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Should we pull our son out of school after only 4 months

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newdads February 3, 2021 22:49

Need advice as we just don’t know what to do.

Haven’t posted here in a long while but our 4 year old son moved in with us on the first day of lockdown last March. We were aware there was trauma there from birth parents and behaviour can be hit and miss. With foster carers, he was only doing 3 mornings of nursery but that was reduced when the behaviour was becoming violent to other kids. We knew because as well as getting to know us, it was all too much for him.

we Identified a local primary 5 mins away from our home who we thought were perfect. They said they understood the help that would be needed, reassured us etc. He moved in March and basically had 6 great months of getting used to his new home and is. It was a great time of bonding.

school is proving a nightmare, it was agreed that he would start with 3 days a week of half days and increase it over time. The behaviour has got a lot worse. Hitting, punching, spitting at both teachers and kids.

They applied and received higher needs funding of £15k to get a member of staff who would be 1 on 1. Great as the behaviour slowly started to improve. However, as of 2 weeks ago, that member of staff has now quit and we are back to before. I understand that with COVID they are limited on resources but we can tell that they simply can’t cope or know what to do with him.

They’ve put in an application of EHCP plan but that’s for later in school life. We’ve almost now come to the conclusion that we need to push for an ASD/ Austim referral to be able to access additional help. We agreed with that as we want to get the help he needs but the school seems to now just waiting for that before changes will happen.

i Was called into the office yesterday and shown for the first time, a list of 33 serious incidents that’s happened since September and given 3 options. Teach from home, exclusion or reduced hours.

We’ve had to concede on reduced hours but my frustration is building because I’m now realising that they don’t have the means to really support him. His teachers and environments change on almost a daily basis.

Yes there are behaviour issues there. Maybe more deep routed than we thought but we very rarely experience it at home. The odd spitting which is dealt with immediately.

we know what the results would be of any testing and ASD is likely. A lot of emotional challenges which is triggering the bad behaviour at school but I don’t know now before I have official test results whether I should keep him on reduced hours and start looking for a more specialist school locally.

I worry another school is another transition but it can’t be worse than the confusion he’s currently getting from the school and lack of understanding of his behaviour. He’s just considered the naughty child...

Edited 17/02/2021
Simon February 4, 2021 08:05

Hi New Dads

I am not an expert, but three practical things that have helped our family:

1. Contact your local authority Virtual Head (Google virtual head if you are not sure). I have found ours to be very helpful, as I know many other adoptive parents have too.

2. Ring the Adoption UK helpline - details on this website. Also very helpful.

3. If there is one; join your local Adoption UK adoptive parent support group. Our local one is done virtually at the moment. They are a great "local" resource for adoptive parents, especially around primary schools i.e. sadly there will be other families going through similar to yours. This will be especially helpful if you decide to find another school. Often there will be other adoptive parents living within your local authority who have experiences of and can recommend good attachment and trauma friendly schools.

Finally! Don't lose hope. In the 8 years of our adoption journey (we adopted at 6 and 7, our children are now in secondary school); schools have definitely got better in their support and understanding of what adopted children need. My top tip for a finding a better primary school - go larger. Larger primary schools have bigger budgets, far more resources, more specialist teachers/TA's, lunchtime activities and quiet areas and more teaching space etc.

Take care - you can do this

Simon x

Edited 17/02/2021
Donatella February 4, 2021 09:22

Ime schools have to want to support and when they don’t then you’re going to have a fight on your hands.

My now 17 year old was being frequently excluded from his very nice school from the age of 4 with a permanent exclusion at 6. It was horrible at the time and he still hates that school. He was, by then dx ADHD and went on to be dx ASD. Frankly though they just didn’t want him there. They had no desire to understand. They grudgingly agreed to a half hour free training session from our then PASW! I moved my daughter from there to a more accommodating school after my son was excluded.

There are supportive schools out there who do want to learn and work with you. My son spent 4 years in an amazing PRU and he’s been in an ASD unit through to y11. He’s now back in mainstream doing his A levels.

I would move him. If they’re not prepare to understand and work with you then in all honesty they’re unlikely to change. Look around, research other schools, speak to your LA learning support unit. Speak to local parents for recommendations. A horrible school experience impacts on everyone’s lives and can take some time to unpick and for your child to learn to trust and feel safe. And a child who doesn’t feel those things simply can’t learn as he’ll be in a permanent heightened state of alert/alarm. The old flight/fight primitive brain kicks in.

It does sound like school is ramping up his anxiety - and anxiety can look like anger to the uninformed.

Your poor little lad. Been there!

Edited 17/02/2021
windfalls February 4, 2021 10:05

Hi newdads,

I agree with what Donatella says. You say that an EHCP is for later school life - that is not the case it is for now too so please apply for one straight away. I would also start referrals for ASD and ADHD if I where you. Speak to your GP about this - some areas cahms DX both other areas it will be the community paediatrician. If you are able to fund private DX's then consider doing so as it will speed up the time you will wait.

I would also start to look for another school. I would look for a special needs school - one that is either a through school or one that has links to a special needs senior school. Also one that is either a ASD specialist or has a large proportion of the pupils with ASD or ASD type problems. Such schools will not only have the necessary expertise but will have very small class sizes and a calm and nurturing environment. So find the school you think would be right and work with the head of that school to get him in there - they will probably need an EHCP but they will be able to guide you as to what you need to do.also work with your current school - get them to put on the EHCP forms that they are on the verge of exclusion because they cannot meet his needs - very good evidence that he needs to be in s specialist school environment. If you are receiving help from post adoption support get them to also help with the EHCP.

Best wishes xx

Edited 17/02/2021
windfalls February 4, 2021 10:26

Just reread your post and noted that your son is 4 or 5 years old and do may be a bit young for ADHD DX but still check it out. My ad was DX ADHD at age 6 and started on meds straight away, which has been a godsend.

In my view small special schools are the way to go. Stay away from large mainstream schools at all costs as they talk the talk but don't walk the walk!


Edited 17/02/2021
windfalls February 4, 2021 10:41

Also Google sensory processing disorder - this can be attached to either ASD or attachment problems. Basically he could be experiencing sensory overload at school which could be impacting on his behaviour. An OT can DX this. If he is ASD then he will need SaLT regularly so make sure this provision is in his plan. The same with OT. The good thing is that specialist schools tend to have in-house SaLT and OT which makes it easier. Xx

Edited 17/02/2021
Safia February 4, 2021 15:04

I agree with the other posts about looking for what’s behind his behaviour - but it may take time as often this is a (very) long term project. If he’s in a school where he’s unhappy or his needs are not being met - and this could happen even if you move schools - it won’t help him. If your son is only at the start of his school life could you consider taking him out of school completely - very often it’s enough for children to adapt to a new family and if you didn’t have school to deal with it takes away a lot of the pressure and a lot of the anxiety - at the end of the day children don’t learn until their emotional needs are met as closely as possible. There are a lot of things you can do with him that is not formal education but will build your relationships and help his learning. As he gets older there are home school groups you can join and he’s then able to do things with other children. There are lots of threads on this in the archives. As you then spend so much time with him you can build a picture of his needs and abilities and will be in a better position to know what will suit him best. You can apply for an EHCP yourself and you can ask for funding as part of that for a variety of different kinds of provision including some form of home tuition if you decide you want to continue in that way. Or as others have said look at special schools - which are very small classes very much focused on individual children’s needs

Edited 17/02/2021
newdads February 5, 2021 20:43

Just a quick check in to say thanks. It’s been hectic the last few days and I’ll sit and have a good read of the replies over the next couple of days.

So the application for a EHC plan has been sent by the school and received by local authority. We now need to provide a supporting piece and the. I believe in 6 weeks, they will decide whether to carry out the assessment.

The school and us have submitted a referral for him to have a ASD/Autism assessment to our GP.

We’ve been on calls with Post adoption for out LC and they have supported both above applications and have got experts they know to help support.

we’ve also after suggestion put an application for Disability Living Allowance for him. Personally I’m not familiar with it and not sure if it’s something by we would be eligible for.

I’m grateful at the speed people have been moving but Im in 2 minds about school. Do I still try and push to move him to another school which on paper would help but maybe won’t. The parents at his school look at me in absolute content because he’s had instances with their kids.

apparently kids are scared to come to school because of his behaviour which breaks my heart because that’s not him. All he wants is people to love and spend time with him

Edited 17/02/2021
Leo February 5, 2021 23:04

Having been in virtually exactly this position, I would say - if there is any way possible - to take him out of school completely for now (possibly until at least the summer holidays).

He is so young, has not been home with you for very long in the grand scheme of things, and most of that time has been with the stress and difficulties of being in and out of lockdown or restrictions. What a year you all have had.

I think a lot of us adults are feeling wobbly right now. To be a traumatised child still finding his feet within his family and then having to cope with a school who clearly do not want to push themselves out of their comfort zone to support him; well, I don't envy him.

Perhaps try to think of any decision as part of a longer term strategy. School will be in his life for another 14 years or so. You do not need him being switched off the idea of school this early on.

I wonder what the experience of school must be like for him? Traumatised children are often so good at picking up on little nuances and on non verbal behaviours even when so very young. If you feel the stares and cold looks, what must he feel? I'm going to be harsh here; what message does it give to your son for you to keep sending him into a place he doesn't feel safe in? A place where no one is giving him the nurture and understanding he so desperately needs? Is it reinforcing negative self images that may take years to chip away at and turn around?

You may be able to tell that I feel a lot of guilt for not protecting my son quickly enough from the damage the school was doing. He needed time out. Time out of somewhere too complicated for him to manage when he had so many other things to cope with. He needed time in. Time with us to establish himself as a true part of our family and to develop a safe base from which, in time, he could venture out from and carry with him that feeling of security we had created.

With schools necessarily being so different currently from their norm, a whole raft of children are finding being in a classroom a difficult experience. In reality, that normality of school will not be back in place for a good while yet. Now may be the perfect time to stay away from it and use it as a benefit if at all possible.

Edited 17/02/2021
newdads February 5, 2021 23:19

It’s the emotional side which I’m trying to keep remembering. He likes going to school, he comes home daily happy as Larry but he is emotionally shut off when it comes to his behaviour.

we Spend maybe a minute or so a day talking about kind hands and what’s acceptable behaviour. He is very switched on and will say what’s right and wrong.

with COVID of course it’s affecting all the kids at school but about 60% of his class are still going in daily.

It started well, visual timetable with gradual integration in the class once he’s settled in a 1 on 1 basis. But soon as something happens, he’s pulled out and essentially chucked into a big cupboard with toys to keep him occupied until we collect him.

If lockdown eases by April and I’m back to work then it screws any plan of me wanting to take him out of school while we find something else

Edited 17/02/2021
Simon February 5, 2021 23:22

Wise words Leo. We did much the same. There is no rush, starting school. It is yet another change in a very long line of major changes in an adopted child's early life. It is easier said then done, because as adults/parents we are conditioned into sending our children to school. We fear they will miss out. We need a break, have to go back to work etc. But, if a child's "brain" is not in the right place (because of anxiety or trauma etc) and is in "protection mode", he/she won't learn anything. I remember at our final adoptive parent prep course, one of the speakers addressing a room full of prospect adoptive parents said: "If you adopt an older child, they may not be ready to go to school full time, or even part time in the first year". There were gasps in the room from many of the parents. However, this sound advice held us in very good stead.

Edited 17/02/2021
Leo February 5, 2021 23:33

Perhaps coming home 'Happy as Larry' is simply because he has shut off his true emotions (or is dissociating)? One of mine was very similar.

Gosh, 60% is a lot! Still quite busy there then.

Needing to work and possibly needing to go 'back into the office' soon does make any decision much harder for you. Is he legally school age yet - term after he is 5? If not, would a specialist childminder or Nursery be worth thinking about? Almost a chance to re set for a bit, allow EHCP or diagnoses to come through so you then have a better basis (and more pushing power) for a school you think would better meet his needs?

Your LA won't make it obvious to you, but if he is not able to attend school due to his behaviour or anxiety, they can provide 15 hours a week of home based tuition.

Has your son ever had a multi disciplinary needs assessment or any therapy provision? Places such as Family Futures are still 'open' and taking referrals. I think you can use the emergency ASF for funding.

Edited 17/02/2021
newdads February 6, 2021 00:14

Sorry yes, they’ve put him forward for a multi disciplinary needs assessment as a pre-empt of the ASD assessment.

Sorry, my husband does a lot of the form filling and where we’ve had to fill in so much this week, I’ve lost track

Edited 17/02/2021
newdads March 29, 2021 13:14

Hi All, so to update

1. school put application in for EHCP plan. Thats going to panel in about a months time. LA doesn't think there will be an issue they're so expecting the plan by the end of summer. Too late for a September start.

2. A referral was put in for an ASD/autism assessment but after submitting our paperwork they have decided he is too young for a test and right now, they won't be able to decipher between what's ASD/Autism and what's part of Global Developmental delay.

3. He's of school age so should be in school. They've basically said that he has to be part time 8:30-12:00 maximum otherwise they say it's too much for him (when actually it's both him and them) and if we don't agree to this through until September, his chances of exclusion are incredibly high.

4. LA has recommended that we get him back seeing a practitioner on a regular basis to monitor.

We know this school isn't right for him. The school SENCO even slipped up in an email saying that his needs far exceed what the school can offer. They're waiting on the EHCP plan. We are asking specialist schools but they want an ASD/Autism assessment. EHCP plan isn't enough. We've been advised that we need to instead look at mainstream schools with better tools to meet his needs which doesn't reassure me

Its hard because the instances at school are hitting and spitting. Spitting is the worst given the current COVID situation. This is where my husband and I slightly differ on views here. We both agree that it's triggers at school that set him off. He's very strong minded and will argue with adults if they ask him to do a task for example.

They have had help with regards to his triggers... but my husband excuses the behaviour because of others triggering him while I'm of the mindset of.... spitting and hitting isn't acceptable to teachers and adults. He should be spoken to in a different tone to say it's not acceptable to hit and spit. When I quietly talk with him and have time to reflect, he knows what he has done and apologises.

In the same breath, this is obviously his default position to resort to.

E-mog March 29, 2021 13:34

Who has said he is too young for an ASD assessment? I work in ASD assessment and any psychologist worth their salt should be able to identify ASD traits rather than global development delay (assuming your area uses psychologists for the assessment process, ASD assessment is very different in all health trusts) There are very specific criteria which needs to be assessed around social communication, social interaction, repetitive behaviours and sensory needs which are very different to global development delay. In the trust I work for children can be assessed for ASD from age 3 including those with other additional needs. Personally I would query the decision not to assess if you feel it is the right path for your child.

newdads March 29, 2021 13:40

Yeah this was a LA psychologist who said although after doing the scoring sheets, he fell into the scores which will likely be ASD/Autism they won’t be able to know the difference until he’s older.

can’t do it privately because it won’t be recognised either

Simon March 29, 2021 13:46

Hi New Dads

Good to read how you are all getting on. Some real positives, you have made some really great moves forward, (although I am sure it may not always feel like this, but trust me you have – well done the both of you - keep going).

Just a thought . . .

Have you thought about asking your social worker if you and your husband can have some funding from the Department for Education’s, “Adoption Support Fund” (ASF)? It sounds like you both as Dads could really do with some additional help and support around better understanding your son’s needs and why he behaves the way he does e.g. hitting and spitting.

Maybe ten x 1 hour long sessions from a really good clinical physiologist could make all the difference to the way you both feel about things. It will also help to get you singing from the same “hymn sheet”, which again, can make a huge difference to both yours and your son’s anxiety and needs.

There’s no harm in asking your social worker. I am sure you will get a positive response.

Take care


Donatella March 29, 2021 14:17

LA psychologist is talking rubbish frankly! Of course ASD can be identified and diagnosed at this age - of course it might suit the LA not to have it diagnosed as they’d have to put support in.

Find out who assesses in your area - here it’s a Neuro team which currently has an 18 month wait list so don’t delay. In some areas, camhs assesses - a multidisciplinary assessment.

Re the spitting - yrs it’s gross but have you considered that it may be meeting a sensory need as well? No, it’s not acceptable and nor is hitting, but if school can identify what’s causing his anxiety to be so high then they csn work to avoid it.

It’s interesting that you say he doesn’t listen to adults. Just wondered if you’d come across PDA? It’s a subset of the autism spectrum and basically any request/demand ramps up anxiety. Also children with PDA don’t always recognise social hierarchies so see absolutely no reason to do as an adult tells them! There’s a young man on Facebook called Harry Thompson who’s well worth a follow.

Also have a look at Sunshine Support - they run training courses.

And school? Well, exclusions aren’t necessarily all bad because it provides the evidence you’ll need that they can’t meet his needs. I know it doesn’t feel good - been there - but in the long term it might be what’s necessary.

E-mog March 29, 2021 14:23

As Donetella says, absolute rubbish! There is a lot more to ASD assessment a few tick sheets. Also as Donetella says if you want an assessment get on to it now, three year waiting list in our Trust currently and due to the pandemic it just keeps getting longer sadly.

Safia April 2, 2021 09:35

Autism and global developmental delay are not mutually exclusive - he could meet the criteria for both. I have a friend who has a son with Down’s syndrome and also has autism - but because of the downs it wasn’t picked up till he was much older - by a teacher in his special school. I am also surprised that a special school will not consider him without an official diagnosis of ASD as they’re generally looking at levels of need. This is where the EHCP comes in. Have you researched special schools reasonably near you? I would do that and visit as many as you can - it will give you a good picture of what is available and what might suit your son. The LEA will probably recommend a mainstream school (for financial reasons) and this is where your research comes in as you will be asked to name the school in the plan - and then maybe need to argue for your choice. It’s all very stressful but if a suitable school can be found it makes all the difference

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