Thursday, 16 May 2013

School Exclusion and the PDA Child

Is an exclusion from school an effective form of behavioural management and/or punishment for a PDA child.

The thought from me would be a big fat NO! In fact I believe that continued exclusion is incredibly damaging to a PDA child. I feel it creates more anxiety and therefore more behaviour in a child who ends up feeling more isolated and rejected from the educational environment. It feel it creates a cycle of expectation for the child. I feel i saw this cycle of expectation develop for Isaac during his last few months he was in school. When the exclusions started I had no awareness of PDA, therefore I had no idea what was driving Isaac. Initially I would chastise him, I couldn't understand why he had had this dramatic deterioration in his behaviour at shool (it was always an issue but it deteriorated rapidly). During this time he was exposed to an awful lot of negativity. From school he was getting more and more segregation and consequences as they tried to control him and make him conform. With hindsight and knowledge about PDA it is obvious how this pressure was becoming too much for him to handle and his anxiety and feeling of lack of control was sky high. To top the little mans day off he would come home and get chastised and banned off play stations etc by me as I sought "to teach him how to behave". How awful must this time have been for him. (He actually developed a repetitive eye movement tic at this point which after 5 months out of school has disappeared.) He was excluded for 5 days a fortnight before the christmas holidays, I sat in the heads office and asked why 5 days, I was realising that it didnt matter how long he was excluded for he wasnt going to sit at home and reflect on it and I believed he whenever he came back he would behave in the same manner because he was being mis managed. He was being exluded for the very reason he had a statement which was supposed to support him ( I believe it was 5 days so christmas dinners etc could be eaten without being disrupted by him but that is just my opinion). It was now i could really see the impact that the pressure and cycle of rejection was having on Isaac, he would come home and strip his uniform off and shower the smell of school of him. It would be followed by up to a couple of hours sat under a duvet being very withdrawn and dare I say it "depressed". I felt totally at a loss with what to do, and it was now that PDA was fleetingly mentioned by a Speach Therapist, I read up and it was as if suddenly everything made sense. I was now ready to help start the change. In a meeting after christmas with a large group of professionals involved with Isaac I spoke about PDA (the Speach Therapist who had mentioned it wasnt there and didn't submit a report). I started by asking who had heard of it, no one had from the ed psych to the specialist behaviour guy. I had lots of info and the teaching guidelines i had printed out but I was told by the chair of the meeting it was unlikely and not to get my hopes up and it was dismissed. I just wish I had the knowledge and confidence to speak about it then as I do now but it made me realise how the people who work "in the system" do not like to be challenged (something which has now become mine and Mr N's favourite pass time!) Isaac was now on a " 6 week reintergration plan " put into place by the behavioural team (who didnt know about PDA), he had his own room, he was totally isolated he would not go near any other children and would actively run to avoid contact with his class mates. He expressed once that he felt embarrassed about himself. Isaac managed to get excluded frequently still but I now spent the time trying to support him and prop up his shredded self esteem. The cycle of exclusion was now Isaac now not "misbehaving" because of the pressure he was under but simply that he wanted to be home. We spoke loudly about how damaging this exclusion was to our child but this was never heard despite me writing a long statement documenting all of this and giving it to all concerned. A documented submitted by the head to a meeting strongly tried to blame us as parents for the behaviour suggesting it was our lack of compliance with exclusion that was at the root of the issue and I quote "Both Mr and Mrs N did not agree with the exclusion process and did not engage with it. They had made it clear to the school staff and at the Team Around The Family meeting" YOU ARE DARN TOOTING WE DID!!!!!!!! The last week Isaac spent at the school he was getting excluded everyday, sometimes he would only last 15 mins. I dropped him off and said "see you at 12" "probably before because they will exclude me" he repied!
And that was the end of that. Isaac had learnt a lesson, he know knew how to protect himself in this environment, he was totally in charge of his schooling. I know Isaac would have dropped out of main stream at some point but the exclusions made it a very traumatic journey that no child should be submitted to.

1 comment:

  1. Been there too! They told my son that "any swearing and he would be sent home". Well, if that wasn't an open-invitation to a PDA child struggling and embarrassed by that struggle, then I don't know what is?! Many days, we were there for minutes only, as he very quickly realised
    (and uttered incredulously, aloud), "so ALL I have to do is swear?" This was an easy-out for a child whose little mind was racing with ways to get out of there and get home, with thoughts like "I'll just smash all the
    computers". Exclusion does not work and it does not least, nothing positive or as intended!!