As you know I’ve been reflecting on my sons progress through his early years and will now look at his experience in mainstream ‘state’ education. At this point he was still undiagnosed. His transition into reception was OK which I believe can be attributed to three things: 1) his nursery was based in the school he would go to so he knew the environment; 2) the school helped the nursery children to settle into their new environment through gradually building up the hours they did at school and 3) learning was based on ‘play’. However, this was the year when his learning difficulties started to formally appear. His end-of-year report in 2003 (my son was now 5) mentions how
- his speech, though improved, is not always clear,
- he has difficulty following instructions and needs help to carry them out,
- he struggles to learn the sounds of letters,
- he struggles with reading, writing and maths,
- he needs a lot of help in understanding the past and present,
- he finds drawing and painting difficult,
- his fine motor skills are poor,
- his hand-eye coordination is weak,
- he needs help in dressing,
- he needs a high level of support and encouragement, and
- he becomes easily distracted
I was a bit bothered that he wasn’t learning in the same way as other children, something that I had noticed when we mixed with other families who had children of the same age. However, I didn’t panic because he was only 5; there was plenty of time to catch up, I used to say to myself. And, in any case, he was a practical boy. Indeed, his report noted positively that my son has an interest in science, enjoys making and designing things particularly with duplo and lego (surprise, surprise!) and exhibits rhythmic awareness and enjoyment in singing! For those of you who read my earlier blog on him as a baby, you will be aware that my son sang his way round the supermarket! It was quite clear that my son, like his dad, was a ‘practical’ boy but unlike his dad ‘enjoyed singing’. Maybe he takes after me – I really enjoyed singing as a child and was even confident enough to do solos at primary school though I never took it up and would never dream of auditioning for X-factor!
My son’s confusing behaviourial pattern – was I going mad?
For all these positives, I was starting to feel confused about his behavioural pattern. Though at school he appeared largely contained, he still acted as a ‘coiled spring’ after school, when he would immediately run off. Furthermore his tantrums were not lessening. If anything his behaviour was getting worse and we would often find ourselves in a situation outside our home with a child thrashing around on the floor and screaming with many onlookers tut-tutting and making inferrences about our parenting. Indeed I was also picking up comments from within my family/social circle that our “badly behaved child” was due to our parenting. I remember feeling quite offended by such comments yet confused that no matter how hard I tried my son didn’t seem able to control himself. Couldn’t people see the effort I made? Consequently I started to question my own abilities to parent my son – this marked the start of a downward spiral in my confidence as a mother and individual.
You may wonder why I didn’t seek help. Well there were times, particularly at home, when he would be quite calm and content, playing happily with his hundreds of cars and lego pieces. It was the unpredictability of his behaviour that was the problem - I just could not see a pattern and consequently I felt like I was going ‘mad’ and kept questioning whether or not I was seeing problems in my son. I was also being told by his school that his slow development was due to immaturity and ‘being a boy’, exactly the same attitude as the health visitor, so I waited patiently for improvement. But as you will read on, that improvement didn’t really happen.