a resource for parents
Hi, my Year 6 son suffers anxiety related to school. I have always managed to get him to attend school. Up until recently he has mainly suffered from tummy aches on the way to school. Although we did have a term in Year 4 when he had difficulty attending school due to a maternity cover teacher from January onwards, who he didn't like. She seemed to make adaptions for him and he could cope with going to school ok for the summer term.
The recent anxiety started this year after this February half term. At first we thought it could be because he had found out his secondary school place (the reality of a big change suddenly sinking in), a friend of his was moving out of the area and/or his birthday celebrations were over. This all happened within a couple of days. But at the same time, pressure for the SAT's began to build up. Even though he didn't really talk about it much, we saw the school were getting them to do lots of practise papers and homework. It seemed like all of the fun had been removed from school for him.
His behaviour in school started to deteriorate. We agreed to have him tested for ASD and to have him referred to CAHMS. The school said that he would have to sit in the headteachers office away from the other children to do his tests. They also told him that the Year group trip to a theme park was a reward for doing the SATS. So he needed to do them to go on the trip. He had a meltdown on the morning of the first exam and was trying to climb over the fence to escape school. The school called us and we agreed to go and sit in with him to get the tests done, which we did for all of the tests and he was fine. Until after the last test, for some reason he though he would be allowed home afterwards and had a meltdown trying to escape school, yelling and hurting himself. We were asked to collect him and take him to the hospital. The hospital checked him over and sent him home.
He was allowed to go on the theme park day out, but my husband had to go with him.
The next day at school he screamed and ran down the stairs, he told us it was because the school had told him he couldn't go on the Mon-Fri residential that was coming up with the school. They told us they didn't say that to him, but I think they were trying to let him know that he needed to improve his behaviour to go on the trip. This seemed to put him under a lot of stress and his behaviour got worse.
We received a letter before May half term to say that they had decided not to take him on the residential. We had a meeting after half term to discuss this and we offered to go with him or to be nearby to collect him if he needed us. They wouldn't change their minds as they wanted this to be a punishment for him. He was called into a meeting room with my husband and the head teacher. My husband told him that he wasn't allowed to go. He had a meltdown, threw his shoes at the head teacher and told her he hated her.
I tried to take him to school the next day. An office staff member came out to take him up to the classroom, but he turned around back down the stairs. He then began pulling display cards off the wall and kicking the door. They sent for the head teacher. He blames her for not allowing to go on the trip that he had been looking forward to 4 years, so seeing her again caused another meltdown, he hit her and threw his shoes at her again. She said she didn't have the staff to deal with him and sent me home with him. We received a phone call and letter to say that he had been excluded for 5 days.
The five days are up now and as the rest of the year is off on the trip, we are keeping him off school for the rest of the week.
I don't know how he is going to be happy at the school again, the residential trip with his school friends meant so much to him. He has a great group of friends at the school and I know some of them were hoping to share a room with him on the trip. As time has gone on I'm wondering if it's the way his teacher and other members of staff are dealing with him that is causing continued anxiety. He also now has so much resentment towards the head teacher, it's going to be difficult for him to see her again.
Even though he only has a few weeks left at this school I don't know what to do now?
My heart goes out to you.
I wrote a long reply to you last night but it disappeared into thin air.
Have you had a meeting with CAMHS yet? Any further on diagnosis for ASD?
Is there a teacher at the school that your son has got along ok with in the past who you can approach to ask for advice or just to talk to them? It sounds like the head has just gone off on a tangent and labelled this as 'bad behaviour' when there is obviously a lot more going on with your son and either he has anxiety or on the spectrum. They both have similar symptoms although School Refusers suffering anxiety tend to want to be invisible rather than make a scene.
Do you think there might have been any bullying?
I can't believe they didn't let him go on the residential, with your offers to be there, or pick up or whatever. You have been doing all you can - the school needs to change how they are viewing this.
It also reminds me of a friend of mine's son who initially would lash out and put his fist through a wall, throw a laptop...when normally a quiet and well behaved child. With him - it was a matter of not taking a label and necessarily going just down that line - but seeking medication that would help, which he is now on and much better.
It might be early days for you yet in terms of looking at medication as you have other options to work with first.
I don't have any magic answers but if it was me, I'd be fronting up to the head and demanding to know what they are going to do for you. Can you get a doctor's opinion regarding anxiety at least? And then you can explain this is not a behaviour issue but a mental health issue. The school has a duty of care and they are slipping away from that by just punishing your son. Write a list of questions and dress up and go with someone else if possible, so that you don't feel intimidated.
Meanwhile - re-build your son's confidence in activities at home and try and somehow get him to remain in touch with his friends. Can he visit them before they go back to school and talk all about the residential? The school should be looking at a transition to help him - not excluding him.
Do take care of yourself - it is so draining - and you need your energy. Let us know how you go and if you are able to demand more from the head or find a teacher who understands.
Thank you for your reply.
He has seen CAHMS once and has a follow up meeting next week. We are still awaiting ASD assessment, I filled the form out a few weeks ago and haven't heard anything yet.
He hasn't mentioned anything that would suggest bullying.
I asked if he could spend some time with the teacher he had in Year 3, who is now a teacher in the same year group as my son, but they said she already had lots of SEN children to deal with.
Yes, he is seeing a classmate on Saturday.
I've just had a letter from the school. They have come up with a plan for his reintergration into the school. They have said to avoid repetition of the behaviour that led to the exclusion, my son is required to commit to
the plan and make a fresh start. Any physical abuse to himself, property, pupils or adults is
unacceptable and will be sanctioned and he will be excluded. I'm not sure how he is going to cope with the return to school, so there is chance that he may not be able to commit to their plan or meet these demands. Also, the teacher that they have arranged to greet him and spend time with, he is not keen on. But I'm not sure if he really trusts any of the teachers at the school.
I will speak to our GP.