“…………. when my husband stepped into the meeting room to be faced by all these professionals he felt “ambushed” and angry that we had not received proper notification of who would be involved. It felt like a deliberate ploy to undermine us.”
We had the big meeting at school today about my aspergers daughter and her absences from school. I say “we” but it was only my husband that went as I had to stay at home and care for my son. Nevertheless, the night before, my husband and I had a chat about the things he should say in this meeting. Just to recap for those of you unfamiliar with our situation, the school are trying to blame us for our daughter’s absences from school (click here for more background).
We don’t accept this and argue that our daughter’s difficulties are due to her aspergers syndrome and auditory and visual processing disorders which are causing her to struggle in school. Coupled with the social and sensory difficulties and her physical difficulties with sports, school is a place of confusion for her so much so that she often refuses to go in.
Anyway returning to the meeting, my other half arrived at school to discover that the special needs teacher had organised for a whole raft of professionals to attend including the Educational Welfare Officer who luckily was unable to attend. Though we had had prior notice that the meeting would involve the Educational Psychologist, we had not been told of the numerous other people that would be invited. Not surprisingly when my husband stepped into the meeting room to be faced by all these professionals he felt “ambushed” and angry that we had not received proper notification of who would be involved. It felt like a deliberate ploy to undermine us.
If there is anything to be learnt from this is that any school who is serious about having good relations with families should maintain open communication with them. To expose a parent or carer to a meeting like this without full notification as to who is involved is unfair and does not help foster good working relations. If I had known the meeting would be like this then I would have scrambled around for childcare and supported my husband. As it was he had to manage alone but manage he did. Fortunately, we have had so many meetings over the years that we have become used to it all. Nevertheless I have to feel very concerned for parents new to this sort of scheming behaviour.
The meeting was a long one, over two hours long. The school were still trying to push the blame on to us but my husband would not tolerate this and for what feels like the millionth time, explained that my daughter’s absences were due to her special educational needs. Not surprisingly the school repeated (for what also feels like the millionth time) that they have been observing our daughter and report that she smiles and appears to be enjoying herself!!
I’ll try not to swear at this point, but really what a load of rubbish!
My daughter has aspergers syndrome, a lifelong disorder, and just because she smiles is no indication that all is OK. Things are not OK at all. When I collect my daughter from school she is stressed, angry and at times uncommunicative. Some days are worse than others but all the time she is constantly unhappy and hateful of school. I don’t know what context she is seen to be smiling in but my daughter has a tendency to get very giggly when overloaded. There is also the possibility that my daughter has learnt this behaviour as it is believed that high functioning autistic girls copy social behaviour from their peers which masks their internal difficulties. The school have not considered this aspect or the possibility that, as a result of her aspergers, my daughter may not always show the correct social response.
As it is, my daughter has said to me that she doesn’t understand a lot of what is going on in her lessons. To the school this isn’t always obvious as she is a passive girl so the way I explain her difficulties to other people is to use this analogy:
Try and imagine what it would be like to sit in lessons which are being spoken in a foreign language, a language you know a bit about but not enough to write fluently in. Imagine that you can only understand a few words and the rest is gobbledygook. What would you do to cope with this, in an environment you cannot easily escape from? If you are like my daughter you may look at what your neighbour is writing, you may copy your neighbour’s work, you may guess or you may just sit there day-dreaming, fiddling or scribbling. Can you imagine what it would be like to sit in lessons like this day in, day out? For my daughter this is her daily reality, something that she can now no longer cope with.
My husband used this analogy in the meeting, to help explain why my daughter needs more support. Apparently there were a series of nods and a lot of support from the Educational Psychologist – it seemed we were winning our argument. Anyway to cut a long story short, after more discussion the school have agreed to adapt the timetable, to incorporate rest breaks and to use more rewards.
Hallelujah, flexibility at long last but whether it will be enough I am doubtful.
I believe my daughter needs a lot more support than the school can provide. She needs more one to one support in a school that has a specific expertise in aspergers syndrome. Until I can find that provision, I will have to give her mainstream school a chance to adopt these ideas.