The saga continues

So, where were we in the saga of My Son’s School Needs To Communicate With Me Better About All The Great Things They’re Doing?

The end of last week was a bit rubbish. On Friday, I calmed down and got a plan. I found a nice pretty card with a picture of a butterfly on in calming lilacs and I wrote every so politely, firmly and unambiguously inside “Please can we have a copy of X’s Thrive notes, thank you”. Hubby collected him from school while I collected little sister (so we could set off straight away on our big trip) and I gave him the card to hand to the teacher. Job done, right?

Hubby reported back that he’d talked to the teacher (teacher B for anyone taking notes) and that she had suggested we arrange to see them after school this week to talk about the notes.

This did not make me happy. By this point, the original aim of finding out what he does there is long out of the window I just want a copy of the notes that I’m entitled too and I’ve been told I can have and I’ve asked for at least 3 times now. Plus this week is mega busy, partly with end of term school shenanigans, and seeing his teachers after school means finding someone to look after him while we do it and hubby will want to leave work early and …..

I mainly forgot about this when we were away but when I was lying in bed trying and failing to sleep Saturday night this was one of the things that was rolling around my head.

I decided in the end that I would adopt a firm, polite, unyielding persona, of one who appears to listen and then repeats their point. Much like the head teacher at the school (which is why I’ve not contacted her at any point). As you won’t know head teacher, think politician. I decided that my response to teacher A on Monday would be “thank you for offering to see me about this, but I’m afraid I don’t have time this week, a photocopy for us to look at at home like the Senco said we could have will be fine thank you”. I practiced it in my head. Polite, to the point, firm and unwavering is not my style.

So, yesterday afternoon comes around. I’m running late, I decide I can’t be bothered with this conversation yet so I stand a way away so boy runs to me, avoiding teacher. Boy runs over and tells me teacher wants to see me. Great. I take a breath and go over (see One Depressed Mama, I’m following my own advice for once).

I should point out at this point that it’s Teacher B, who’s normally not there on Mondays. I have my script in my head but then she starts to describe the terrible day she’s had with him. Script out window. Massive Guilt attack. I know why she’s had a terrible day with him. He’s barely slept all weekend and yet despite that he was really good for us, it’s obviously caught up with him. I feel guilty about being a Bad Parent for taking him away in term time when he clearly couldn’t cope. I explain I know why he’s being bad, but she’s already aware he went away – he must’ve been telling her about the Tour De France.

Afterwards I thought about this guilt and I decided that it was a gut reaction and I’m going to let it go. After all, the school never seem that concerned when being at school makes him so tired that he’s a nightmare at home, midly sympathetic yes, but they don’t consider not teaching him for a few hours to make my life easier. And this was a very important trip to us as a family and it did me a lot of good. Plus it was unusual for us, we’re not taking him away like this in term time often. So I have decided I was not irresponsible, it was an exceptional circumstance (having the tour de france cycle down a huge hill that was part of one of hubby’s favourite rides as a teenager is unlikely to happen again) and this side effect is predictable, unfortunate, but temporary. I do, however, have to keep reminding Bitchface to tow the party line on this one.

Anyway, it seems like the main problem she had was getting him to write a letter. They’re buddying the kids up with the ones who’ll be at the top year of the juniors in September (great idea, see, they are a good school), the year 5’s had all written letters and the year 2’s were supposed to write replies. And he didn’t. She apparently kept him in at break and dinner time but he still didn’t write his letter. In the end he didn’t go to assembly at the end of the day and she left him with a teaching assistant instead and he finally wrote something.

I have some sympathy for the teacher. He’s infuriating when he’s in that mood. And he should be able to write a letter. But on refection, I don’t think keeping him in is ever going to work. You only get him to do stuff if you have him on side and keeping in the boy who needs to run around lots is never going to work.

So, once she’s discussed all this (well, more told me than discussed, I wasn’t quite sure what she expected of me, maybe I should’ve asked her that), with me being distracted by keeping an eye on boy over her shoulder who’s being quite irresponsible with an umbrella at high speed, then she mentions the Thrive stuff. I’m worn down at this point and when she starts talking about how the documents wont make much sense on their own and I need to have them explained to me my heart sinks and I’ve lost all my resolve. But then I realise that she’s suggesting I meet with the Teaching Assistant who takes him for Thrive, whom I know because she was the full time class TA when he was in reception, and she’s great. And it makes sense. And Teacher B is suggesting times when I can see TA towards the end of school hours and Teacher B will take over supervising the kids on the computers so that TA can talk to me.

This is actually a sensible, thought out plan and Teacher B is offering to give up some of her Planning Time to facilitate it, I feel like I’ve been met half way. And I can still ask for a copy from the TA if I think it’s appropriate so I can talk it through with hubby, who won’t be able to come.

So, that is the new plan. See TA in school, find out what is going on in his Thrive time, so that I have some idea. And also, work out what this blinking “Thrive Documentation” is, the thing that it’s so hard to find out about, that they’re using instead of the Home School Action Plan, that I only know about as their SEN policy states they will use a HSAP. Partly, I want gather evidence on how well/badly I feel they’ve been following their own SEN policy so that I can write a letter explaining the error of their ways to them after then end of term. Unless of course I decide that I’m being obsessive/vindictive/unfair and don’t write it. Or more likely I intend to write it and never get around to it.

We shall see. Anyway, I have a next step in the saga.

A long post in which I waffle a lot and moan about school (again).

Yesterday was pretty ****ing rubbish for me. I don’t think the busy full on day I had Tuesday helped. I don’t think the fact I think I’m entering the hormonal induced emotional rollercoaster stage of my menstrual cycle helped. I know that my conversation with the Senco didn’t help.

By the time I got home from school it was 10 to 11. In the space between then and leaving for school again at 20 past 3 I cried, wrote a blog post, had a slow conversation via FB messenger with a friend abroad, ate a bowl of cereal and cried some more. I’m pretty sure that was it. If there was anything else I can’t remember it. I didn’t wash up, I didn’t hang the washing out. I may well have looked at some other peoples blog posts, sounds likely, I can’t remember. And at the end of it I felt utterly utterly exhausted.

In fact, when it came to getting ready to go to school, the memory of what happened the last time I’d asked the Senco (via email) for this Thrive documentation and tried to point out, as nicely as I could, that their communication strategy left a lot to be desired from my point of view, and the ensuing conversation with his class teacher in the playground where she defensively explained to me that they had been telling me stuff and that wanting to know any more was unreasonable, the conversation that left me wanting to cry, well the memory of all that flooded back and mixed with the memory of crying that morning and it set me off all over again. I was sat in my dining room in floods of tears desperately trying to pull myself together and failing. I has no idea what to do. I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t want to see his teacher. I nearly rang my husband but I wasn’t sure what he could do either. I contemplated ringing the office and telling them I’d been delayed so that I could pick the kids up late from the office staff and not have to see his teacher. That is how rubbish I felt. That is how little I wanted to go to school. I imagined I felt how a reluctant child who hates school feels at half past eight on a school morning.

Eventually, I managed to go and wash my face and get out the door. I went to my daughters playground first. I tried to act normal, to hope that no one could tell I’d been crying, I had a conversation with someone. I picked my daughter up, reinforcements to help me feel brave, I held her hand. And then I walked onto the pavement outside the railings with her round to my sons classroom, instead of through the playground right up to his class door like normal, hoping that my son would come out to meet me like lots of the other kids do and I wouldn’t have to speak to his teacher, and if she did ask me to come and speak to her I’d have distance and railings between us and I’d be able to say “not today”, like I’d heard someone say to a different teacher yesterday.

In the end he did come up and find me no problem. And his teacher wasn’t there either. In fact, it was the teaching assistant that takes him for Thrive. I kicked myself that I’d missed the opportunity to talk to her, as she’s lovely, but mainly I was relieved I’d survived the ordeal.

And last night. Last night I was shattered. I didn’t want to do anything except sleep. I managed not to until putting the kids to bed.

But today. Today has not been so good either. Hubby hadn’t slept well, having to put the boy back to bed twice in the night (which I slept through) and he was not happy at being woken at 6.30am by shouting and stamping. It was one of those mornings in our house. Eventually I managed to drag myself out of bed to face the day, leaving husband hiding under the duvet, and calmly talk to the boy. Then I made the cups of tea for grownups and real fruit milkshakes for kids. Then I went and spoke to the boy again (when he’s in that mood, if you leave him he messes around and gets loud, if you stay with him he gets cross that you’re there and asks you to leave so he can do it himself, if you try and tell him what to do he argues, it’s very difficult to move forward, in the time I’d been downstairs he’d put a waistcoat on over his pajamas and tied some string around his ankle) and gave them milkshake to drink (trying to get the calories into him that calm him down without backing down on my “dressed before breakfast” rule).

Then I went to have a shower. And I cried some more in the shower. I don’t like this. I don’t want to start crying everytime I have to take the kids to school, that would be most inconvenient. Luckily husband was up by then and the kids were finally dressed and breakfast happened and we got to school ok. Today is Teacher B day (so I was less stressed) and I told her he’d not slept well and had been having trouble concentrating. She thinks he’s worried about the transition to juniors (they’re all going to see there new classrooms and meet their new teachers today), the school are really focusing on that and as someone on their SEN programme he’s had several trips over to the juniors to find stuff out. I think it’s great that they’re putting the effort in but they don’t seem to get that starting new things isn’t a problem for him. As long as he knows they’re coming, he likes new things, new adults, its all a new information source to him.

Afterwards I walked back with another parent of a child in his class who was also at the coffee morning yesterday. And I found out that she doesn’t feel like she’s been told what’s going on either. And she also has no idea what her son does in Thrive and hasn’t been told what they’re trying to achieve and hasn’t seen the documentation either. Unlike me she doesn’t even know who takes her son. I wanted to hug her I was so relieved that it’s not just me.

So, now I’m in danger of spending a second day obsessing about this and feeling upset and getting nothing done. Except eating cereal. I’ve managed that (with cream, as we’d run out of milk)(how on earth we had cream in I don’t know, it’s not normal).

Me and my big mouth

Just had a SEN (special educational needs) coffee morning at the junior school. Great idea in theory, in practice, could do better.

We had a little chat from the infant school SENCO (SEN coordinator) who introduced the junior school SENCO and their Educational Psychologist. This was slightly confusing as the Ed Psych was quite noticably a different one from the one that works in the infant school (different gender for a start) and who had told at least one other parent and us that she worked at the junior school as well so there would be continuity. Someone else asked about this and it turns out that some Ed Psych time, namely that to do with statemented children (who are apparently quite rare), is paid for by the County Council, but other Ed Psych time is paid for by the school from their budget. The infants use the same Ed Psyh for both, the juniors school have chosen to buy in a different Ed Psych to the County Councils choice, so there are two Ed Psychs working in the school, doing different things, but we were reassured that they communicate. So an understandable complication of modern life but one that you don’t get unless someone tells you and it’s mildly frustrating that you have to ask for the explanation.

Later the infant school SENCO explains to me that she thinks it’s actually a good thing there are two ed psychs. I find her generally pleasant and helpful but I can’t help finding her a little defensive and with a tendency to miss the point sometimes. Confusion/frustration at not understanding why the ed psych you’ve just been introduced to is not who you expected is not the same as being cross that there are two different Ed Psychs involved.

Anyway, hubby and I have a quick chat with this new Ed Psych, because it’s suggested we might want to, so even though we don’t know what we want to chat to him about (because we don’t know what involvement he might have, we’re still a bit confused about how this works) we figure we might as well. He seems quite sensible and he seems to get our son from our description. In relation to our comments that he doesn’t always change task well (eg continuing to read the book he’s engrossed in when it’s time to come and sit on the carpet and listen meaning the teacher is saying his name over and over again) he asks if the teacher is giving him countdowns to changing task (e.g. you need to come and sit down on the carpet in 2 minutes) – we have no idea if this happens, it wasn’t on the Ed psych report, but this is something that we do at home constantly. So I like him. He also points out that we shouldn’t judge how things are going to go for our son, but wait and see if there are problems. This has been said to me before. Hmm, I think I am doing this, maybe I’m not. Or maybe my desperation to try and communicate clearly to the multiheaded beast that is the school system makes me seem to be making mountains out of molehills, when in actual fact I’m just trying to get someone to listen to my description of the molehills.

So, next up, new Senco. She seems nice, but the conversation is a bit unstructured. She starts of reading something from a piece of paper and talking about the physical movement intervention he had in reception. I realise we’re getting side tracked and interject with the more recent Aspergers suspicions. Anyway, she seems to take on board the fact that we’ve felt communication hasn’t been optimum at times without getting defensive (as its not her responsibility) and gets straight away that he doesn’t like being talked of in front of him and suggests they could email us instead, yay! She also asks me to write down his colour deficient mix ups (blue/purple etc) so the teacher is aware, very practical. And when we recount the problem he had at the out of school group he goes to, when he decided to leave the room as they were singing a song he didn’t like and they thought he was trying to leave the building and a scene ensued, she suggests they could find him a safe space at school he can go to if he needs it. I’m not sure if he needs it in the school setting, but it’s a nice idea.

So, so far so good. And then I end up chatting to the infant school SENco again after hubby has left for work. And I ask her for a copy of the boys Thrive documents as I figure that not mentioning it to her in person and then writing a letter about it would probably seem rude. She says of course I can see them, I just have to ask the class teacher (I have asked her for this before and I think the class teacher too, but somehow my explicit requests don’t seem to get heard). And then she tells me that I will have been shown them before. I explain that I don’t think I have. And back she goes, every so nicely, politely and insistently, onto the defensive. And I am back trying to explain why it feels like from my perspective that there’s a pattern of not being told things. And she is back explaining that I would have been told things until I start to doubt myself and wondering if I’ve just forgotten it all. Plus she keeps reiterating that it’s the class teachers job to tell me. And then she says she thought the class teacher had talked to me about my concerns and that she’ll tell her of them again.

Noooo. This is a repeat of before. When I mentioned in an email to the SENCO that I think the parent communication part of their SEN policy has room for improvement and then I had the class teacher defensively explaining to me in front of my kids that she had told me stuff and that it was unreasonable for her to tell every parent every time they’d done something different with one of their pupils (which I didn’t think was what I was asking for) and I felt like crying afterwards. And now it’s going to happen again.

I cried all the way home from the coffee morning, I was proper snottily sobbing by the time I got in the door. I don’t want all this aggro, I don’t want to justify myself and argue, I don’t want to make people defensive, I just want a copy of this blinking documentation. They seem to think I’m making a fuss out of nothing, but all I want is for them to just stop being defensive and telling me there isn’t a problem and give me a copy of this document (and actually just acknowledging my frustration rather than telling me I’m wrong would be nice too, but I’d settle for the document). It’s probably quite short and uninteresting. I may have seen it and forgotten about it as it was so dull. If so I will apologise when I recognise it.

I cannot wait until the end of July when he leaves this school and I can work instead at starting off on the right foot building up effective communication with the new school.

Family resemblences

So, last night I was still upset about trying to communicate with school, today I’ve taken a step sideways. I wanted to leave it for a bit, calm down, let my subconcious work out what to do. Instead I find myself noticing all the ways I’ve reacted that show similarities in some way with my son.

I don’t like confrontation. A teacher defending herself and the school by explaining to me that they think they have communicated with me (when I’d pointed out I thought they could do better), just makes me think that she’s cross with me. So I get upset. Actually I don’t know if this is like him. But it is definitely true that I don’t like confrontations and I don’t like feeling like I’ve made people cross, especially not people I like and respect.

Like him, I don’t like surprises. I didn’t realise this. I think I cope with surprised much better than him, but maybe that’s just because my added life experience makes me expect a wider range of possible events. But I wasn’t expecting you to talk to me about what I’d written when I’d emailed it to someone else and she’d replied. I thought I understood the rules of communication. I talk to you, you answer me. I email her, she emails me back. But I email her and then you talk to me about it. This I don’t get. Does this mean I struggle with the rules of communication? Or do schools just have different rules from the rest of us.

I don’t like things that don’t fit, things that are uneven, things not as they should be. I find my son doesn’t cope with things that don’t fit into his scheme of logic, so maybe this is another way we’re similar. Anwyay, this one is a big part of my reason for being frustrated that I didn’t know about this Thrive documentation. Because, Mrs Senco, you told me I’d seen all his school records, and then you told me that he didn’t have an IEP because you were using different documentation that I didn’t know about and haven’t seen. And I like my equations to balance. And All His School Records does not equal All His School Records Apart From One. And this irks me. The unbalancedness of it, the uncompleteness of it. Please don’t think I think you’re deliberately misleading me (I don’t) or that you’re using the wrong records (I don’t). Take this as me gently marking your work in green pen, that X = X-1 is wrong, so that you can realise your mistake and learn from it.

Also Mrs Senco, I printed out and re read your SEN policy last night. It says mentions Home School Action Plans (which I think are the new IEP’s) and that children on a school action should have them. But it doesn’t say unless we’re using Thrive documentation instead. Again, you may think that I’m arguing for him to have a HSAP, well I’m not. Or that I think Thrive documentation is inferior to an HSAP, which I don’t. What I think is that if your policy is in some cases to use Thrive documentation instead of HSAP’s to avoid duplication, then it should say so in your SEN policy. Because it’s your policy, you wrote it, so why would you write something down that’s different to what you actaully do. This does not make any sense in my world, it is a flaw that irritates my logic, and I don’t like it.

And I get frustrated when I don’t feel I’ve been listened to, when I think someone has missed my point. I find it difficult to move on. I just want to repeat the same things over and over again. Whilst getting crosser. Just look at this blog post. On some levels this is very like him.

A is for Anger

Hmm, my subconcious is giving me a prod. I was just reading One Depressed Mama’s post on Things I Want and found myself replying that I wanted to go a whole day without anyone loosing their temper.

When I’m anxious I don’t cope well with the kids and I’m more likely to loose my temper. Same when I’m tired. And after a while the cumulative effect wears you down, wears a groove into you that you get stuck in and things trigger frustration even when you’re feeling relatively ok.

I sort of am feeling relatively ok at the moment, although I’m aware I haven’t done much Getting On Top Of Things pre-emptive anxiety reducing strategy and now the easter holidays have started so I won’t do for another couple of weeks. But then we’re all a bit demob happy cos it’s the end of term too and some of the stresspoints in the day (such as leaving the house ready for school on time) are temporarily suspended.

Also, I’ve been a bit distracted, staying up all night reasearching stuff about Aspergers and looking for that elusive webpage where they don’t explain the basics of the condition for the umpteenth time but do actually have some helpful advice on how to help all concerned by easing some of the frustrations of life caused by having one member of the familiy who is wired up a little differently from the rest (the frustration is two way). (Even if it turns out that his brain wiring doesn’t fall into the Aspie category there is no getting away from the fact he’s not average and some of his wiring appears Aspie). Did I mention that he does get very frustrated, at seemingly very trivial stuff and has angry meltdowns? (this mornings started with frustration over his ears being blocked and boiled over into growling angry sounds and clenched fists when he remembered that a classmate (that I always thought he didn’t like) was leaving his school at the end of today – hmm, feeling emotion but not being able to label it, where did I read that….) This is some of the anger I want to reduce.

Plus hubby has been feeling run down by a nasty cold thingy after a busy busy winter (at work and at home) that just won’t go away. Which may well be related to all the stress going on at his work. So I’m trying to support him before he comes down with a dose of nutjob flu too. Role reversal time. And guess what, his fuse is shorter when he’s tired and stressed and overloaded at work and home too.

And the other one? It would be a lot to ask a 6 year old girl to be the saving grace of the family. She gets tired and grumpy too and has a hard time accepting when things don’t go her way. Sometimes I have a lot of sympathy for her and other times she is being a completely unreasonable small child.

So, my goal for us all this week is to turn down the pressure, turn up the empathy. have lots of low key moochy family down time and hopefully drastically cut the number of flared tempers. Fingers crossed.

Listening

Whilst yesterday was mainly good, I did end up staying up far too late in the end messing on the internet and I have been tired today.

The reason I stayed up too late was because I was sulking. Whilst I’m not sulking now, I’ve been mulling over the reason all day in the background. Trying to tease out what is actually going on.

Before I expound, I want to say that my family is great. I have two lovely kids, who are generally well behaved but have their moments, like most infant school kids. And a wonderful supportive husband who does more than his share, what with working full time, being a hands on Dad, putting up with me obsessively sewing until midnight and coping with me when I’m feeling stressed and picking up the slack around the house.

So, you guessed it, the reason that I was sulking was to do with my family. Like all family, we sometimes rub each other up the wrong way. Last night I was frustrated that hubby hadn’t heard a couple of things I said, in particular that Yes I would like him to cut me some bread too (after my answer he cut two pieces, buttered them and then ate them in front of me) and please don’t put the laptop away as part of your tidying up (I wanted to use it) – he then put it away.

Now, these things on there own are rather minor. But I had a narrative in my head of not being listened to by anyone and I felt extremely frustrated. There is some basis for that narrative. For instance earlier husband and I had had to rehave a conversation and remake a decision – I clearly remembered doing this before (not least as I was surprised at hubby’s proposed solution) and he was adamant we’d not previously discussed it. This is not really surprising, we have two small children and don’t get that much time to talk to each other without being interrupted, plus he has had a very busy few months at work and done lots of overtime, which puts more strain on our communication system (amongst other things). It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t value what I have to say. It means that we need to make more time to talk to each other and get better at listening.

That’s another thing, as a household we’re not very good at listening. There’s always a lot going on and people are shouting reminders (“Have you brushed your teeth yet?”) and moving about whilst continuing conversations, so you find someone starts talking to you and then walks away mid sentance so you can’t hear them. Or walks off instead of answering you. And generally we’re a pretty talkative bunch with a tendency to interrupt each other.

And of course my kids are not always good at listening to me which is not surprising as often I’m giving them things to do and checking up on them. And when they do hear me, I can’t tell, because they’re fiddling with something and staring in the other direction and don’t answer (or answer in a mumble I can’t hear) and then immediately start a new topic of conversation.

All this is fairly normal with kids, and I think maybe a little worse than normal with our two as one has a tendency to retreat into a daydream and block us out and the other one is easily distracted and his teachers have recently told me how frustrated they get saying his name over and over again all day to get his attention.

But as a full time parent, the majority of my interactions in a day are often with my family, so that feeds into me taking it so personally. It can feel like I spend my life being ignored by the rest of the people I live with and that no matter what I say nobody is listening and that is very frustrating and can end up with me feeling like a second class citizen in my own home. Hence the sulking.

Of course, how I’m feeling in general affects how well I cope. When I’m feeling on top of things I’m calmer, I take things less personally, I have more patience and I find it easier to think of different strategies to try to get my children to do what I want. When I’m not feeling so great I have less patience, I’m quicker to anger, I don’t want to compromise (it’s My Way or the High Way), so I start battles with my children instead of changing tactics. And then I get frustrated at how much effort everything is taking. (Hmm, I think I maybe starting to open a bigger can of worms here than just the listening problem, that last paragraph is more how good I am in general at parenting depending on how good I feel in general, and of course they feed into each other.)

So, what next with the listening? Well, first I want to sit with my mulling. I have tried to discern what is going on in my head and I think just acknowledging it is a start. I don’t want to leap into solutions mode (I find it frustrating when someone that I want to listen to me leaps straight into giving me answers of what I can do about it, when I don’t want answers, I just want someone to listen). And I need to be aware of how I’m listening to others, I need to try and make sure I’m paying my family proper attention and model how I want them to behave.

And I need to talk to husband about this, I know he finds it frustrating too, and check our informal policy of promoting good listening and see if we can improve it any.

And I think I need to acknowledge that one of my children in particular has difficulty listening, for various reasons, and that it’s ok to find this frustrating, but I shouldn’t take it personally. And maybe I need to reasses my definition of what good listening and answering looks like and compromise a somewhere a little more acheivable for my children (who like many children don’t always want to make eye contact for instance).