An Olive? Yes Please

004A week ago our life was being turned upside down by the boy’s behaviour in school. So a week later where are we?

Those two days at home were calm time. Not really work time, he did a few bits and after talking  about what it feels like when he gets angry he wrote a poem, I may share if he’ll let me but as always he showed a deep awareness of how his emotions work even if he can’t at 9, yet fully control their ferocity. This always gives me very high hopes for his future. By the afternoon of day two the anxieties regarding his return to school were starting to show. He acted a bit silly, babbling nonsense to fill any spaces; sometimes it’s hard not to be annoyed with the rubbish he spouts in this frame of mind. Giddy and jumpy, sometimes when standing he almost hopes from foot to foot, skittish he precariously increasing the chances of  a clumsy accident, like the one when he rocked off his stool, crashing to the kitchen floor, rolled into a ball and wouldn’t come out for about five minutes. Nerves have a way of heightening sensitivity. He can’t get comfortable to watch the television, moving between the floor, the sofa and his feet, it’s totally exhausting to watch and not very relaxing. His head and shoulders meet, no neck in sight he is racked with stress, at these moments I recognise the plains of his birth mothers face in him.

So back to school and a reintegration meeting, the Head, the SENCo, the husband and me. No shared smiles this time, I can hardly make eye contact, I’m just concentrating on keeping my emotions together. The air of uncertainty hangs heavy. Then an olive branch is extended a hope to repair the recognised damage that has been done to the school parent relationship. The hope that we can work together as we have before to support our children. There is discussion regarding the events and there is conversation regarding the nature of the punishment applied. The talk turns to the culture of discipline that surrounds us, the fact that it is not necessarily right but it is the way of things, a long road to travel for change. It is noted that a journey requires taking the first steps and that those steps do not as yet appear to be taken. Reassurance is given that our children are in the safest of hands, a school where attachment is indeed understood and under the umbrella of the Enhanced Resources this school offers. There is a hope to move forward. We leave the meeting, reports in hand to read later and with an improving relationship.

So where to now? For me the question remains as to whether the situation could have been handled better and therefore the outcome have been less extreme.  I still feel aggrieved for the punishment enforced, with a greater degree now knowing the extent of this schools understanding of the attachment issues my children face. The Enhanced Resources aspect of this school has indeed supported my children excellently and many an individual have been amazing with my kids. This is why the disappointment is so impacted because ignorance is not an excuse that can be used for this decision. I have answered in response to some comments placed on my previous post that I do not expect my child to go without consequence but a consequence that suits only the observers and those with no understanding is not acceptable. In a school where children’s individual needs are a speciality then what appears to be a blanket one fits all discipline policy is also not acceptable.

I’d like for a moment to contemplate the difference between a looked after child and a child that is considered to have a good enough start to life. This is what should happen. A baby is born ready to learn like one gigantic sponge that is waiting to absorb all the new and incredible experiences that await. Immersed in love, nurtured and responded to, a baby starts to learn their place in the world. A world that they see as safe because someone is caring for them, any fears they have are allayed by those that love them and validation of their belonging is made by their parents responding to them.

This is what happens to children who have been neglected. In brief little to no attention is paid to them as babies. No one comes when they cry no one feeds, changes, cuddles and stimulates them when required. Contact that is made is most likely irritable, angry or violent, mum probably needs a fix or a drink and then maybe she might act nice for a little bit. There is so much more but I said in brief.  Once the decision is made by the local authorities to remove these children, they are taken often with police support, with few to no belongings into care, the care of people they do not know. Whilst decisions are made they may remain here or they may be moved, more than once, sometimes without their siblings. So what is this child’s large sponge like brain absorbing about the world they live in?

That it is a frightening, no terrify place where no one can be trusted. The only way to ensure ones safety is to take control of one’s self and allow no one else to make decisions for you. That you must be a very horrible and bad child if no one wants to love you. To reject people that try to form attachments with you because of the fear of being rejected again. This is what they absorb and this becomes the foundation of their relationships for the future, altering this is a very long and difficult task and in some cases not all these beliefs can be changed, the brain has hard wired them for good.

When educating children who struggle forming attachments the relationship formed with the child by individuals in the school and the school as a whole is key. In order for these children to learn to follow your rules and respect your decisions you need to obtain their trust. A trust that shows that you have their best interests at heart and you will not let them down. This trust is also formed through setting boundaries and enforcing them. So there is a very fine line to be walked between keeping the trust and showing the child who is in charge.

When we have similar outbursts at home, or if there have been school occurrences that require a restriction of activities at home I find jobs for my son to do, loading and unloading the dishwasher, sorting washing, recycling or helping to cook tea. Marginalising him in his bedroom, on his own will allows his negative self belief to grow stronger and feeds the thoughts that he is not a good person. Granted isolation is sometimes required as a cool down period but on the whole “time in” as opposed to “time out” is more constructive. These jobs he will do willingly, wanting to regain your admiration, keen to show you that he is sorry for his action and offering some time for us to reflect together. I can praise him for his helpfulness and talk through how things went wrong and what could have been done better. He actually responds well to a debrief because he is keen to learn and he also does not want it to happen again. There is also a need to move forward and return to normality.

I have always supported internal exclusion because I know that this provides him with some connection with the school although he is being isolated, but I feel that this method of discipline as a whole does need to be looked at. Is there a way that children who quite clearly show remorse can do something positive for the school for example dig the garden, help clean somewhere or the age old pick up litter as I way of making right their wrongs. I’m sure that resources, logistics and other things will create lots of obstacles for this suggestion but just consider aren’t criminals that show remorse extended some leniencies?

So I wonder if the first steps to change can be made here? I would like to think that maybe they can because this is a good school with good intentions and I will be offering my support and assistance in creating these steps to change. For now, today I take the olive attached to the branch and move forward for my son.

I am also considering how best to possibly collate stories of adoptive parents experiences in dealing with mainstream schools to present to The Care Inquiry. I currently have a spot on the AdoptionUK  discussion board under Adopters called Educating the Educator. If you wish to share your experiences I would be interested to read them. I am awaiting some advice on this matter but will keep people informed here and through twitter and facebook.

Snap Happy Brit Mums – Childhood Dreams

When my boys first came to live with us it was explained, by social services, that due to their neglectful background, that they would lack imagination in play. Starved by stimulation they were unable to dream up their own characters and stories during playtime. In those early days Mr H and I sat on the floor moving the figures and cars around suggesting dialogue, names and a plot to the game.

Early on Stig showed an interest in building things especially with Lego. He has gradually built up quite a collection of Lego from different kits he’s had. On receiving a box of his delight he firstly follows the instructions to build the item as it’s shown in the pictures. Then the item will be deconstructed and placed in a big container of other deconstructed items. From this box he then begins to build items which he designs in his head, dreams up  by himself.

Today Stig’s imagination runs on over load thinking up all the vehicles, ships and guns he can create with his Lego. He will often choose to go and play with his Lego instead of watching the television. Up in his room his games are full of different characters, vehicles and battling sounds of explosions, gunfire and shouted commands, all crafted from the inside of his mind . He can remain captivated by his own imagination for hours. Lego has helped Stig to develop his imagination enabled him to create and build his childhood dreams.