to developmental or processing issues and require extra support to manage.

When I was a teacher, as anybody who worked with me can confirm, I excelled at behaviour management. I believe in treating people as individuals but I also believe in clear boundaries. I was frequently called upon to help with behaviour issues and children were often sent to me when they made the wrong choices. I had my fair share of problematic behaviour which came from high numbers of SEN children as well as a plethora of other reasons.

On some level, I actually believe I was given those experiences to prepare me for my children, particularly my eldest.

One Headteacher asked if I would be interested in training to become a SENCo. At the time I wanted to be an English Coordinator, which I later did for two schools. I also had my heart set on becoming a Headteacher, but when the opportunity arose to become an Assistant Head, I quickly realised that this wasn’t the right job for me. It haunted me for some time that I had passed up an opportunity to make a real difference to so many children and gain more knowledge of SEN.

I am now very interested in working within the field of SEN. I am not quite sure in which capacity yet.

The research I conducted as a teacher, along with the strategies I put in place back then, have certainly helped with my own children. I guess that’s what enabled me to identify their differences early on and put things in place from so young.