Some people never get to meet with an Educational Psychologist whilst today I met a second for my son who is only in his reception year at school. The first time was when I was wondering whether to send him to school. She came out to evaluate whether she thought it would be in his best interests to remain in Reception the following academic year. Apparently they do not like to use the term “held back” but that is what in effect it is.
She asked me what his strengths are – that’s easy he is happy. She said that was good, and to be honest if there was anything I could wish for that my children have it is happiness. She explained that research shows that children who stay back in reception year do not make much extra progress. I think that is because they compare themselves and try to identify with those around them. I am not sure my son has that ability to think that way.
He, in my opinion, is a very likable little boy. He has made good friends in reception (and has those all-important party invites that any parent may understand the fear of them possibly never receiving). Would he miss those friends if he was separated from them? Is he so lovely that he’d easily make friends again?
Year 1 is really fast paced compared to Reception – but my husband thinks that may be he needs the push. Currently though he is already falling asleep at school, and does get over-stimulated, or wet himself at school – and that’s with full time support. Would year 1 be too much and lower his confidence?
Also what if he does catch up when he’s older? He can never move back with his peers, and in secondary school everyone will know he was held back. He is a bright lad maybe something will click and he will be on par with his peers. Or there’s the possibility that he will never “get” some of the areas that he is struggling with so there would be no point him not moving up. He may need other ways to help him (he is a very visual learner).
Thankfully the Educationally Psychologist is supporting us whatever the decision. I am sure whatever is decided the school will fully-support him – I cannot say enough how grateful I am for all their help and support. We have his meeting for his review next Monday (and the first time I may hear about this thing that is replacing the Statement).
I have had some feedback of regret about keeping their child back, but then seen others who are pleased they have managed to fight for their child back. So if anyone has any experience or even feelings on this I would love to hear it please.
When you have a child with Special Needs in school you may find that they have many different people inputting into their education. So when it comes to Thank You Teacher gifts (I stick to the end of the academy year) then you may find that there are quite a few people to cater for. Personally I find home-made gifts not only cheaper but that the personal touch will mean much more than just a bunch of flowers/bottle of wine/chocolates. What a real special keepsake to remind them just how far they have managed to get the child to come.
I am super proud of my Sensory Seeker and very grateful for all that the school have helped him develop with. Some of his achievements are that:
What my Sensory Seeker can do now:
He can write his name.
He knows all of his phonetic sounds.
He can count to ten and recognise all the numbers in figure form.
He has become a lot more independent with many day-to-day activities that he previously could not.
He can recount the whole story of the 3 Little Pigs, in the right order.
He has better attention, more patience and good listening skills.
I am sure that there is much much more, every day he makes me so proud.
With just over 2 months until they break up for the Summer and he moves onto a new teacher I thought it a good time to start looking at some Teacher gifts craft ideas that may be easy enough for him to do.
Things to consider when making Thank You Teacher Gifts with a Child with Special Needs
The child’s ability. You can help them as much or as little as they need. Maybe they can paint but not precisely – how about a pet rocks as teacher gifts – simply by painting a rock and adding googly eyes. How about painting a toilet roll holder, adding a bottom to it with card, and putting some pencils in it – viola stationery holder. Or how about using stickers to make simple teacher gifts. Maybe they are good at colouring? Or like it in the kitchen. Are they a sensory seeker or avoider? If they are avoiding then something like a fingerprint tree may be good as you can just do 1, or as many prints as they will allow to help them get used to the sensation of the paint. Also maybe consider in what areas they have developed – my son has improved with his writing so it would be nice for that to be reflected in the gift.
Think about how long their attention span is. Can they sit to do the craft, or would running and jumping in and out of paint suit them better?
Be prepared for them to follow their own rules and for it not to turn out exactly how you had it in mind.
Reinforce their achievement and be proud, especially if they have struggled or found it hard to focus. A teacher gift is meant to be made with love.
Sensory Seekers will enjoy lots of textures and smells if you can incorporate them into your Teacher gifts.
Background music will help your Sensory Seeker and a quiet room your Sensory Avoider.
Think about how you will calm them down or clean them up. We have a bowl of water and towel next to the paint – as he has a tendency to paint himself and I don’t want all the walls and furniture covered.
Here is a simple idea – make a tape measure by marking out on a yellow piece of paper, then let your child tape it to a flower pot. You can either get your child to grow a flower or buy one. Then attach a note saying “Thank you for helping me grow!”
What problems and strategies do you have when it comes to craft with your child with additional needs?
The Sensory Seeker was struggling to understand the difference between the personal pronouns he and she. He knew that boys and girls are different but calls them both “he.” The Sensory Seeker does not really understand how people could get upset by being called the wrong thing but guess there’s only so many times a girl wants to be called a boy.
Based on the work by Felicity Durham the personal pronouns activity we did was simple, and great for the visual learner. It simply consisted on the child having a piece of paper divided into two. On one side there was a picture of a boy and the word he and a big empty box underneath, and the other side the same but with a girl and the word she. The same images were then repeated on another piece of paper but smaller (so that there were a total of 16 small image, 8 boys and 8 girls).
First we discussed the pictures by me asking which was a boy and which was a girl. I started with this because I knew he would know the answer. This helped him feel more confident which means it is easier to engage and hold his attention. Next I saw whether he recognised the words “he” and “she,” by sight. He didn’t and sounding them out was difficult as they are not phonetically sounding and so he was reading the ee as eh. I helped him understand and waited until I could hear that he knew and could say them both. Next I took my pile of small images and showed him that they were the same as the large ones. I mixed up the pile and got him to guess which card I would turn over, explaining that he needed to give me the answer “he” or “she.” He got really excited when he got it right and said that it was a point! Even when he did not correctly guess he was beginning to really say “she” (as he had previously only said he). I was firm in that I would not allow him to just point or refer to them as boy and girl. As there were only 16 images it was over quickly and so just right for his attention span.
Fine motor development is one of the areas that our Sensory Seeker needs work on. I think it is quite common in children starting school to need help to hold a pencil correctly. The Occupational Therapist thought that he is hyper-mobile in his hands and suggested types of exercises to strengthen them.
Things at School to help Fine Motor Development
To help his fine motor development at school he does activities such as threading, and using these tweezers to move small objects from one basket to another. Our Sensory Seeker has special scissors, which can be held by both himself and an adult. All the children work on their fine motor development by practising writing on white boards, first over the top of letters and then without. Well I am delight to say that our son is progressing really well. He can now write his name unaided (jut please ignore the fact that a few of the letters are backwards, small steps) even without the letters underneath.
Things we do at Home to help Fine Motor Development
At home helping him with his fine motor development has been largely through play. Now he is not putting toys into his mouth (so much) we have encouraged more small world play, with less chunky toys. This means he has to uses his fingers more to hold them.
Our Sensory Seeker really likes Superheroes and Villains at the moment. He is lucky enough that we have some in Lego form. Lego is just perfect for fine motor development and he loves changing the heads and bodies on the people, as well as building models. He is loving Lego even more since watching The Lego Movie.
We also have several Lego Superheroes sticker books for him. These are really good for his little fingers to get in and peel them off the book, and stick them where he wants them. He loves stickers of any type at the moment, and has them as rewards at school too.
Another favourite activity that helps with fine motor development is Playdough. I think it that Playdough is good for hand development in general, as well as imagination and mark making (amongst many many fantastic uses).
Of course all this play then helps with his fine motor development for school activities such as painting, writing, gluing etc – he is doing much better at holding things, and is less likely to use a grab hold, but still holds the very end until prompted.
We are encouraging him to do lots of colouring in to help with his fine motor development, and again finding pictures that interest him really helps.
Talking of keeping his interest, I bought some scissors that leave a crinkly pattern on the paper when you cut with them, and just let him free to cut plain paper how he liked.
It is important for his future development that we keep helping him build on his fine motor development skills, to enable to do things independently. With encouragement, he is getting much better at being able to handle cutlery and eat smaller pieces of food (such as raisins).
His diet remains fairly poor but I am happy that it is improving. We have discovered a love of pancakes, which he wants every morning! I am happy as they are egg, milk and flour, plus he eats them with bananas. This is also a great opportunity to help with his hands as he loves to whisk up the mixture.
Do you or someone you care for have trouble with fine motor development or your hands? Do you have any simple ways to help?
Starting School Considerations when a child with special needs approaches the Reception Year
When children with special needs approach the reception age their parents have some important, and possibly very difficult, school considerations to make. A huge influence in this can be whether the child already has obtained a statement of special educational needs. Considerations about whether to send them to a special needs school or mainstream. Or it may be that the parent is considering not sending the child to school at all.
It may be case of other factors more than just having a statement are required for particular schools – such as when a panel meets to decide who can enter, which maybe a school consideration if they have limited numbers.
Options about whether to send your Reception Year child to school or not
If you do not feel that your child is ready, then legally you do not have to send them until they are 5 (in the UK).Apparently it is even possible to get nursery vouchers until then too. Different schools will have varied opinions on deferring for a year. The parent may want to put the child straight into Year 1, instead of Reception, but checking with the school first is a good idea if it is to be considered. If the child goes straight into Year 1 they will be with their birth cohort, but then they may still be developmentally behind somewhat and may not fit in as well as those children who have already formed relationships (especially if they struggle with this). Note that on the other hand child can be very resilient and so do not be upset if you feel that changing schools is best, consider your child and what you believe is best for them. Then there will be the school considerations when the child moves onto secondary school (or middle school if there is one in the area).
School considerations about where is the best place that is right for your child
Do go and visit the school or schools. Are the school likely to listen to what you say? Have they previous experience? Have they a reputation in regards how they deal with Special needs children? – Good or bad? Do you have any other agencies going into school to help?You may be surprised at just how supportive they can be.
Our son is in a Mainstream primary with 30 hours one to one support – I think this is far more beneficial for his particular needs than at a special needs school. I was particularly worried about his toileting, and having someone monitor him all the time means he does not stay wet for long.
Only you truly know your child, and what you feel is best for them, and you as a family. The other thing we decided is that the special school would have been over 10 miles away and he was likely to fall asleep on the way home, further disrupting his sleep routine.
In the worst case scenario you can always pull your child out of that school – and find another or home educate.
This post was originally inspired by my own thoughts on our son starting school.
I am sick to the back teeth of every parent who considers their child to have special needs/be disabled (whatever you want to call it) having their parenting called into question. How many people have been told, why not try this course to help manage your child’s behaviour – when they just mean you have rubbish parenting? This seems to happen before, during and after a diagnosis process – in my small experience anyway.
My Experience of being Accused of Being a Rubbish Parent to my Teen with Asperger’s Syndrome
Maybe I’m just insecure, always feeling judged, that we have rubbish parenting, a letter once stated that “the mother fusses too much” when my oldest son’s school were justifying why they do absolutely nothing for my son’s needs. His IEPs always said he should achieve this grade or that – which was no problem for him and didn’t need working on. Trying to get him sorted in extracurricular activity, and socialising they just really refused to help with. It was if they completely ignored the fact that he had any needs – it was easier just to blame my parenting because then they did not need to do anything about it.
Rubbish Parenting stopping him being Independent
The school claim that he just needed to be left alone to do things – this would help make him more independent, my interfering by trying to support him was just hindering this process. “What I do not want to do is get him the placement exclusively on my own, it is important that he contributes to the process, as at the end of the day, when he leaves school, I will not be around!” This is the response we got when we could not find any suitable placements for work experience. He never said but basically implied it was down to rubbish parenting that we had not made him independent enough and that he just expected everyone to do everything for him. “We had a brief look the other lunch time and there seemed to a lot”. No there were a lot of companies that offered to fix computers but not to write computer games – not really the same thing.
The assumption is always just made that my son cannot be bothered, and as a parent I have failed to get him to be anything other than self-entitled. I am really upset that it is suggested that my son is lazy (oh yeah you can see that from his grades can’t you) rather than the fact that he has a diagnosed recognised social communication problem (Aspergers). I did repeatedly go into school and question his ridiculous IEPs – you know what happened? They did social stories. They didn’t work. They got a new SENCo – then they tried Social stories. And if I pushed too much they would make me feel like it was my rubbish parenting – and actually my son was just a normal, lazy teen. But it will always come back to Social Stories being the answer (they never work as he can’t generalise them from one situation to the other).
It isn’t Asperger’s Syndrome it is just the Teenage Years
Maybe they are right, I really don’t know what is teenage behaviour and what is his disability, but I DO know that he is far from lazy. If it is clear to him what he has to do then he does it. Will this ignoring the problem make it go away? Does ignoring cure Aspergers? Will he suddenly know how to communicate socially? But then I do hope they are right, that it is just down to rubbish parenting, because one day he will move out of home, and away from me, and my “fussiness” and everything will be alright! I do want you to come and all agree that it is rubbish parenting that I’m fussing: That I am just not letting my boy grow up. This is normal and what most teenage parents go through. Please tell me I’m fussing.
Because if not, what is the alternative? That my son’s needs are continuously ignored? What will his future hold? Funny as he has done so well lately, and when applying for his first job I was told I should have helped him more!!! Luckily he has been given a second chance with that, and you know what even if it means it is rubbish parenting I am going to help him.
I was advised by my health visitor to make a Parental Request for Statement (see my post on Pinkoddy), that it would speed the process up. At this point my son had only had 1 maybe 2 Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and was showing a Global Developmental Delay (as backed up by the Health Visitor). There is normally a procedure of doing X amount of IEPs, moving onto School Action, and School Action Plus – before Ed Psychs etc come out before the child is suggested for a Statement. I think that if an educational setting suggest a Statement and at the first assessment it is decided that they do not need assessing, then 6 months have to pass before another request can be made, this is apparently also true with a Parental Request for Statement. Please anyone correct me if any of this is wrong I have never taken this route.
Edit: I have been told that if you request a Statement and are turned down then you still need to wait 6 months before another can be requested (but you can appeal immediately).
I was very lucky in that when I made my request for a Statement the Playgroup were very proactive in helping me, and they arranged for the Educational Psychologist to come out and see my son. However, he hadn’t seen the Communication and Interaction Team and I do feel that may be he ended up with the wrong Category of Statement due to this. As he was still at Playgroup he was awarded the full 15 hours to cover 1:1 support for the full time he was there. There was then another meeting to adjust the statement to fit in with moving up to school. He has 20 hours put in place to start school, covering lunch times, and an early review to be called in October, when the school have more of an idea of his needs (evidence of how it is a health and safety issues for himself and others, for him not to be left alone).
Please note that my son does not have any form of diagnosis at all, we are still waiting (only been going on for 2 1/2 years). You do not to have your child diagnosed before you can receive a Statement, and a child does not have to have a disability to receive a Statement of Special Educational Needs, there are lots of circumstances under which a child can receive one.
I found the address of my local Special Needs Department within my Local Education Authority. Below is a template of the letter I used to request a formal assessment for a Statement of Special Educational Needs.
Request for formal assessment
I am writing as the parent of CHILDS NAME (DOB) to request an assessment of his special educational needs under the 1996 Education Act.
I would like a statutory assessment for Child X as he is under school age, and I believe that he will also need extra help when he starts school, he currently attends:
I believe that Child X has special educational needs for the following reasons:
My reasons for believing that his pre-school cannot on their own make the provision required to meet my child’s needs are:
It is my understanding that you are legally obliged by law to reply to this request within six weeks and that if you refuse or fail to do so I will be able to appeal to the Special Educational Needs Tribunal.
Starting school with Sensory Processing Disorder was always was going to be a big achievement wasn’t it. And to go into a Mainstream school too (although I am still in denial that maybe he’s just not a little bit behind, after all he was in and out of hospital quite a bit at the start).
Matters weren’t helped, in the confusion stakes, by the fact that my 3 other children went back to school last Wednesday, but that my youngest didn’t start until Monday. Fear not we made the most of those days (days to the play farm, picnics in the park, McDonalds, picnics on the beach) and he handled it all very well.
Wednesday came and he was so excited. He didn’t realise he too had a book bag like his brother (who is in the year above) – did you know just how sensational a book bag can be?! And when it was time to get his shoes on he thought that his shoes were his brother’s (identical but one size apart); he’s never had proper shoes before (just trainers, crocs, and boots). To see my two youngest boys so lovingly together, the older helping the younger one on with his shoes was truly magical.
He settled in so well that I felt like a spare part not needed to be there. I could not be sad, I did not cry – how could I when he was just SO happy. He had a good day and was happy to come home with me to have lunch. All the way he was chatting, a lot of it I didn’t even understand what he was trying to communicate, but what I did interpret was the fact that he was very contented. I know he felt “big” and he told me he drunk milk (he keeps asking for milk at home now too). He obviously liked his 1:1 too (he keeps touching her face).
Day 2 and he wanted to put his school clothes on as soon as he got up (meaning skipping breakfast as we do things in a certain order). But once I reminded him he had to have breakfast first he was fine. He did struggle at school after first break, and it affected him all afternoon, but really it was all to be expected. Most importantly he’s still really keen to keep going back again, and has gone in fine today. I was shown his painting from yesterday and he is holding his pencil a lot better too.
School seems to have really helped him grow up already. I can see a real change in him. Also it’s easier to explain about him doing things (for himself) if you ask him if he’s a big boy? Take this morning for example, he’d have easily let me get him dressed if I had let him. His clothes were already waiting for him, and he’d undressed and put his clean pants on and was carrying them. When I suggested that he get dressed, like a big boy, he did. I was amazed, so proud and that’s when the tears sprung to my eyes. OK the jumper was backwards, and I helped with the socks, but what an absolutely wonderful achievement.
A child with Sensory Processing Disorder may experience school life differently to their peers. They may seem disengaged and unable to focus, their attention being everywhere. They may find it difficult to manage their emotions suffering from sensory meltdowns. There are ways to manage and avoid these the important thing is to ensure that they receive the right sensory input for their needs – this is known as their Sensory Diet.
Sensory Difficulties that may occur in School:
Sensory difficulties that may occur in school will vary for child to child, day to day and moment to moment. Unfortunately there isn’t a one size fits all approach to it. There are some basic things that can help though – helping the child to concentrate and feel a valued member of the class.
Teaching assistants are great in guiding children with sensory difficulties, especially if the child is unable to identify their needs themselves. Ideally a one-to-one teacher can really benefit the individual with sensory difficulties by helping to keep the child focused and engaged. Plus the use of enhanced contextual cues (both visual and auditory) may help – or adapting the lesson to their specific interest. Those teaching those with sensory difficulties should keep things simple and don’t try to give them too much information at once.
Offer chewy/vibrating/fidget toys whilst they work (which can also help with oral issues); Give them opportunities to express themselves and keep things as routine as possible, and give warning that something different is going to happen.
A Fidgeting Child
The child with sensory difficulties may keep tapping the hands/feet, as it provides proprioceptive input to the arms/legs – (with the feet – vestibular system too). Ideas to help are allow a ball chair; Wrap theraband (stretchy band0 around the leg of the chair; again a fidget toy/oral sensory tool, or vibrating toy or pillow. Engage in 15 mins proprioceptive play prior to tasks. Allow to stand to do work, or stand on a balance board or bosu ball. Give them Heavy work (like re-arranging the tables/chairs), weighted objects (like a weighted lap pad) and opportunities for movement.
Distracted by Noises
The individual with sensory difficulties may not like it when others are talking or laughing and ask them to stop.This is likely due to a difficult in auditory processing; involving various frequencies in sound pitch and tone changes. Ideas are to let the child leave the room; give them an MP3 player; provide a sensory retreat; give them a bear hug, or deep pressure. Do not insist on eye contact. Provide quiet or a time out space for them for when the noise gets too much, and/or let them use ear defenders. Just generally have an awareness of and take into account the other noise around when they are trying to concentrate.
Teachers and support staff should be aware of how the different senses could be having an impact on them such as an over sensitivity to touch – from others, objects and clothes. Or a need for tactile sensory input and smells (that no-one else finds offensive).
Sensory Problems at Break times
At lunch times as they are susceptible to choking from eating too quickly or placing too much into their mouths. Again one-to-one support will ensure that they are safe and make sure that they do not stuff too much in – on the other hand if they have an aversion to touch or food (maybe due to the smell or temperature) they can be encouraged to eat.
When lining up they may become over responsive in the tactile sense, getting too close, or feeling that others are too close. They might not like the noise, or the noise may appeal and stimulate them. You can avoid any situations that may arise from this by allowing the child to be at the front or the back of the line – giving them a 50% less chance of being bumped/stimulated. Personally, I think you should go for the back as, in my experience, every child wants to be first and so by allowing someone to always go first may cause a social divide with their peers. You could try compression clothing and/or earplugs. It is important to make sure the other children are aware of the needs of the sensory processing child.
Using the Toilet
Again problems with noise may mean that they are frightened of the hand dryers in the toilets – so simply ensure that paper towels are provided.
What Works For Our Sensory Seeker at School
The main thing with The Sensory Seeker is consistency, understanding and patience. His sensory issues aside he is a good lad that tries hard but doesn’t understand when people break the rules. He is also hyper-mobile in his hands (or something) – which means he is more flexible than he should be, and has trouble holding a pencil. So I got some pencils with the rubber ends to help with his grip. I find him riding his bike or scooter to school helps get him in the right frame of mind, and allowing him to go for a good bounce on the trampoline at the end of the day. He responds well to rewards too now – which is always a bonus.
If anyone else has any tips about helping with school I would love to hear them in the comments box below.