Secondly, the weekend he became unwell with what we thought was a tummy upset was the weekend preceding mock SATS tests, a week of rehearsal and practice before the real thing the coming summer. My 10 year old son was then in year 6 which is the year when British school children sit their SATS (a form of testing) before progressing onto secondary education in year 7. I feel doing SATS is stressful for any child but for someone with anxiety issues and learning difficulties who needed academic support, even more so. And for my son there is no difference between practice SATS and the real SATS – they are both tests which cause him great stress and anxiety.
Having learnt about these two incidents, it didn’t surprise me that my son couldn’t cope any longer with school as I knew these issues would be very difficult for him to deal with. But what annoyed me most was the attitude of the school who implied that it was the recent death of one of our guinea pigs that tipped my son over the edge. I didn’t want to get into a blame-game but I really didn’t accept the guinea pig thesis as the main reason for my son’s school refusal. We told her, as politely as we could, that we thought that our son’s crisis was also the result of stress and anxiety that my son was experiencing in school which was getting worse as he became older and more self-aware.
If that meeting wasn’t tricky enough, then the following meeting about statementing was even more conflictual. For this meeting the SENCO brought in an education officer from the local council who informed us that my son’s levels of intelligence were not low enough to require a statement. She showed no consideration to my son’s autism and other difficulties. To make it worse, the education officer then used local government speak and pointed out that there was already funding in the school to support him. Really? I saw no evidence that sufficient funding was being used to support my son because for years my son had to tolerate inconsistent academic support and no social or emotional support at all. Not surprisingly, my son was unable to fully participate in the school curriculum or out of school activities and school trips.
I reacted badly and blurted out that did she have any understanding of what my son was going through, of what we were going through, what it was like to deal with challenging behaviour, what it was like not to have a social life or holidays? She just sat there stony faced and silent as did all the other people who were attending that meeting and I realised that my emotional outburst was not the way to push for my son’s rights. I changed my approach after that. Nevertheless the education officer agreed to bring in an educational psychologist and home tuition services and somehow through this very fraught meeting we had also managed to get the school to agree to our request for an assessment.
You may also be interested in:-
Part 13 – the stress of parenting a school refuser
Part 12 – dealing with my son’s agoraphobia
Part 11 – Look who else helped my son!
Part 10 – Medication – a mother’s perspective
Part 9 – Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
Part 8 – The onset of mental health problems
Part 1 – school, special educational needs and my son