Thursday, 30 January 2014

One Year out of Mainstream Education

I have just realised it is one whole year since we walked away from mainstream education amidst chaos from those who had no idea what to do with our son. He had spent over a term on a very reduced timetable, he would not integrate with his class any more and he couldn't go into his classroom. He was failing to integrate with most activities that were presented to him and he was totally in charge of his situation within school. I have written many times how Isaac, by the end was in control of his schooling. He knew exactly how to behave to get himself thrown out and excluded. It was like watching a moth go back time and time again only to be hurt each time but not knowing what else to do.

School had made adjustments for Isaac but it was evident that reintegration plans and behavioural plans would not work because if Isaac chose not to engage he could just run away, climb on the bike shed roof, play chase with the teachers through the school. There was no incentive strong enough and no boundaries secure enough to contain him. During week 5 of a behavioural reintegration plan, with him being in school a few hours a day he was excluded everyday. Isaac was so stressed, becoming withdrawn, was covered in eczema, had developed a persistent eye tic and was increasingly violent. We said enough was enough and we took him out of school, despite the horrendous circumstances the information and advice that was given to us was shocking.

First we were told we were breaking the law, then a lot of pressure was placed on us to say we were home schooling. We consistently said we were not home schooling but we were not putting our child back into such a damaging environment.

We researched locally were would be appropriate to send Isaac, a process through which we had absolutely no guidance from the LEA. We found a small independent BESD school but the LEA said this would not be funded and consulted two local special schools which we visited and knew from the start were wrong. This was a paper exercise by the LEA having visited the schools told me they were wrong for Isaac but this consultancy period had to take place.

Eventually it was agreed Isaac could attend the BESD school (this was mainly achieved through the unwavering, and I am sure for those on the receiving end, the down right dogged persistence of daily emails by the other half).

Despite all that had happened my feelings towards a  "special school" were negative. I knew how clever my little man was and I didn't want him to have to go. I really had trouble letting myself accept
this was the right path. On reflection, I was having to let go of what I had planned in my head for my son and accept this alternative future. I am a midwife and have had to help numerous parents cope with birth defects and trauma with their babies. We look at the concept of "the loss of the perfect child". The loss of the ideals that we as parents have in our heads. Well, this is what I had to face. Its not that I didn't know, its just know I was about to change both his world and mine and it was unknown. I was scared.

Isaac started his new school at the end of May. It has been a rocky road and remains so. We have good days and bad days, but more good than bad. He will never be excluded and this factor alone is vital. He has his own class room but is beginning to choose to access lessons with the other children when he feels able. There is a great reward structure in place. Most importantly, he is accepted. Neither he nor I are "blamed" for his behaviour and this has boosted both our self confidences. Most importantly the amazing people there see Isaac for who he is, and they are the only other people I have come across who know and understand what makes him tick.

Had I had a crystal ball to see what was achievable I would have walked away from mainstream sooner and not tried to comply with their "integration" plans. If a child has got to the point that they are attempting to educate in a corridor or they are being repeatedly excluded for their additional needs then I would seriously consider getting out. By the time you are at that point the writing is quite literally on the wall!

 I feel lucky that now Isaacs needs are being met. Everyday he is hard to get up, and out to school that is just a part of PDA, it still takes on average 5 mins to get him out of the car BUT last Friday he said, he wished school was on a Saturday too as he was really enjoying it!!!!

What a difference a year makes!

1 comment:

  1. Hi. My son started a BSED primary school from the get go age 5 and I too was fed the line that no child is ever excluded. Unfortunately this isn't true. Rather than exclude the school and LEA will refer difficult pupils on usually to a privately run for profit residential school in another part of the country. So technically they haven't excluded the child merely REFERRED them elsewhere!!! It's all in the language.
    In the end I've kept my son at home as I have minimal problems and a family life thats almost "normal".
    With only 1big meltdown since august 2012, compared to daily after school I'm not complaining. Knowing right from wrong is more important than anything a school can offer.
    Being prepared to do things yourself in the end is good to psyche yourself up for as things can change massively as time goes on especially while PDA is not taken seriously.
    I wish you and Isaac much luck with the schooling though.