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Education

onlineteamAUK October 8, 2019 11:19

The second Live Q&A will be on 22nd October - 8pm – 9pm, with the theme "Education".

Becky - an adoptive parent, best-selling author and former teacher will answer questions on all things Education.

This thread is unlocked and you can post your questions prior to the live event on the 22nd October.

Please post your questions below.

Those of you who will be able to join us live, please ensure that you have a registered account and that your community profile has been completed.

If you haven’t registered yet, you can do here.

Edited 14/10/19
Wiltshire Mum October 14, 2019 21:10

As new Adoptive parents, we would be grateful for any advice to help us with our 7 year old son's frequent wandering from his seat during lessons to wash hands, to sharpen pencils, to get pencils, to put tissues in bins, to get tissues etc. The wandering can be up to 4-5 times per lesson. He is not believed to have ADHD or to be dyslexic. He is playing catch up educationally, he did not attend pre-school and only attended 50% of reception and year 1. He is moving down from year 3 to year 2, where he sits well with his emotional maturity and educational level. His wandering is not just within literacy and maths lessons, the subjects he struggles most with presently, but across all lessons. He does not wander during the headmaster's lessons, but wandered during his previous teacher's and now new teachers lessons. His teachers are " checking in" frequently with him, so that he feels connected, but there has been no improvement.

BeckyAUK October 15, 2019 14:16

Just popping on to say 'Hi' and that I'm really looking forward to answering your questions on 22nd October. Education is always a hot topic so I'm hoping it will be a busy hour on the forums that night.

Wiltshire Mum - thank you for being the first to pose a question, and such a good one. I'll be back with some ideas on 22nd - it would be great if you could log in and join the discussion.

leefamily October 17, 2019 16:18

Thank you for arranging this session. We have two adopted children, the youngest is 15, and will be doing his GCSEs this year. He shows some significant anxiety, and is missing a lot of school at the moment because of this. He has a diagnosis of 'ADHD symptoms as a result of early trauma' and is dyslexic, and the ADHD symptoms are managed with medication, which has some positive effects. He's bright, but struggles with writing because of dyslexia, and so his predicted grades are modest. The school are being pretty supportive, and we have just had a discussion about arranging special examination setups so that, for instance, he can go out with an invigilator if he needs to walk around to calm down, and then would still be able to continue the exam. He also has his sight set on a course at an FE college that won't require high grades for him to access. We're just looking for any further advice that could help us and the school help him get through this stressful time.

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 18:42

Hi everyone - just a reminder that this live Q&A is tonight. I'll be here at 8pm and hopefully will be able to answer your questions, starting with the two already posted above.

Feel free to follow along even if you don't have any questions of your own - you might have the perfect top tip for someone else going through something you've already experienced.

Rocket October 22, 2019 19:30

Hi. Thanks for the reminder about this. I have a couple of questions re EHCPs. Firstly, for an adopted child, what (if anything) should be included in Section D, social care needs? Second question is sort of linked - a couple of my son's outcomes are related to his sensory/physical needs as identified by the OT, funded by the ASF. The provisions for this include things like a sensory diet - this is as recommended by the OT and under constant review, in fact she has been working directly with my son's TA on a weekly basis this term rather than having session with my son. However, if the funding is no longer available via the ASF (we are looking at having DDP/NVR which means it may not stretch to cover everything) what will happen about that provision in the EHCP?

Thanks x

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:01

Ready to kick off?

Ok, so let's start with Wiltshire Mum's question.

With any unwanted or unexpected behaviour, I'd always ask two questions:
1) What might be the trigger for this behaviour, or the 'driver' for it?
2) How might the adults work with the child to reduce the triggers/drivers and make small steps towards responding differently to them?

So, on the first question, it's worth considering whether your son is in need of a sensory break - something to satisfy a need for proprioceptive input. It can be hard sitting still for long periods if your body craves movement and if that's the case, it sounds as though he has found a pretty measured way of dealing with it. How is his physical development? For children with poor core strength, sitting correctly on a chair for long periods can be physically tiring - they need regular movement breaks to re-set, stretch and refresh tired muscles. Alternatively, perhaps as he's been struggling academically due, as you say, to missed schooling etc. he may have some level of anxiety about being able to do his work, or even trying to do it. He may find that walking away keeps him feeling calm. Even if he struggles most in Literacy and Maths, anxiety would possibly still be present throughout the day, so it wouldn't surprise me if the wandering was happening at other times too. Anxiety can be a powerful driver of behaviour and it doesn't always manifest in the most obvious ways - avoidance behaviour is not unusual. Without knowing your child, I can't be sure, but it's worth considering.

You might have some ideas of your own - or your son might be able to offer some suggestions. It's definitely worth asking him.

The answers to the first question will dictate the direction of the answers to the second, but I'd be looking at starting where he is currently at, and taking tiny, supported steps towards where you and his teachers would like him to be. Dealing with this sort of thing by punishing and consequences is like the fairground game where you bash chipmunks with a mallet - it might appear to squash the behaviour, but the trigger is still there, and will pop up again in another form!

So, at the moment he needs to move around the room. Let's accept that, and then see if we can have it happen in a more controlled way. Could the teacher introduce opportunities for sanctioned wandering? So, for example, "I need you to do 3 more sums and then please can you take this book over to the shelf", while simultaneously reducing the opportunities for unsanctioned wandering by, for example, having sharpened pencils always available, and tissues on his desk? Alternatively, could the teacher introduce a system where your son indicates his need to wander in a subtle way, but then has to wait for the teacher to acknowledge that before he goes away from his desk - "If you need to leave your desk for any reason, please put this green card on the table and wait for me to say ok." Rewards do not work for all children, but if your son responds well to praise or rewards, then that should be focused on recognising when he uses his card, or waits until he's done the three sums, or whatever has been decided. So, we're not asking him to ignore his need, but we're asking him to work towards meeting it in a different way, and positively recognising when he starts to do that. It's likely that between you all - the teacher, you and your son - you can probably come up with some small changes that will meet your son where he is at, while beginning to allow the adults to be safely in charge in the classroom, as they should be. Once that has been established, tiny steps can be taken towards reducing the amount of wandering.

At the same time, it would be good to make some changes to reduce the triggers or drivers of the behaviour. These two things needs to work in tandem. So, depending on what you feel is driving it, it may be related to providing opportunities for proprioceptive input, looking for ways to lower anxiety generally, ensuring that he understands and is able to do his work with adult support available, even ensuring that his chair/clothes etc. are not uncomfortably distracting. Getting this part right will take a bit more understanding of your son and his needs than I have, but it's really a two-pronged approach - changing the environment/trigger/driver as well as supporting your son to change his behaviour response little by little.

Hope that's helpful!

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:15

Moving on now to leefamily's question.

This seems mostly to be around reducing anxiety and stress around the exams period - please correct me if I've misunderstood. It's a great question as the whole stress of exams can just prove too much for some adopted children, meaning that they never really get to show what they can do, with a knock-on effect on their mental health, and confidence going forward to any future education.

I'd say special arrangements around the exam room are essential and it's great that the school is working with you on this. If possible, it would be best if he could have a room on his own, supervised of course, so that he can shuffle, make noises, even move about a little, without worrying about disturbing others. Obviously this may not be possible, depending on the school's capacity. The school may be able to apply for extra time for him - this may or may not be helpful!

Some other ideas for reducing exam stress:
Make sure he is familiar with the room he'll be using well in advance, and has a chance to complete some low-stakes work in there (mock exams don't count for this!). It may help to be going to a familiar place on exam day.

Make sure someone goes through the general examination rubric (list of instructions) several times beforehand so that he knows it all already. Arriving in the exams in a high stress state and then having all these rules to suddenly read through (or having someone read them to you in a very serious voice) can heighten tension. And also see if he can practice the whole procedure beforehand - lining up, where to put bags/coats etc., arranging essentials on the desk, arrangements for going to the toilet etc. Just have it all familiar before the first exam.

Does he have a key adult already? If not, he needs one - just someone nice at school that he feels comfortable with and doesn't mind spending time with. This key person should meet and greet at the start of every day as exam period approaches, and before and after every exam - I'm here for you, and I'll be here for you when it's over.

Practise timed work in advance - get a feel for how long it takes to write a paragraph, how long it takes to answer a few one-word answer questions. Talk about the relative value of each bit of the exam paper and practice making plans to spend an appropriate amount of time on each bit.

Expect executive functioning to go out of the window, so have an adult support with equipment, pens, pencils, drinks etc.

Honestly, perhaps most importantly, be careful of what sort of 'exam talk' he hears as the time approaches. At home I'm sure that you'll be telling him you'll be happy enough if he turns up, has a go, does his best, etc. but at school he might be hearing messages about getting top grades, colleges expecting highest results in assemblies, tutor times etc. These may not be aimed at him directly, but it can ramp up the anxiety nonetheless. Perhaps have a word with relevant staff and ask them to ensure that positive messages are being relayed to all students, including those who may not be reaching for the top grades at this point.

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:34

Hi Rocket,

First part of your question first. It's difficult to say what should be in Section D specifically for an adopted child as needs will, of course, vary, but I'd suggest some common considerations might be:

X struggles to engage in playground/social activities because X is not yet able to understand social cues from other children, or X is not yet able to follow the rules of a game/take turns etc.

X doesn't understand when people are trying to trick him or being dishonest, and so is vulnerable to being bullied and being led or groomed into potentially dangerous situations.

X's speech and language difficulties mean that he finds it difficult to express himself, leading to frustration and challenging behaviour that is difficult for his peers, teachers and family to manage

X has attachment difficulties, making it difficult for him to trust his teacher or other adults to keep him safe and do what is best for him.

So, even though there may be no social care needs directly related to involvement with social services, or previous legal status etc. (for a looked-after child, this would be included in this section) this section should include any additional support that a child needs in terms of their social development arising from their SEND.

I'll get to your next question in my next post....

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:40

Ok, on to the question about ASF/EHCP OT provision.

I have a couple of comments to make about this. Firstly, if the ASF is currently funding the OT provision, and it is still necessary provision, then the Fair Access Limit (FAL) of £5000 should not necessarily be a barrier to making further applications for additional support that is assessed as being necessary. What should happen if a child's support needs go above the £5000 limit is that the LA should match fund the difference (50% LA, 50% ASF). Now, I realise that in practice this can be a big hill to climb, but it should never be the case that a therapeutic intervention ends prematurely because of the FAL. I would not give up on getting both the OT and the other therapeutic support funded by the ASF. If your child has been assessed as needing that support.

The DfE website on ASF(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/adoption-support-fund-asf) says:

Criteria for matched funding:

a high risk of adoption breakdown without high cost support

LAs and RAAs dealing with an unusually high number of complex cases that they cannot afford to fund without additional support from the ASF

additional funding would help to progress hard to place adoptions

a lack of available, affordable therapeutic support means higher cost provision is required

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:41

Sorry - pressed post too early!

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 20:45

So, match-funding is not guaranteed, but it's not completely out of the question either.

Now, onto the EHCP question re the OT. Am I right in thinking that this OT provision and sensory diet is now part of your son's EHCP provision? If so, then the LA is responsible for ensuring that the provision outlined in the EHCP is provided. Really, the ASF should not be funding EHCP provision - SEND funding should be covering that. I realise, however, that there can be quite a bit of crossover when therapeutic support services funded by the ASF are working with a child's school for the best possible outcomes. But, nevertheless, the provision outlined in the EHCP should not be dependent on ASF funding as I understand it.

With this, I would recommend getting expert SEND advice from, for example, SENDIASS in your area, or IPSEA. SEND funding can be a tricksy area, and sometimes parents are not necessarily given the best advice locally. An independent specialist SEND organisation is more likely to give accurate advice on the statutory framework.

Rocket October 22, 2019 20:57

Thanks Becky - that's really helpful. I hadn't even thought about the match funding; the SW doing our assessment just implied that if I wanted to have the DDP/NVR that they are recommending, then there might not be enough funding to cover the SIT as well. We've already had a year of SIT funded by the ASF, but the previous application was dealt with by the placing agency, and we have now transferred to the LA, so I'm having to navigate a whole new set of social workers with different ways of doing things.

So the ASF funding for the SIT was already in place a year before the EHCP was granted, but some of the outcomes relate to it. Some of the provision will be TAs doing the daily activities with my son, but they can't do that without the input from the OT - I suppose my concern is if we lose the funding for the OT, and I'm wondering whether it being included in the EHCP gives me any leverage to get the OT funded that way!

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 21:10

Aagh, yes, it's complex! You can always try the "Well, it's in the EHCP" approach but I'm not sure that would be a cast iron thing to be honest.

While I'm pretty hot in issues pertaining to adopted children specifically, SEND as a broader issue is just a huge minefield. I'm wary of giving very specific advice on it as I wouldn't want to inadvertently give incorrect advice. It may be that you need a review of the EHCP to consider the changing circumstances re. the ASF funding. If TA doing sensory work with him is included in the EHCP, then how does the LA expect that to continue without OT support? If it cannot then discussions need to be had. But I'd seek independent specialist advice from a SEND org before raising it at school tbh. This overlap between EHCP/ASF provision can't be so unusual but my searches are bringing up nothing I'd really call useful information!

I wonder if any other parents have faced the same difficulty and found a resolution?

BeckyAUK October 22, 2019 21:32

Just popping on to sign off officially, and to say that I'm often on and off the forums, so please do continue to post questions (I think this thread may be closed down, but you can always start a new thread in the Education topic) and I'll answer them whenever I can get on here.

😀

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