It looks like the sickness is over. For now at least. Poor Barney had an extra night of sickness that we hadn’t expected which resulted in him taking Friday, Monday and Tuesday off of school. He was due to go back in on Wednesday but he woke up in panic and spent almost 2 hours crying, groaning and repeating that he was scared. By the time 9am came I knew that if I took him to school in that state the staff would have just sent him home again, so we didn’t bother. I got him to help me with the housework instead.
Wednesday afternoon saw our long awaited meeting with the SENCO and Barneys teacher. Marty came along too, even though it meant bring the littluns, because we felt it was important for him to be involved and not just hear everything through me. It didn’t start well as the teachers had arranged for Barney to go into another class with his old P1 teacher whilst we had the meeting. This was unexpected for him and they should have realised he’d need to know about it in advance – after all that is common sense when dealing with autistic children. So he panicked and cried and I told them they didn’t have a hope and that he’d be staying in the room with us. So he found the play corner of the room and played with Rosie whilst we chatted. After half an hour he came over and said he was ready to go to the P1 class with Miss Q. So off he went and had a blast with his teacher from last year. All that one on one attention that he totally loves. It just proved my point that he can do anything if he is given time to make the decision for himself, rather than being forced.
Anyway, the meeting was long and not all that much was achieved really. Mrs M was on her best behaviour, I presume because Marty was there. Or perhaps she is just better when there isn’t an ‘incident’ going on around her. Both teachers said that in 20 years plus of teaching they’d never encountered a child with Barneys level of anxiety, even though many autistic children had been through the school; and that they actually didn’t have a clue what they were doing. Both agreed that in their ignorance they had done things that had made the situation worse; such as the time he was forced into the classroom against his will and held captive whilst screaming, crying and throwing himself at the door. I told them under no uncertain terms that that was NEVER to happen again. And they agreed.
I am pleased that they have realised that they don’ know what they are doing. But also annoyed that they don’t know what they are doing. If that makes sense. The whole situation seems to be left up to me to deal with; with their support and understanding.
The Senco has an emergency appointment with the Educational Psychologist on Tuesday. He is coming out to the school to speak to her about Barney and to offer advise. But he won’t be seeing Barney himself as he has to sit on a waiting list and wait for that.
It was agreed that I was to continue bringing him into school later than the other children. That I would be left to my own devices to calm him and get him into the classroom, and that there would be no interference from anyone else. This is not because I want to be in control or anything, but because it has been agreed by all concerned that it is in Barneys best interests to remain in a calm environment with just one person. And since the teachers do not have the time to deal with him one on one, it remains my job to do so.
We all knew that this morning would be difficult. Any time that there has been unexpected time off school (sick days, snow days, public holidays, half term etc) Barney has had a very difficult time getting into class the following day. So we were bracing ourselves, and his teachers knew it might be a long morning.
Now, the Principal had spoken to his teacher, the Senco and the classroom assistant and made them all aware that she was supporting our morning routine and that she had given me permission to sit in the classroom for as long as necessary with Barney, even if I was there the entire day. She had stressed to them all to keep well away, not interfere and above all not to try to take Barney away from me. She and I both knew that would result in the extreme panic we experienced in the cloak room, and that we’d be right back to square one.
However, this morning (because we had been taking over an hour to get into class) two teachers (one of whom has never taught Barney and knows nothing about him; and one who has been present for some discussions and should know better) decided that despite all our meetings, all our plans and chats, all our deepest efforts and discussions about Barney; that they knew better! Mrs T (the lady who should know better) and Mrs W decided to intervene, with no idea whatsoever about what they were dealing with. Mrs T made herself into a human barrier between Barney and I and started walking towards him, covering over him, so that he had to keep stepping backwards towards his classroom. And when he started screaming in terror - ‘Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!’ she kept trying to block his view by dodging in front of him! Then Mrs W said to me “Mrs M******, don’t you think it would be better if you just left?” I just looked her in the eye and said NO. I didn’t offer her explanations, or go into details about how I had permission from the principal, because it was neither the time nor place and Barney needed my assistance. Well, the looks those two teachers gave each other said it all!
I insisted on taking Barney back to staff room where, thanks to them, I had to start the whole process of calming him down again. Back to square one.
Now this is the tactic I am using…. I take him to the staff room. He tells me his worries, and I tell him that I understand and I go through the days schedule and remind him that I will be there to pick him up at 2pm. We spend a little time breathing and relaxing. Then I sit with my cup of tea and tell him that he must tell me when he is ready to go in. I don’t engage in chit chat, I don’t try to convince him, I remain calm and I wait. After about 10 minutes he usually says ‘ok, I am ready to try to go in now’ and we make our way to the doors next to his classroom. Sometimes he chickens out at this stage and we start again. But eventually, although tearfully, he goes into his classroom. This method requires patience, and time. But it works. Now what happens when they try to force him in quickly? He goes into panic, meltdown, hysterics, is traumatised and has to be taken home. So which method works quickest in the end?
I must point out that the hysterics and meltdowns are not anything like those of a spoilt brat who is being pandered too. A concept which the principal understands, but which some other teachers do not.
Today when I got home I phoned the school and asked for the Principal to phone me back when it was convenient for her. Later in the day she phoned me, and before I even told her why I wanted to speak to her she started to apologise for the teachers behaviour this morning. Well she wasn’t there when it happened so I can only presume that those teachers had gone to her to complain about me and Barney taking so long out in the corridor (which I must point out is in a quiet, private area, not in any way disrupting the other children). She said that she had been extremely cross with them for poking their noses in and had told them to mind their own business in future. She said to them that I have her expressed permission to use the corridor and staff room and that I can stay there until school closes if needs be. She told them that this was not the case of a spoilt child and that there were much deeper emotional issues that no one could fully understand. When I told her my side of the story about Mrs T using herself as a barrier and Mrs W asking me to just leave she sounded horrified and was truly apologetic. She said that she was going to call a staff meeting and give them all a good telling off and that I shouldn’t have any further trouble.
She totally understood that this problem will take time and patience; that the ways to deal with most children do not work for Barney and do in fact make the problem worse. I can’t tell you how relieved I was to have her on side and not to have to fight with her for understanding. At least I can now do what I need to do with confidence and mentally stick my fingers up at those ignorant teachers and their condescending looks and remarks.