25 September 2005

At A Loss With School Again

Last year we tried to get Son statemented for Special Needs. His hand-eye coordination is appalling, he has Aspergers and dyslexic tendencies. Nobody has 'dyslexia' any more, officially, just tendencies.

At ten years old he still has to ask me how to spell simple words and his writing is near illegible.

His last year at school saw quite a few breakthroughs - thanks to the encouragement of that teacher and some excellent teaching assistants, he did consider an academic future. She let him display his powerpoint presentations to the class, and even sent him round other classes to share them there too. He picked up on lecturer-speak, 'I have prepared', 'you will see'; all that, and decided he wanted to be a teacher. It was enough to make me cry.

This year, as I think I already said, his plans progressed and he decided to do all his homework (for a complete change). It became a pet project of his to see every piece done and returned.

Last week he did a book review ahead of the homework being set, because he heard the teacher mention it. It was rejected. When the homework was set he had to do 100 words, hand written, this in spite of the fact that up to now school has allowed him to use the computer; allowed him to use amenuensis (dictation) and by that method write a whole lot more, and has done everything barring the Education Authority's official recommendation on his Note In Lieu (the thing you get if you fail to get a Special Ed Statement) that he be given a tape recorder to do his work orally.

Fired up as he was; determined to do all his work as he was, he ignored the headmaster's concession that he could simply do the review on the computer. He composed it in Word, just to get the spellings, then printed it off, sat down and reproduced it in his homework book by hand. Effectively he did the whole exercise twice, to conform to the letter of the assignment, with the writing out taking forever as he slowly struggled to copy digit by digit, keep them roughly of a similar size to each other and watch his spacing. I was really proud - I have never seen his work, albeit still a spider scrawl that goes up and down and all over; looking so neat.

I got his homework book back on Friday, ready for more work. The teacher's comment was:

"You make some really good points, but please keep your writing clear."

He is now looking at a very simple piece of work for this weekend and in the light of that comment, muttering that he can't really be bothered.

I don't think I can be very rational if I go to see her - I will either lose it, or go all squeaky and weak and sycophantic under the influence of adrenalin overload. I think I am going to steal his book and go see the SENCo (Special Educational Needs Coordinator) and ask her if she can point out little things like his Note in Lieu, his IEP (individual education plan), any disparities between them, and the comments of other teachers in his current statementing application. You know, stuff any teacher who gave a rats fart about the job would have read before she started.

If this woman screws up his chance at getting the help he needs by pushing the idea that he doesn't need any of what was stipulated by anybody else, I think I will let her know just what I think of her in front of her class - and I really don't want to be barred as an aggressive parent.

Anybody reading, who knows how I can handle this through the English system with some measure of diplomacy and without leaving the woman feeling cornered or resentful (but still in charge of my son) - HELP!!!

Related posts:

Sept 05, Speechless
March 05, Lewis Again
March 05, Ha-De-Bloody-Ha-Ha
Jan 05, Aspergers, A Gift?
Dec 04, Special Needs Showdown


Universal Soldier said...

Sorry I can't help with any practical advice. All I can tell is of my best mate in the army. Chronically dyslexic he has struggled all his life. But struggled he has. He is probably the most hardworking man I know. Given a letter to write to make sure that a rifle range will take place might take him 12 hours as opposed to the hour that others might do. But he does it. The ever present courses which we get sent on he thrives on - even though he will work till midnight every night to make sure he doesn't look stupid the next day.

The system might be crap but the man/or boy can overcome it. It just shouldn't be that way.

Patt said...

love this blog

Cheryl said...

Yes, true.
However, if the County Council decide that their recommendations to help him havent been properly tested, they will refuse the statement that would provide money to give him a bit of extra help, and tell us to go away and not complain until we can prove that the note in lieu didn't work.
If that happens he will have to choose a secondary (senior) school before his needs are listed, ie I wont have a hope of getting him in a school that could give a care.
I need to convince this woman to do her job, read AND take note of what was already in place for him before she took over.

doris said...

OK, my feeling on this (even though I am not entirely of sound mind at the mo!) is that you really should put this in writing to the school. Seeing as it is too important to let hang round as every set-back can have such an impact on your son.

Like you say - don't put the teacher on the spot and continually give her every excuse for all that is not right so far - seeing as your son has a specific history and she has a class of quite a few children and she may not be aware or not been given any notes regarding your son.

I would be tempted to try and be very clear about what is needed so that it is easier for her to respond and just "do". She may think she is being encouraging and helping but she needs to know that your son has not been statemented "yet" but should be and that you really want to work with the school and support your son's learning.

At a guess, I would say, keep it to a very maximum of two sides of A4 so you will have to keep focussed and to the point. Maybe make the purpose of the letter to invite an appointment at a suitable time but meanwhile give some tips for handling/encouraging your son saying the changes that have suddenly happened (son wanting to work).... maybe as a result of her wonderful teaching but that you are picking up on negative feelings from your son of feeling crushed and so want to keep this excellent momentum going...

You are right that diplomacy is critical and if that involves a bit of brown-nosing then it is worth it to get what is wanted. And anyway, from her point of view she is probably busting a gut coping with the system from her side.

Cheryl - you are more than welcome to email me if you want me to look over a draft. Sometimes getting an outsider look at your thoughts can help iron out some of the creases. Even if that outside is slightly off her head at the moment with pain!

fineartist said...

What doris said! Excellent advice. You don’t want to alienate the teacher, it could be worse on your son if you do.

Again, everything Doris said, excellent advice. I would first try to work with the teacher, express to her how concerned you are, be honest, hold your temper, but do be HONEST and HOLD YOUR GROUND. If that does not work then go over her head if you must.

If worse comes to worse you may have to request/insist that he be moved into another class, particularly if the teacher has a personal problem with him, or if she has a personal problem with children who are special needs children. Some do, they shouldn’t but still, there are some sucky teachers out there, just like there are some sucky people out there.

Astryngia said...

I felt the blinding heartache of this one, MB. I'd want to give that teacher your blog description of what your son achieved that week and ask her if she is able to recognise the effort he put in - both emotional and physical. And whether she knows how to reinforce the motivation he's been showing.

What a lack of appreciation (in all senses). Teachers tend not to understand the jargon of special needs - we shouldn't have to educate them, but we do.

My son has had a similar experience at his new secondary school. He amazed us all with his proud enthusiastic desire to do his homework each night throughout the first week. It has already fizzled to the usual resentment and avoidance as a result of teacher clumsiness. We're planning on buzz-bombing the school next week! ;-)

I am sending your son a very robust hug through the ether. :-) Tell him that a funny lady called Astryngia thinks he's brilliant (and that you and I know that his teacher hasn't been doing HER homework!) ;-)

Annie said...

My son was labelled disruptive at playgroup. He was 'special needs' all the time that he was at primary school. To my knowledge he got no extra help at all, just the label. He is now 14 and finally settled at comprehensive, after a lot of struggling. I would like to kick your son's teacher! I was talking to my Mum about the lunchtime club episode. So much like my son, who did a Hitler salute etc. in his German class (mouth in action, brain not in gear). I really feel for you and your son. *Hugs*

Ally said...

What Doris said.

I really feel for you, the temptation to march in there and shake her by her ears must be almost overwhelming.

Thank you so much for your lovely supportive comments over the last week or so by the way - I really appreciate it.


She Weevil said...

This made me cry. Thomas had the same thing with a cow of a teacher who kept in every break and lunch time for two years to finish his work that he couldn't complete in class.

By that stage his writing (the little bit he managed to produce) though difficult to read because he has dyspraxic tendencies, and his reading were that of someone 18+. It's about time they started measuring kids against themselves, listening to parents that say my child is underachieving because ... and stopped measuring things against their own facile, mediocre yardsticks.

Rant over - sorry - it seems I have post-stroke lability.

Dan said...

I don't know if I can offer all that much constructive advice apart from to make a plan of action first, list the points you wish to make on a sheet of paper, don't go in there ranting and raving, meet with the teacher and the headmaster at the same time, and try to be diplomatic and tactful!

There, that wasn't much, was it?

yclepta said...

Might be worth you chatting to Lyn over at http://bellis.blogon.com/ Bacon Cheese and Otcakes who had similar problems for a long time and blogged about it (in award winning style) She runs Blogging Brits.