Son loves listening to Pink Floyd. Especially ‘Another Brick in the Wall’. I wonder why?
I’ve talked about this before but son really does not like going to school. It causes him so much anxiety and stress. During last nights panic attack (panicking about school) he told me the things which currently really bug him.
- Do the kids think I’m weird. He worries that the other kids may think he is a loner, or weird or different.
- Too many kids and adults. His current school has about 800 pupils …. his last one had 40. So many strange faces. Often too many to cope with. So many people, so many different types of body language to work through. Interpreting body language, voice tones and mannerisms does not come naturally to him.
- Too much background noise. Its not the actual noise level it’s the range of noise sources which can overload his senses. School just means sensory overload.
- Dyslexia. The school doesn’t offer specialist support so he has to take his chances with the limited number of general teaching assistants. They have to support all the kids in the school. As a result he tends to just try and work things out for himself. This makes him feel – going to use his word – ‘stupid’.
- Timetables. The school operates quite tight timetables. This stresses him out as he struggles with the concept of time. He doesn’t respond well to pressure.
- Teaching. Many of the teachers have to stick rigidly to the teaching programme. This programme is often anti-dyslexic and anti-Aspergers. For example Computing and its focus on coding. Plus the teachers always seem so busy just trying to control some of the kids in the large class.
- Sitting. Son struggles to sit still for long periods. He often concentrates better when he’s walking about. At school you need to sit still for hours on end.
- Lunchtime. The dining area is small with not enough seating. The queues for food are long. The social anxiety this causes results in a balanced diet of flapjacks or just going hungry.
- No quiet zones. The school does have two designated silence zones. One is a small and very cluttered room which is often full – strangely not that quiet. The other is the library – not much help for a dyslexic.
- Toilets. The school toilets are old, cold and not very nice. Bullying can take place there. On top of this Son struggles with using any sort of public toilet. So he never uses them and frequently comes home busting. Hardly conducive to learning.
- Too many bright patterns on the wall. Bright or complicated patterns can be significantly disorientating for people with Aspergers.
- Being in the bottom set. He hates being in the bottom set especially when he sees kids above him who got lower marks than him in the grading tests.
- He hates PE. He struggles to dress himself quickly and can’t fasten ties. PE give the kids only a short time to dress. And you get automatic negatives for breaking the strict dress code.
- He hates the strict rules. Although he rarely runs the risk of a negative he really does stress himself over the the potential for doing something wrong and then getting punished. Plus he just does not understand many of the rules.
- The School. It’s a warren of jumbled rooms and muddled corridors set in several old buildings. Trying to navigate this with time pressures and with hundreds of kids moving at the same time …. it’s just a nightmare for him.
- No Safety Net. At his previous school he had a two teaching assistants that he got close to. If things got bad he could go and talk to them. At this school he feels like he has no one.
- School Bus. The noisy and unruly bus which changes in size and seating patterns for every trip is so disorientating.
- Homework. Virtually every night he will have at least 1 hour of after school work to be done.
The list should be longer but his worries came out two quickly for me to keep up. But it gives you a feel for what his brain is trying to process on every school day.
What does the parent do with this. I’m probably the worst person to ask. I’ve been winging this for years…
But we have tried things. Some work, some don’t, some are slow burners.
- Just listening to him. Just showing you care. Show you believe in him. Keep telling him that as long as he wants to keep pushing then I will do whatever I can to help him.
- Keep telling him that this not all about Aspergers or Dyslexia. It’s not about things he’s done or any deficiencies. Its definitely not his fault. It’s about a broken educational system. He’s great, the school isn’t great.
- Keep pushing a dialogue with school, the health service and support teams. If you don’t, nobody else will. This is tough. Many people including myself are not pushy, find confrontation so difficult. But it has to be done. All the evidence suggests that kids with Autism and/or dyslexia will fall behind without appropriate support. It’s not fair on the kids.
- If you can get a dialogue going with a teacher don’t be afraid to ask about different teaching approaches. At his current school we have got many of the teachers to move away from pen and allow him to use his iPad. We have got all the teachers to agree to write any homework in his planner. Previously the teachers would just read out the homework and kids had to write it down, or remember it. We would spend ages trying to decipher his rushed scrawl.
- Keep pushing the system for improvements to school buildings, toilets and support. The more noise you make the better the chance of some action. It shouldn’t be like this, but it is….
- Try to identify positive elements of school. Maybe spending time with friends. Maybe getting the chance to learn about a favourite topic. Maybe the chance to play sports. Maybe school trips. Maybe a special teacher.
- When he’s at home I try to encourage him to do things he loves doing. A hobby, a game, a movie whatever it takes. This all helps with stress. Forget about school for a while.
- Some areas run workshops for parents which will allow you to learn more about a diagnosis and importantly provide an opportunity to meet other parents who are in the same boat as you.
- I try to arrange for something special to happen at the end of each school term. Maybe a trip to the cinema. Or visit to a zoo. It gives him something to look forward to. One day will save up enough to take the ultimate reward trip to Disney Paris.
We have not had a lot of success in improving his current school experience. If we had then this list would have been significantly shorter. But everyday we try again. It does feel like we are wading through treacle.
I have not mentioned the elephant in the room. Home schooling. This post is already far too long and I’m sure I will revisit that very soon. Plus I can feel my eyes slowly filling up with sleep. Goodnight everyone.