I know those words are normally read with a sense of impending doom, but in M’s case I can all but skip to the door of the school, safe in the knowledge that in her case it is all working as it should be. Yes, I know too how rare it is to read those words about one of our special children.
Luckily yesterday was no exception,. The head teacher went through the Child Plan (this is possibly something we only have in Scotland but it is – when done properly – a very simple document that states the needs and wants of the child, the way it has been decided to address them, and an action plan) point by point, and the professionals and I discussed each point and then the head re-wrote the relevant parts that needed updating.
What was incredibly encouraging for me as a parent was that my views are considered very important. Again, I know so many parents – and I have been one of them in the past – who have been figuratively patted on the head and ignored, as if to say “what could you possibly know? You’re only the parent”. Not in this school; I am given due respect and consideration for being M’s mother and her expert. However many times I hear this it still makes me so glad that a group of people who are supposed to have my child’s best interests at heart all agree that I am pivotal in her care and development.
We noted some very positive changes. The “Challenges” that M was set last term, all of them simple ones like sitting appropriately (i.e. not hanging off a table or tipping her chair) have all been met every day to the point where she is almost ticking them off before her TA says she can; our challenge was to add a new one that would stretch her but that would hopefully be attainable. We are currently seeking an unambiguous way of saying “don’t lash out” which is harder than it might sound. This is mostly as M will thump her poor brother when in a rage – and as they are almost the same size and a small autistic child in a rage is very strong – he has been suffering of late. It is not as simple though as saying “no hitting”. Like any child M can be devious, and also with her autism she can be very literal, so she could quite likely state “but I didn’t hit him I kicked him” and then the whole point of the challenge is void. We are probably going for “hands down” and “feet on the floor”, both commands in the positive which always helps. and a visual to back this up as a reminder when the challenge is explained to her. I am going to be involved in keeping this challenge alive at home, another change in the routine, so we will get all the visuals sorted and then have a mini-meeting to make sure we all do it the same way.
The other important note from the meeting is that every time we said how the support has been working, and this includes the TA, sensory work including weighted jacket, short PE breaks, thera-putty, allowing M to stand up and walk around if needed, and responding to her needs as they arise, everyone was in agreement that the Child Plan reflected how essential it is to keep the level of support as it is. So often I have learned of support that has been withdrawn as “the child is fine” only to witness a backslide in behaviours and baffled staff. You wouldn’t take away a wheelchair from a child whose legs don’t work so why would you take away support from someone like M? Of course! Once again the curse of the Invisible Disability rears its ugly head.
M’s TA was present at the meeting, as was her teacher. The school secretary,the lovely Mrs B, was standing in to keep an eye on M, so I thought no more of it and shortly after her usual home time (we overran a bit) I collected M.
Oh boy!!!!!!! What an evening we had! I could do no right. I kept my calm, and even when M lost it to the extent that she repeatedly slapped her face over and over, I didn’t react. When she is screaming and self-harming in that way, unless I am absolutely certain I can calm her with a bear hug and her wrapped tightly in a blanket I have to stand back. Hard as it is, sometimes it will burn itself out faster with no intervention.
We got through dinner, how I am not sure, and then I knew disaster was approaching as both kids needed a shower and hair wash after their earlier swimming lesson. I took M first.
Well! Hold the front page. A SHOWER CALMED HER DOWN! No, you are not hallucinating. Evidently having the water at the correct temperature (on the cold side) and me holding the shower head very close to her skin to minimise the tickly sensation really must have the same soothing effect as a bath. I was absolutely staggered, but obviously delighted.
By the time her hair was dry and her teeth brushed she fell into bed with an almost palpable sense of relief. She must have been exhausted with all the screaming and hitting, and she slept all night for once, seemingly quite deeply too.
This morning I spoke to the head. Apparently she had forgotten to build the change of staff into M’s visual chart yesterday for the meeting, and the secretary reported that M would not engage in any work so she had quietly read her a story. This does explain the meltdown that ensued – unforeseen change to the routine – and the head was suitably apologetic. She’s forgiven, I’ve done it myself.
So, the date has been set for the next meeting, and I can look forward to the minutes of this meeting and to showing hubby just how well the system is currently working for our wee girl.