Just before the Easter break we had our end of term catch up with DS1’s teacher to go through how he was progressing against the targets set in his IEP, which forms part of the overall EHCP. Which is as easy as ABC.
One of the ‘outcomes’ the school is working on is helping DS1 to ‘manage his emotions’. The ‘small step target’ is for him to identify two emotions – worried and upset – in himself and be able to communicate when he feels like this to a trusted adult.
The ‘planned interventions’ include a social skills group for a minimum of 30 minutes a week, one-to-one support so he can build a trusted relationship with an adult and time spent with that trusted adult to devise a way he can let them know how he is feeling.
The ‘result’ was: “Despite working hard on this, he struggles to identify his emotions and will often deny any feelings of being worried and upset.”
While this came as no surprise to us – we experience the same thing at home – interestingly he is “able to recognise wrong behaviours in other children but finds it challenging to identify them in himself”.
He is, certainly, the first to point out when any other children are misbehaving or not doing what they are supposed to be. Out of school he gets very cross when he spots an illegally parked car or similar, or when I don’t quite abide by the ‘rules’ – such as going over the speed limit by 1mph, for example. But apply a rule to him, and it’s a whole different story.
He also, the report continued, “shows little interest in working one to one with an adult”, meaning it is difficult for the school to devise strategies to achieve this target.
Encouragingly, though, when accepting help, he “can be receptive”, but this is very much “dependent on mood/the adult/the task”.
DS1 always struggles with recognising emotions when it is directed at him and how he is feeling. (He is better at recognising different moods in others, although this won’t necessarily mean he’ll adjust his behaviour accordingly. He may see that his actions are upsetting someone, and even understand that they are unhappy, but he’ll carry on doing whatever it is he is doing.)
To combat this problem his teacher is going to introduce real characters – for example Harry Potter ones (yes, I know they’re not real) – rather than emoji-type faces.
With the emotion directed on a third-party, this will hopefully enable him to recognise the characteristics – and, with a bit of luck, act upon them.
Next up was to ‘develop his social understanding for positive interactions with others’. The small step targets included “saying hello to another child; respond to questions about a topic of interest and learn how to ask a question back; contribute and listen to other ideas, responding appropriately in a group 60% of the time”.
The interventions took the form of greeting him every morning, which has so far failed to illicit a response, although “if children are in mid-conversation, he will sometimes join in”. Invited or not.
Other interventions included modelling conversations between adults and in social skills sessions learning how to ask a question about a topic of interest.
In this respect he has shown great improvement. “He can begin and start a conversation related to a topic of interest and can ask questions to another child about this,” stated the report.
He has also contributed his own ideas, but “is reluctant to take on board the ideas of others if they differ from his own… he struggles to relate if he disagrees”. This is a great example of how he reacts when he is unable to control a situation.
Another method his teacher is continuing to employ is for him to take messages to other teachers in the school. This he readily does if he knows that teacher well. Mostly he just hands over a note, but one teacher in particular tries to engage him by asking questions about it. Some days he responds, others she may get a nod or a shake of the head. But a response is a response.
As for taking messages to the school office, this is more often than not met with an emphatic shake of the head. This is still a step too far.
The morning register is another conundrum. He has never responded when his name is called – this goes all the way back to when he started infant school – there’s not even a raised hand or a nod.
The wife asked him the other day, as it happens, what he did at registration these days.
”Well, I don’t do anything” he responded.
“Maybe now you could start putting your hand up when your name is called if you don’t want to answer?” she suggested, conscious that secondary school is looming on the horizon.
“No. That’s never going to happen!” he chortled.
On a more positive note, his teacher remarked how much his behaviour in class had improved. But, she wondered, what did this mean with regard his behaviour at home?
Last year and probably the first half of this one, if his behaviour at school was good it was challenging at home and vice-versa – a classic seesaw. But this term has seen vast improvements and an increased ability to self-manage his anxieties at home as well as at school.
This is in no small part down to his class teacher. If they buy-in, so does he.
A wee problem
Looking ahead to the summer term, one of the proposed smaller step targets caught me eye: “To behave appropriately in the toilets during every break and lunch time.”
“I’ve been meaning to ask you about that,” I said. “He told me the other week that he wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet on his own.”
His teacher looked bemused.
The wife took up the mantle. “Yes, it was after the assembly that I attended, where the Year 4 boys were kept behind because someone had been repeatedly weeing on the floor in the boys’ toilets,” she explained. “I asked him about it and wondered whether it was him. He replied: ‘No, that’s disgusting’. Before adding after a pause, ‘But it is funny though’.
“After a brief difference of opinion as to what constitutes ‘funny’, he continued: “Anyway, I’m not allowed to go to the toilets on my own, so I just don’t go at school’.”
A look of understanding appeared on his teacher’s face. “He’s allowed to go to the toilet on his own,” she affirmed. “But there have been incidents of him peering under the toilet door at people and I might have said that if he can’t be trusted to behave appropriately he will have to go with an adult or on his own when no one else was in there.”
He’d obviously taken this on board and decided the best solution was to hold on… all day. Then again, you never quite know with him. What he says and the truth can often be blurred.
Certainly his sense of privacy and personal space leave something to be desired. He is still rather partial to stroking the wife’s breasts – and who can blame him – but it’s not really appropriate for an 8-year-old boy who also happens to be her son.
He also happily strolls into the toilet to watch me wee – I really must get a lock fitted, but we haven’t so that he doesn’t lock himself in to avoid doing things he doesn’t want to do.
Weirdly, he happily wees or poos with the toilet door wide open, but when it comes to washing his hands he shuts the door firmly – so that no one can see if he is actually doing them or not.
This is a demand placed on him and, therefore, he won’t conform.
Actually, that’s not strictly fair. More often that not he does wash his hands, but he just doesn’t want to admit that he has.