The eleven plus and special educational needs can be a bit of a minefield. With our oldest he should have got into a certain school but on the day did not do as well on the eleven plus tests as we expected for his capabilities. He had no provisions made for his Asperger’s Syndrome (I have since heard of others having a separate room and longer time), not even to become more familiar with the building. But he was always a very able child and “grammar school material” and we knew that the eleven plus would put no added pressure on him. But the time is getting closer that The Sensory Seeker needs to think about high school and he assumes that he will take the eleven plus following in the footsteps of (what will be) all three of his older brothers. The trouble is he has a Global Developmental Delay and his Sensory Processing Disorder also makes it harder to learn new things. So the question is what to do?Annie Spratt
Do we let our son with Special Needs take the Eleven Plus?
Do we let The Sensory Seeker sit the eleven plus tests, in an environment that is most likely going to be difficult for him, so that we have given him the chance and opportunity just like all our other sons? Or do we make the decision that the test/school would not be suitable for him. Which will knock his confidence more – trying and not succeeding, or not been given a chance in the first place? I mean he is a bright lad and he may even surprise us! He has a few years to go yet and may even close the gap and catch up with his peers. He works so hard. Or when the time gets closer he may just be happy to move up to the local comprehensive school – which he is familiar with because of after school activities and will know lots of people there/going up. Oh how it would be wonderful if they never had to grow up!
Of course I have been suggested another option of paying for him to be tutored (which I haven’t done with any of my other sons), but then I really would be worried that the work would be too hard once he passed the eleven plus entrance exam. That then he’d end up switching schools anyway and then find it even harder to settle as the new boy. Other people have suggested this would be just filling the gaps in his knowledge where the education system has failed him.
Has anyone else been through anything similar? Any thoughts please?
Inclusion what do schools think that means? I recently went to The Sensory Seeker’s annual review of his EHCP to find out that his school means that they don’t want him to be different. I guess it is a feeling of once again coming back to rubbish parenting really, as it sounded like that the only thing causing any problems is him being treated in a way not like the others! They said that even with a one-to-one teacher he hasn’t made “extra” progress (just in-line with his peers) and that actually he needs to be encouraged to be more “independent.”
They did not seem to even understand Sensory Processing Disorder (which unfortunately is not a diagnosed condition in the UK) so it is no wonder that they don’t “get” that his one-to-one helps The Sensory Seeker deal with sensory input that may distract him and need his focus brought back. In fact the SENCO and his teaching assistant didn’t seem to think he had ANY sensory needs at school – which I found really surprising. They were thinking about just taking that section out of his EHCP all together. I thought that there was no point in arguing with them after I tried to explain some of his difficulties, because they just said it did not happen. Or well, that time he was hugging someone else all the time was okay because that person wanted him to do it. Of course the good old social stories came up – as obviously if he understood that he couldn’t just go around touching people then that tactile need will just disappear!
His EHCP actually has good guidance in it about his Sensory Issues from the Occupational Therapist, but because they discharged us they no longer come to the meetings. I can’t even really get her involved whilst the school are saying there aren’t any issues either! Luckily his class teacher was able to quickly pop in to the meeting at the time we were just about to move on to the next bit of the EHCP. She was then asked about The Sensory Seeker’s sensory issues (in a tone that he did not have any). But, thankfully, straight away she said that yes he clearly did and came up with an example straight away. In fact, ironically, it was to do with their sensory time where a few children go off to practice writing. She said that music was played to help them feel calm – but actually it stopped The Sensory Seeker from concentrating. That he was able to let her know it was a problem. The SENCO again was immediately in the frame of mind of not wanting him to be “different” so asked what the teacher did to resolve it. The teacher explained that they just turned the music off! That they didn’t *need* it. It is a shame that next year not only isn’t she his class teacher but she is leaving to go on to another school.
We will have to see how things go in year 4 because I am concerned that they are just knocking his confidence by ignoring his sensory needs and treating him no differently – such as setting him the same homework as the others for example. And then when it is not complete (because he has struggled with it so much, or not in the right sensory frame when he has come home) he is then punished (like the other children) by missing break times. I fear that this will then further impact his social skills and relations with his peers -especially as he becomes more aware of things such as being the only child not invited to parties. They have also mixed up the children in his year group and this change has already upset him. Unfortunately he was sick and missed move up day too – so we shall have to see how it goes. It isn’t all bad however, and I am not blaming the school it is because the knowledge just isn’t there. Things I mentioned (such as his inability to use a dictionary as he does not know the alphabet) they tried to help straight away. He seems to have a good relationship with his TA and in our opinion has helped him come on leaps and bounds.
I really do hate the school run because it means interacting with people. When I come home I am actually drained to the point where I have to sleep. I have even started taking antidepressants and fighting off the need to recuperate until the afternoon. But it is no good I can only reset myself with sleep. Then I have to do the school run again. I was put on these tablets fourteen months previously when I went to ask the doctors about a referral for seeing whether I have Asperger’s Syndrome. He told me it didn’t matter and that I could tell people I have if I liked – and wrote out the prescription. Ever since I have just been taking the tablets and paying for repeats. But still nothing is easier.
This morning on the school run a random man who works for the council called me a bully. I asked him what he meant and he laughed and said I had stolen my son’s scooter. I told him it was mine. My son was on his own scooter and mine (adult size too) has flowers on. I don’t get it – was he trying to tell a joke? People always have to comment on my scooter – there’s always something. But it isn’t just my scooter – it’s my clothes and other things too. I get hot really easily and hate to overheat. I was wearing shorts the other day when the sky was grey but it was still really warm. Again always said in this “jokey” way was whether my weather app was wrong! I am sure it was a joke but I can’t help it I just feel the need to explain that I get hot and can’t cope.
The doctor said that it was unlikely I was on the spectrum because I was aware that people treat me this way. That I want to fit in. He said I just haven’t had the right role models – teaching me how I am meant to behave in certain situations. But I thought that social skills were meant to come naturally? He said I could make a list. But I have no energy all the time. Surely someone should just be able to assess me and see. Why does it always have to be proven? I have begun to accept myself whether I have or haven’t got Asperger’s. Explaining to people that I don’t always say the right thing, or do the wrong thing or even get what is expected of me. It is up to them how they behave back towards me then. I do not know what more I can do.
As a parent there’s no real breaks. You are not allowed to lose your shit. You decided to have a child and that’s the end of it. Having a child with additional needs is no excuse – there are no allowances. I was reminded of this fact after finding it too much to cope with the Summer holidays alone (as my husband was working) with 4 children – three of which (it turns out) have additional needs and my house just falling apart – never mind the mess. Feeling so tired, exhausted (physically and mentally) and every burden weighing on my shoulders. I had no idea that this would lead to attending a Child Protection Conference in order to keep our children!
I discovered that the boys don’t like change – even if it is rewarding them for something. So can you begin to imagine how hard the holidays are for THEM? It was the summer of additional challenges, as our oldest was moving out to University – but not really doing much about it. He wanted to go without any real mention of his Asperger’s – just trying to get on with life – but unfortunately his condition had other ideas. In retrospect having my hair cut from reasonably long to spiky wasn’t the best idea. I was finding it all a bit much to cope with and I didn’t feel it unreasonable to ask for help (from my family) – simple things like the children flushing the toilet after themselves and not urinating all over the floor! After all the youngest of them was 6! Respite has never been an option for us as I am aware that there are children with needs far greater than mine, whose parents are not even getting this kind of support. Extended family never really have the children, not even for a day – well actually apart for the one child. putting added pressure on him (this has since been addressed). Just wanting, no needing, a little bit more help but it was not coming.
It is all a bit of a blur now, and I don’t remember why it got on top of me so much more than any other year but it did. I can’t think about my kids as being a burden because they are not – but their needs were just too much for me to handle on my own. My basic needs just were not being met (I am talking being able to go to the toilet without something happening that meant I need to rush to ensure their safety!). I guess it wasn’t what I expected to be doing with children of their age. Of course they were just children. I should have been able to tell myself that it did not matter. Who cares if there is stuff everywhere; mud piling up on the floor from where the bikes have gone in and out of the house; why should my children load their own dishes into the dishwasher right?
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And then I snapped. . . . .
You see no matter how many days I coped with goodness only knows what, that one day when I just couldn’t take it I threw a toy across the room and screamed how I was fed up. I threw it so hard it made a tiny mark in my laminate flooring. The kids were upstairs and so they would have heard it. I felt awful. But never really thought more of it beyond that day. I apologised to the kids and got an earlier night. In fact it was completely forgotten about until some 3 months later when my life changed so much.
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The Beginning of the Nightmare
I don’t really know where it began – but one day I asked our 12 year old son to load the dishwasher which resulted in him punching me rather badly. He then put a picture on Instagram basically saying I got what I deserved. I did hit him back in order to defend myself before pinning him down. My husband arrived and defused the situation. I said something stupid which was meant the way it sounds and this resulted in further foolish behaviour from my son that ultimately led to the school ringing Social Care on us. Initially a nice guy came out, and this was the first time anyone had mentioned that they thought my son has special needs. The guy from social care (from the RATs team) tried to pass us on to the appropriate team to get help for our son and assured me we were doing all the right things. We were unaware that they had decided to close the case and were desperately waiting for help. The only reason someone else came was because I phoned the police when our son attacked me again – and the case was re-opened and passed on to someone else.
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I feared that someone had done something to our son (due to things he was doing online but I will never know because no-one could get him to talk and they just gave up trying to find out). I was honest about everything as I wanted help – even just to be told coping strategies, so I told Social Care what I did the day I snapped. I was worried that it could be my fault (which is a nicer thought than him being groomed online) that I brought my pre-teen son’s behaviour on myself (there was a lot more things he was doing but I will not go into that here for his sake): They agreed it was.
Before I knew it there was a team from the Diversion from Care and Placement Team – talking about doing things to prevent my children going into Care! I have said before how I feel I may have Autism but never before have I truly felt this – thinking of only I could be less honest and say/do the right thing. I was looking up every bit of information I could and my husband was getting stressed that I sounded too textbook. Social Care had nothing to offer in the way of help – they came to see if they could get us to do family things together – but actually ended up suggesting we do less. You see my family are my life and I plan so much to enrich their lives and ensure they feel loved! The new Social Worker saw things differently and decided that my children were at severe risk of harm of emotional abuse from me! Even the fact that I have provided them with a desk each (which are covered in toys) as I am apparently too pushy! Do you know how that hurts – even now is that she was saying that it was because I was abused as a child: That I did not even realise that I was doing it. Fearing she was right and that I was oblivious to what I was doing I waited for help – only stopping myself from suicide because I knew that that would help nobody. I can fully understand the lady who has run away with her children because the thought entered my head too!
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I found myself in a Child Protection Conference defending my right to keep my children. Absolutely everything brought up and used against me. From putting my children in danger by putting their pictures online, to the fact that my son’s notes had not been updated over a medical matter – so I was blamed for not caring and it ultimately being my fault. Feeling a sinking feeling as they recalled that my son broke his arm badly when he was only four years old – and I had no witnesses around. Things I said twisted, people saying incorrect things in front of us. I had to stay quiet so as not to come across as over-emotional (again something they said as I was SO upset about the experience). The whole experience completely disrupted my family (they had to keep going out and pulling the kids from school and questioning them) – did I mention that they do not cope with routine changes. Plus they wouldn’t consider that The Sensory Seeker has a disability (despite the fact that he had a statement of educational needs) because he was NOT DIAGNOSED AS AUTISTIC. So when he apparently said that he heard me say that I wanted to kill his dad it was used as actual evidence of how evil I am (I hadn’t even said this at all!)
Parents are meant to get all the reports 48 hours before the Child Protection Conference – but this wasn’t the case. The Chair hadn’t even got all the information at the start of the CP Conference – and some of which we were blamed for (although we were unaware we had to give it!). Our son was asked if he wanted to go because of his age but instead sent an advocate. I didn’t think it a good idea he went especially some of the things said about him and us. In fact it was even suggested that The Sensory Seeker’s difficulties are due to ME emotionally abusing him as he did not get an Autism diagnosis! Thankfully his head teacher knows how hard I have fought to get everything possible to help our son and how much progress he has made with this support and backed me up. Still absolutely heartbreaking to hear, and what if I wasn’t so forthcoming (or pushy as teachers are calling parents that fight for support!).
The Child Protection Conference ends up with a vote – everyone around the table says what their verdict is and the majority is the deciding factor. As I sat with my pen and paper tallying up the results it came down to the last person. People who didn’t know us, didn’t know the facts and certainly had things wrong! Luckily for us it went the right way – but frightening to think one more vote and things would have been really different. We did not receive any help, support or advice. The social worker passed us on to a family worker and she had fleeting visits at our house before passing us to a charity who just had one meeting at the school. The awful thing for me is that they closed the case down after our son got accidentally burnt with an iron and he beat me up one more time.
We never considered our son to have special needs but after the first social worker suggested it, so did the police, the school and CYPS – but no the latter won’t assess him and also closed the case down. He hates seeing people and has calmed down so much that we just don’t want to annoy him. There was a lot of things that went on that year, and one of them was that he got kicked off the school bus (apparently for persistent bullying but it was the first time we had heard about it). Social care were really keen that he caught that bus again but we decided against it. I later heard that the bus driver was taken off the route as he was found to behaving inappropriately let’s say with the children!
I am so proud of our son and how he has come out the other side of this and is like a different boy again. Although we are still struggling with getting him to do basic things at least he isn’t being violent any more. As for me I have been taking anti-depressants and do not think I will ever get over what social care did to me, and my family and the thought of what could have happened. I think about all those poor kids who are having all manner of awful things happen to them (and even what happened to me) and it makes me feel sick to the stomach that I was consider even close to the same. That they wasted so much time interrogating us when actually if anything I am guilty of spoiling my kids and doing too much for them.
I want to thank everyone who supported me, especially my husband who held me up and defended me. I thought the most awful thing was going to happen and that I would have to leave all the people I love in order to keep the rest of them together as a family. I have felt so scared for so long of sharing my story for fear of losing or upsetting them – as well as people who don’t know me judging me. But I wanted to share in hope that I can help someone else.
It is that time of year again – Party Season. I know it is hard when a child is different to others to cope with their additional needs at a party – but honestly The Sensory Seeker is doing so well that I would actually say he isn’t much different to the others. I do understand that not everyone needs to be invited to every party but it is hard (probably more for me than him) when he is that child: You know the only child out of the whole class who hasn’t been invited.
It isn’t even so much about the party it’s about him knowing he’s not fitting in. That it is okay for everyone else to go so why not him as well? The ironic thing today was that he came out with a sheet about worries – the school obviously trying to get disclosures for social services with the use of a Worry Monster. Ironic because they weren’t very sympathetic to listening to these worries; simply saying there’s nothing we can do. I explained that I knew they couldn’t make him be invited to the party (although I am sure his EHC Plan probably does make provision to ensure that he socialises/fits in with his peers) and that I didn’t like how it was so apparent to him that he was the only one not invited (erm like they had all been handed out in front of him). I was reassured that they had only been given out at break time. It is real progress that he is getting so smart. Previously he never noticed this happening but still wanted a party to invite everyone to. A blessing and a curse of his development.
His birthday is coming up and we are taking him out of the country but he wants to have a sleepover a different day this year. He doesn’t really care who it is (well actually his first preference is his 14 year old cousin who doesn’t live near us!) he just wants a friend – someone who wants to spend time with him. But again the school will tell me that he does have friends, that he is a happy and likable member of the class – so how come he doesn’t feel that he is/has because he isn’t invited?
Disclaimer: He is invited to the odd party and I am very thankful to those parents. I just wish this wasn’t even a thing. Why invite all but one?!
Friendships. When it comes to friendships it is the one thing I really struggle with. Whether that is because I am actually Autistic or not makes no odds because either way I don’t seem to be able to keep friends. So when my children come home and tell me that they have no friends I really do not have the right words for them. I want to go and make people be friends with them, or tell my kids – fuck them they don’t deserve your friendship anyway. But it is the most painful thing and I know I long for that bond that others seem to have so easily.
It started when The Sensory Seeker made an imaginary friend – his name is a crossed between Mr Invisible and Mr Invincible (he gets the two mixed up and when I tried to correct him he said, “He’s my friend and so I can call him what I like!” I have never had any imaginary friends in my house before and I am glad that he is able to be creative but I do hope it is not because the school are failing him socially – and I fear that that may be the case.
I would go in and speak to the school about it but I haven’t for two reasons – the first being that when we go into the playground other children call his name in a way that seems to be pleased to see him. Plus he hasn’t been sobbing and breaking his heart, he just tells me that no-one plays with him at break time. Oh and because the school don’t really seem to care. No schools seem to be bothered about the social side of my children’s disabilities in my opinion – but maybe that’s because I am one of “those” parents.
The really heart breaking thing though was, not to hear that no-one wants to play with The Sensory Seeker, but that his confident, well-loved, well-liked older brother confided in my that his close friends no longer want to play with him because of his brother (The Sensory Seeker). Although I would like to hope this is not true since he told me I have actually stopped to notice what happens in the playground in the morning and there is a shift in the dynamics. I want to be able to tell him how to fix it, how to either get that friendship back on track or deal with it and move on – but I am no good at any of that and really don’t know how. I can’t go and speak to the other children’s parents because it is just one of those things – and you can’t make people be friends.
I hope it isn’t true and my children are just trying to get even more attention from me, and actually they are happy and well-liked at school – but my own fears choke me up – and I am just glad they have each other.
Do you have any experience with this? Any tips or advice for me and/or them?
Please note that the photo was taken in the morning before school and he wasn’t actually alone in the playground at playtime – which is also why he looks so happy.
The hardest thing for me during the whole process of switching from a Statement to an EHCP was time – and the fact that I had to think so much about the answers to the questions I had to keep answering what seemed like over and over and over again. I was glad to have a degree when filling in the Family Contribution form and cannot imagine how difficult it must be for some families to do. I opted to type mine on the computer which meant I could just add to it, or draw out relevant bits when asked for the information again by someone new. I completely forgot to ask to be referred back to Occupational Therapy in time and so they have not been part of the process.
Experience of The EHCP Meeting
Well I have to say that the meeting itself was not as hard as I thought it would be and I guess it is because no-one mentioned any levels and I already knew that he was behind his peers – so that was not a big shock. I feel that I did not really know or understand what was going on and had to just trust the professionals. In attendance I had the current school SENCo/Head, the new school SENCo, his new TA, The Speech and Language Therapist, The School Advisory Teacher, and the lady from the council.
When I asked about adding in his Sensory Issues it became a little awkward as here in the UK there isn’t an official diagnosis for Sensory Processing Disorder. I hadn’t included information from the Occupational Therapist or Paediatrician as their reports were longer than the date – but the lady from the council said she would see if she could include them. I do think that the people in the room were a little under-educate in sensory issues and they seemed to think everything could be sorted with some tactile toys (least it is a start I guess). I suppose the problem also lies in the fact that I did not really know what to say as how to include it into the EHCP either.
It was good to hear his progress and that he has a good work ethic. He just wants to be like everyone else and tries so hard to obtain it. Fingers crossed he even may have passed his phonics screening this year! There was a lot of emphasis on making sure his transition to his new school goes well and I met his new TA. His old TA will also be moving schools and working as a classroom assistant. It was hard to hear how much me going away affected him and his behaviour – but was good in a way as it highlighted how he needs extra support to deal with changes. It was good to hear that the schools were liaising on the best ways to help him.
I now have to wait for the draft EHCP and then I have a very short period of time to read through it, making any changes needed and send it back. I am feeling hopeful -fingers crossed now.
When The Sensory Seeker was offered a place at a Mainstream school I had many worries. I felt that the best place for him was in a special needs school and that he just would not cope. I wrote the post Starting School Fears with SEN – in which I wrote about my worries and how irrational I thought that they really were. Now the end has come of his time at this school and he has to move on to another Mainstream school so I thought I would come back to that post to explain what happened now he is 7 years old.
Fears when The Sensory Seeker Started School
Will my child eat?
Will my child be able to use the toilet?
Will my child make friends?
Will my child with Sensory Issues keep their clothes on at school?
Will my child struggle getting changed for PE?
Will my child ever hold a pen?
Will the staff in a Mainstream school be supportive of my child’s additional needs
Will my child eat?
Thanks to the introduction of free school meals The Sensory Seeker not only eats at school but he eats better at home too – even trying new foods that he would have never considered before. We can even encourage him to eat foods he would rather not eat (when given an incentive). He has even got much better with his cutlery.
Will my child be able to use the toilet?
At first The Sensory Seeker did wet himself – but now he is doing fine. Yes he uses the toilet completely independently. I think at school he is probably doing better than some other children – as he doesn’t ALWAYS forget to flush and wash his hands! At home we sometimes have trouble with toilet paper, but on the whole he is doing really well. Yesterday my husband told me that our son was even happy to use the urinals (which was a great time saver too!) We still have the odd toilet accident but they are the rare occasion rather than the norm.
Will my child make friends?
Yes The Sensory Seeker has people he considers are his friends, gets invited to the odd party and has a couple of children coming to our house for his birthday. He also goes to groups outside of school time and he has made friends there too. In fact I am really proud of how he has coped in those groups – another sign of how well he is doing independently.
Will my child with Sensory Issues keep their clothes on at school? And Will my child struggle getting changed for PE?
With his sensory issues he often takes his jumper off when it is still cold, or ends up walking down the road topless on the way home, but by and large he is okay and not doing daft clothing stripping in school. The Sensory Seeker is fine at dressing and undressing and has just asked for trainers with laces so that he can try to learn how to do knots (obviously I am doing them up for him but helping to encourage him to pull them undone).
Will my child ever hold a pen?
The Sensory Seeker can now not only hold a pen but is trying to create sentences, recall them and write them down (trying to remember them all is the tricky bit for him right now but the Teaching Advisory Service told me to write his sentence down, cut it up and then let him sequence it. It is hard to believe that it was considered whether he was better off just using an iPad rather than writing.
Will the staff in a Mainstream school be supportive of my child’s additional needs?
Will the staff be supportive – well I could not have asked for more! I think the right attitude from the staff can make so much difference and The Sensory Seeker has come on in leaps and bounds. They are always there for me (to listen to worries no matter how small) and have brought him on from P levels to that of a child securely in the year below!
“I’m just a sheep!” – the line uttered today by The Sensory Seeker. He is anything BUT just anything. It was actually a comical line and just perfect for his well-timed, well-spoken delivery. Seeing him on the centre stage, in front of everyone, performing just like any other child. In fact not even every child could do that, and some did not have any lines. He did so well singing all the songs and the actions too.
To think I was worried about him starting at a mainstream school – and now here his last Christmas play – I wish he never had to leave. The support of the school has been amazing, but I cannot praise my little boy enough. He works so hard, but also gives life his all. He is so happy and tries to please those around him too (even though he does not quite understand that not everyone wants his hugs or kisses all the time!). He is on his 4 times tables – having already mastered his 10s, 5s and 2s and is blending his sounds to read.
This year he has coped with Christmas much easier – now he knows numbers, days and months a bit better. In fact he’s only been tempted twice to open his LEGO advent calendar ahead of the days! As I say, he’s touching people a bit more but generally coping much better (even if he does keep talking about Easter). We have only just put some (Christmas) lights up (the Christmas decorations usually go up before the 1st December). In fact it is only after this first Christmas performance that we have really felt the change (trying to open his door and trying to get out of his seat belt whilst his dad was driving on the motorway). We usually don’t allow computer games until the weekend but we are finding that they are helping to stabilise him (and we are allowing him to play as a reward).
How are you finding the build up to Christmas and do you have any tips on coping?