I met up with a group of ‘School Mums’ yesterday morning after dropping Joshua off at daycare. In fact we meet at a café adjacent to daycare so we saw them head out to the park from inside, and Joshua was happily chattering away and he looked content. I had been concerned that two consecutive days at daycare might be too tiring for him but he had been up and about at 8am, raring to go and seemed no less sleepy than usual when he got home.
This was our last meet up before the long summer holiday and so they were talking about their usual anxiety about how to fill the 6 weeks with their children at home. One Mum was delighted to have been granted two days a week for her autistic son at the same daycare provision that Joshua attends, which will be a great help to give her a break. One couple arrived later to join us and they had their 16 year old son in tow with them again, he had come too last time we met. We all asked him and his parents why he was still not in school and were told that he has anxiety, for which he was receiving Cognitive Behaviour Therapy for from the Children’s Mental Health Service (CAHMS). Everyone else was shocked to hear of a child receiving such help as despite their referrals, the others were all placed on endless waiting lists – it seems to be the most under -resourced service, despite the increase in mental health problems in young people.
The frustrated parents were not sure how to get their teenaged son to school, as they cannot physically force them when he refuses to get out of bed. They clearly need more help from school to encourage him back or at least to send work home for him to do as he is missing out on his education, but neither seemed to be happening. My concern was that, of course he will choose a morning at a café with his parents over school, where he was bought whatever food and drink he wanted, over a day at school – who wouldn’t? In a way, he was being rewarded for his truancy. We all spoke to the son and parents about getting him into school and the fact that it should not be the teenager’s choice. From my perspective, he will leave in 3 years time and then he will have all the time he wants with his parents potentially, but they need to tackle this issue now to get him ready to go back, and stay back, in September.
The subject of behaviour management came up again, they were talking about it last time we met. They would like training on how to safely manage their children when they were ‘kicking off’. They saw that school staff were trained on handling and safely restraining the pupils, when necessary, and wanted this to be shared with them. As I was listening, I realised how lucky I was that in 21 years, Joshua has never had to be restrained or has he really had a meltdown, that seem common place in their lives. In 6th form at school he had a behaviour management plan when he went through a phase of kicking the doors constantly. I now know that he was trying to escape, not being violent for its own sake, and I regret not doing more about that at the time. I was reassured at the time by school staff that it was purely an attention seeking behaviour when staff were distracted, but he was telling us all that he was not happy and wanted to leave, I know that now. Daycare staff would be shocked to learn that he was destructive in that way as they only see a happy, friendly young man at their facility.
So it was another great morning catching up and I hope the other parents get as much from it as I do. I sent them away with goodie bags too of homemade shortbread and homegrown french beans and garlic bulbs. We will catch up again in September, which I know sounds a long way away now, but will be upon us in no time.