The Sensory Seeker has returned to school after two and a half years of home education. We are still in the middle of a pandemic with many people now choosing to home educate their children with special needs. However, The Sensory Seeker really wanted to go back – this is how the first part week has gone from the perspective of his mother.
The Sensory Seeker and Home Education
To be honest The Sensory Seeker never wanted to leave school and if it wasn’t for his brother he never would have. We had previously made the mistake of moving one child from an educational setting and leaving the other one there. Let’s say that the “adults” didn’t act very grown-up about it! We also discovered that the school weren’t seen to be looking after children with EHCPs very well.
The school had told us he was doing well and was pretty much in-line with his peer group. They said that he didn’t want any help as he wanted to work independently. Then of course there was their attitude that “we are all on the sensory spectrum”. Therefore it came as rather a shock to find that he was not in-line with his peer group in math and English (the subjects they claimed he was) and that he seemed unable to work independently. In fact we were told by tutors that he was broken! His confidence was super low and that they hated to think how badly damaged he would have been if we had not opted to home educate. He was not at all receptive to learning at all.
The Sensory Seeker Returning to School
The return to school happened as he is now old enough for secondary education – which is a big change for everyone. In fact the pandemic probably made The Sensory Seeker’s adjustment easier because other children hadn’t been to school in a while. Plus a lot of the lessons are in the one classroom.
He has been back a few days now and it feels very right. The Sensory Seeker is full of confidence and enthusiasm. He has made new friends and isn’t afraid to be himself. If he doesn’t know the answer to something, or wants help, he has been able to easily ask the teaching assistants. Luckily homework is put on an app so we can easily see what needs doing. He has already willingly just got on with homework set when he has got home. He wants to try new things and hasn’t feared the change (like accessing a hot meal from the canteen at lunchtime).
Sensory Issues at Secondary School
Of course he still has sensory issues at school but seems to be just dealing with them by himself. The ones he has mentioned mostly have related to clothing so far. Having to do his top button up, the tie tickling him when he has to tuck it in inside his shirt (he finds tucking it in lower down helps), his rugby shirt is itchy (he is going to try wearing his skins next time to see if that helps). Also his lunch has been all over his clothes so I have to keep cleaning his blazer and tie – but he hasn’t told me that anyone has been mean about it at all.
The School itself
Overall I am really happy with his first week (well he started Tuesday) at school. I have heard a lot of parents praise the SENCO, and she has got a very good reputation. But also the history teacher stopped us one morning to check all was okay. Then a teaching assistant did too – all just whilst we were walking down to queue to get into the school. Fingers crossed this all continues. As a bonus he is learning Spanish which he has already started as part of home education.
The Sensory Seeker has been home educated for exactly 7 months today and what a journey. I was, and guess still am, shocked but how little he wants to learn. He seemed so keen and eager at school and was making good progress. I thought when he would stay at home he would be really keen just to learn and have the option to work independently (as that is what his current EHCP says he likes best). I was wrong, he had no desire to learn – to do basic maths, read or well anything. So why I am so convinced that home educating him was the best idea?
Is Home Education the Best Option for The Sensory Seeker?
Well I guess the real icing on the cake was our last parent’s meeting with Explore Learning. We have regular progress reports of how the sensory seeker is doing in terms of the curriculum, showing his individual progress throughout the year he is working at. This is great because if you just look at where he “should be” for his age you can get bogged down in him being “behind” rather than the fact that he’s progressing really well. But he is still behind and we do very little “formal” work so of course (being in the educational system for so long myself) I worry whether I am doing the right thing for him. I asked the question – should I be doing more with him. What I got back was a resounding no! To just keep doing what I am doing! OMG I just cried there and then. My husband really didn’t get it but honestly this last 7 months has made me realise that actually our son is a very vulnerable member of society and I have just been wanting others to make sure he’s ok – but they just do not have the time, resources, and quite frankly the love for him that I have. He was so low in confidence previously that he didn’t feel that he could do anything and now, slowly but surely, it’s growing. He is wanting to do things – enjoying reading, wanting to learn about space – and generally having more of a can-do attitude. This is not only in a group and one-to-one but this elusive independently too.
I am finding my love for school becoming less and less to be honest. I am not suggesting that school’s lie but are they really able to focus on your child to let you know exactly what is going on for them? Are they really going to say that they were getting to the end of their tether because they really needed your child to do x, y or z and they were just having none of it?! That they are alone at playtime or that the other children use them when they have no-one else to play with? The Sensory Seeker is struggling a bit lately (it is the build up to Christmas) and he is spinning more, jumping and TALKING A LOT!
He has even said he cannot help but keep talking. When he isn’t talking, or making other sounds with his mouth, he is tapping something – just to have some sort of noise. I wonder how that would be panning out if he were at school; would he HAVE to be quiet, or would it just have to all spill out when he gets home? Is that really the best way for him to learn?
What now for The Sensory Seeker’s Education
I have received a letter about The Sensory Seeker’s Secondary Transfer and I really am not sure what I want to do. Currently I see no suitable school for him (well where we can afford at least) where I believe they will nurture him in a way he needs and deserves. There’s always been so much emphasis on the academic (and I DO struggle to get him to understand when he doesn’t get it) that I never really stopped to truly think about what’s important. I have already talked about this a couple of months ago but really is hard to get my head around. His older brother is going back to school next September and this will create a whole new dynamic.
When our youngest son was starting school with SEN I worried whether he would eat, go to the toilet and make friends. These were my main concerns, this is what I thought initially was important. Overall I was worried about what I could do to make sure my son was just like everyone else. I made sure that before our son started school he had a statement of special educational needs (which changed to an EHCP). This was to make sure he would get the most amount of help to be like his peers and be liked by his peers. But here’s the thing, after one term of home education I have realised that is not what I want anymore.
I feel I was so fixated with the short term that I never stopped to consider the future. What do I really want for my child with additional needs in the long term? Initially I worried that he didn’t quite get things like other children; for instance what happened if he stripped off his clothes and tried to walk around school half naked?! Or what if someone laughed at him for having a toileting accident? What if they laughed at him and called him names? No what I considered was important is that there was help to make sure he didn’t do these things, that he blended in with everyone else. But now I see things much more clearly. Now I want him to be confident and happy with who he is. To learn to ignore those who are mean to him for not being a carbon copy of themselves, and to seek out those who are tolerant and have acceptance. Those who want to learn about his difficulties and support him, but not want to change him. That they will see beyond his additional needs and see the kindness in his heart. To find friends, real friends, who don’t just want to know him when there’s no-one else around.
Home Education has been such a blessing for The Sensory Seeker – with five birthday party invites in his first term! As for food, previously I was worrying about whether he would eat, but now I want him to be able to think about being able to source what he wants: For example, I love how he is gaining in confidence learning to peel vegetables, which will be a great skill for the rest of his life. I have already written about how being home educated really taps into his sensory needs – doing what he wants when he needs it. But never before had I truly stopped and thought about what he really needs. Honestly it isn’t to be able to catch up with his peers – who cares if he can pass his SATs or not? It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he can learn to live a happy life! Take care of himself and not let others drag him down. Being home educated is doing his confidence so much good. No longer being compared to others and judged – just trying his best; finding out what he is good at. Then practising both what he is and isn’t good at to improve, but knowing that his effort is what is enough, what is important.
Yesterday was the day that we started our first proper day of home educating The Sensory Seeker. I have been considering home education for a good half a year for his older sibling but the more I thought about school the more I was not happy how it was affecting The Sensory Seeker. They continued to not only ignore but tell me that his sensory needs did not exist.
Yesterday after the boys having an early start to learning (honestly they didn’t even want to put the television on they just wanted to start with education!) we went to the school and handed in the deregistration letter. This was also an opportunity to let friends who did not already know know and say goodbye (they will be keeping in touch with those they want of course).
What I learnt on my first day of Home Education with our son who has Sensory Processing Disorder
I was shocked as I guess somehow the school had convinced me that The Sensory Seeker had progressed so well that his senses were not getting in the way of his education. I am not sure if it is because I had more time to pick up on them or that it really is due to the different environment but I immediately saw how beneficial home education is going to be for him in terms of managing his sensory diet.
The most notable thing is definitely that The Sensory Seeker has different times when he is receptive to learning. On certain occasions throughout the day I knew that there was just no point because he was not in the right frame of mind. What would they do in this instance at school? Punish him? I just let him play/cuddle etc on contrast at other times he was really raring to focus and wanted to learn – and this also did not fit in the 9-3 school day.
Leading on from this there were definite times when he needed a hug or back/hair rubs. It helps calm him when being anxious or upset, or sometimes overwhelmed. It is all a new routine which he will find more difficult at first as change is hard for him. Home education I think will be better in this sense because there won’t be changes of going back to school and then holidays all the time.
The Sensory Seeker sometimes required something to fiddle with. I have to admit whilst reading him a story it was distracting for me as he flicked a toy dressing up tiara and did feel as if he was not listening. But I know he was and it was actually helping him to concentrate. In fact he even started to read the story himself without being promoted (also showing that he was listening as he knew where we were). At school when I have talked about things to fiddle with or chew it has been all about him fitting in socially so not looking different to others (when they have even agreed with me that he may need this).
The Sensory Seeker can move when he needs. This means he can get the proprioception and vestibular input he requires. We are lucky enough to have a large trampoline in the back garden as well as living locally to a park. We also wish him to learn how to ride a bicycle and he has taken to this really well over the holidays so this is a great way to break up any more formal learning when he requires it. This also includes going to the toilet without missing any play time (I hated that and am sure that is what led to him not drinking all day whilst at school!!)
I think this goes for any home educated child but following The Sensory Seeker’s interests really help with his more limited focus, concentration and attention.
He can wear what he feels comfortable in (or not wear as the case may be). Although he has been conditioned to the fact that you tuck your t-shirt in (which looks silly at times) because that was the “rule” at school.
No need to just be quiet. If the Sensory Seeker needs to make noise or express himself he can – he is not stifled about it being the right time/place/content (if he wants to talk about his special interest then he can!). In contrast there is quiet time for learning without all the noise from everyone else.
This was my experience after just one day – most of which was seen as play time. The Sensory Seeker already seemed so much happier and definitely closer to me (in one day!). He also made a friend! I would love to know of your experiences of home educating a child or children with Sensory Processing Disorder.