My aspergers daughter and school-related anxiety

Since the last meeting with school regarding my aspergers daughter’s difficulties, there is still not enough being done to support her.   We are also still awaiting the educational psychologist to come in and do his assessment.  His idea was to wait for my daughter to settle into school before assessing her which seemed fair enough. 

However, my daughter is becoming increasingly anxious over all sorts of issues but particularly homework and PE which reached a peak over the last few days when she complained that she hated school and didn’t want to go in anymore.  As you can imagine, hearing such words really worries me.  With my son still out of school due to mental health issues, I don’t want my daughter to end up as poorly as he is and to miss vital education. 

I’ve therefore decided to change tactic.  As soon as the slightest issue emerges I will be emailing, writing or phoning the class teacher or special needs teacher.  By bringing up issues as they arise, my thinking is that we can stop the anxieties becoming too big as well as helping her current teacher to understand her aspergers. 

My daughter has a young teacher and though he has the potential to be a very good one, he has little experience and understanding of the autistic spectrum (sigh).  I also want the school, in particular the SENCO, to know I’m watching them and that I won’t allow them to let things slip for my daughter. 

Here is my latest letter.

Dear [class teacher and special needs teacher] 

I am writing about my daughter’s anxieties over homework and PE. 

With regard to homework, she frequently does not understand what is required of her and is worried that she  will get into trouble for not doing it properly.

As you are aware, her anxieties are symptomatic of  her aspergers and her particular difficulty in understanding language, whether written or verbal.  [name] can be very literal and easily misunderstand what is said to her.

Unfortunately [name] rarely shows that she misunderstands or is confused and will often hide any anxiety until she gets home where she exhibits negative or angry behaviour particularly with regard to school life.

I appreciate that it is not always possible to know if she has understood something or not, particularly when she says she understands but actually doesn’t.  In this regard, she sometimes says no or yes to end the conversation because the act of communicating can be so draining for her.

I am encouraging [name] to express her difficulties to school staff but I think she is finding this difficult to initiate.

One further matter is PE which is also causing [name] distress.  [name] is very unhappy with running and is complaining of of pain in the areas of her tendons and ankles.  I have told [name] to only do what she can manage but to stop if there is any pain or discomfort.  In the meantime I will be organising for her doctor to take another look at her  feet (she has suffered from inflamed tendons before).  It is notable that [name]  does have a slightly peculiar walk and gait and will spend most of her time at home on tiptoes which is a sensory issue associated with her aspergers.

I hope this note can help you to further support my daughter.

Regards

I have a feeling this is going to be one of many letters.

Postscript:

The letter had a positive affect.  My daughter came out of school almost smiling and then the learning mentor had a quick chat with us to arrange for further literacy support.  All is as good as it could be for now, except the evening was rather ruined by my daughter’s mini meltdown over mini cheddars and whether I had distributed them equally between her and her brother.  Her insistence on equality to the nearest crumb is an interesting aspect of her aspergers, albeit a exasperating one for mum!

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9 Responses to My aspergers daughter and school-related anxiety

  1. Jazzygal says:

    Well done…. great email and great result!

    Would you consider a daily school/home communicaton diary? That way you record events every day, each party can notify the other in advance if there has been an incident…say something happens at home that may erupt into a full blown meltdown when in school? It’s also a detailed recording of events/issues that may help with any claim for additional supports. It should also help when the ed psychologist comes to do the assessment;-)

    xx jazzy

  2. Steph says:

    Brilliant. So well written, thanks for sharing as I’m sure there are a lot of other parents out there who don’t have very helpful schools who will be able to use this as a good starting point for themselves. Definitely the right tactic to take. Formal is the way to go, and that way there’s a documented track to look back on and measure success against too. It’s not your daughter who’s failing, it’s others failing to understand her. Bravo. (sorry, been watching too much X-Factor ;)

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Steph and thanks for the lovely comment. I think it can be really hard for parents to initiate communication with a school over issues such as ASD. In a way I think we expect schools to understand the autistic spectrum and do what is right. Unfortunately, as I found the hard way, some schools are not autistic friendly and don’t do the right thing. As a result of my son’s experience I have learned to be more proactive and push for my daughter to be understood. Telephone calls never seemed to work very well and the review meetings were too spaced out so I have resorted to emails and letters whenever issues arise. Its definitely the way to go for me. Deb x

  3. Beth says:

    I am so pleased to hear that your letter has had the effect of helping your daughter receive the support she needs and to aid understanding of her Asperger’s. Long may the support continue:) In an ideal world it would be great for teachers to have an understanding of all additional needs children may have but I realise that will never happen,as there is neither the time nor the funding… but it is a lovely dream. In lieu of that, it is great to have a teacher that is WILLING to learn and willing to accept explanations of a child’s difficulties and be willing to provide support. The hardest part is experiencing teaching staff, unfortunately, like your son has had. Those who are far more willing to search for evidence against supporting a child and to blame parents and /or become downright rude and exasperated by a concerned parent’s comments. My mum has a saying,:- “there are none so blind as those that don’t want to see”…. my son has one of those teachers , similar to your son I believe and all the training, advice and input from other professionals, letters from parents in the world would do little to change her basic attitude and that is a very real concern.
    It sounds as though your daughter has some wonderful teaching staff who will help her reach her full potential within the education system and I am so pleased to hear this. Beth x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Beth. It is terrible to have a teacher or even a school that has absolutely no interest and understanding of autism. As you know this was very much the experience we had with our son, so I totally understand and sympathise with your situation. Unfortunately for our son, it took his mental health crisis for the authority to respond and get him statemented and into a special school. It should never have taken a mental health crisis to get action and even now he is living with the effects of poor primary education. Nevertheless it seems that the school have learned from this (or feel guilty?) and are now responding to our daughters difficulties. Fingers crossed it will continue. Deb x

  4. Lizbeth says:

    I’m glad you’re staying on top of things. It’s not your first rodeo, is it? ;)
    Can you get the general ed teacher’s e-mail? I’ve started with our special ed teacher and then requested a meeting with the general ed teacher with the special ed teacher so we could all three hash thing out first. It seemed to really help the general ed teacher identify my son’s triggers. Then I’d follow up and e-mail both of them with any further issues. I know, it’s way harder than it sounds, right?

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Lizbeth, no its not my first run-in with the school unfortunately. I have used the school email but have noticed that its not as efficient as sending a letter in via my daughter. Meetings tend to mainly involve the special education teacher and if the class teacher can join in, he will. Not sure if its helping the class teacher at the moment though. Its the early weeks of a new school year and he’s getting used to his class but it is clear he doesn’t have enough knowledge of the autistic spectrum. In a way I feel a bit sorry for him; he has a class of 30 and in that group he has two autistic girls (including my daughter), one ADHD boy and another boy with dyslexia and as far as I know none of them get a lot of support. In some ways I think the system lets our teachers down as much as our children. The thing that annoys me most though is when you start a new school year and you have to go through the whole thing of telling the class teacher what aspergers/autism is. I just think all teachers should have greater understanding of the autistic spectrum, well all disabilities, but there seems to be a massive lack of knowledge. Oh, I could go on but I’ll save it for another post another day. Deb x

  5. Alison Wells says:

    You are doing exactly the right thing here. We’ve been lucky to have a very understanding special needs organiser in the school and she had been trying to get across the difficulties experienced at home to the teacher and the reason my son needed some homework support at school. It was hard for the teacher to understand because he was fine at school – all the confusion and consequent aggression arose when he got home. The special needs organiser arranged a face to face meeting for us with the teacher and her which was great at getting the difficulties across. I am in constant email communication with the special needs person and asked the teacher for her email so I could send messages rather than through a notebook system if the matter was delicate. It’s helpful because at least now if I seem to be asking silly questions etc they know where it’s coming from. I hope your letters work or that you can find a way to educate the teacher in this area. All the best with it.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks Alison. It has taken me a while to be able to do this. The SENCO’s attitude to my son when he was at the school was dreadful; she would never accept he had a disability, she often blamed my parenting and even ignored his official diagnostic report. Not surprisingly a few months after diagnosis, he had a mental health crisis. I totally lost confidence with the school and found it very difficult to approach them after that. But then my daughter was having difficulties and with a diagnosis of aspergers, I knew I had to face them. I didn’t have the option of moving schools for her so it was a case of making do with this school. So slowly we’re repairing this broken relationship though it can never be properly repaired as I’ve lost too much trust with professionals. Nevertheless the school have admitted that they do not want my daughter to go through what my son went through. Getting them to admit this has been a significant breakthrough in being able to work together for the sake of my daughter.

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