When he ‘greets’ me as I pick him up from school, he seems a bit subdued. Maybe he’s just tired; it is Friday after all. Or maybe it’s because it was Children in Need day, so things would have been a bit chaotic in class – either that or he’s annoyed with me because I didn’t sort out anything spotty for him to wear (administrative error).

As we come out of the gate he just stops and refuses to move any further.
“Come on, let’s keep moving.”
Nothing.

“What’s the matter?”
Silence. He just looks at the floor.

“Come on, we can’t stay here all day.”
He flops down onto the ground.

“Hey, what’s up?”
Still no sound.

“Look, we can’t stop here. We’re in the way. Let’s get home and we can talk about it there.”
Nada.

“You can’t lie there all night. Get up.”
He shakes his head.
“Get up!” I detect that the level of my voice is starting to rise.

OK, let’s regroup. What can the problem be? I check he has all his bags with him. He does, so it’s not that.

“Was there a problem at school?”
Apparently not.

“Something that someone’s done… or that I’ve done?”
He shakes his head again.

I take a punt. “Have you left something in your tray?”
He nods. Bingo.

“What?”
“My gold certificate [for reading].”
“Why didn’t you just say?” I ask, outwardly remaining calm-ish, but screaming on the inside.
“I dunno.”

“Shall we go and get it?”
He smiles and nods.

We scoot back in.
“Go on then, nip in and get it,” I say.

He stops stock still again. Luckily, his teacher is still in the playground seeing off the last of the stragglers. Seeing that we are having a ‘discussion’, she pops over. I explain the problem. She takes his hand and they bound back inside and he comes out clutching his certificate, all smiles.

“Gold, eh? That’s great. Well done,” I say. “Why couldn’t you just tell me?” I want to shout.

Poppying the question

There have been a few similar incidences recently. As part of his EHCP, one of the objectives is to encourage him to start talking to other adults he wouldn’t normally speak to. They are starting by getting him to run errands, such as delivering handwritten notes to the office, with the idea being to build up to actually speaking the request.

But, currently, he is still in mute mode, even with children from other years.

In the lead up to Remembrance Day, Year 6 pupils were tasked with ‘selling’ poppies and associated gubbins to the rest of the kids. We duly sent DS1 off to school with a couple of quid in his pocket, but every day the money would come back home with him.

He desperately wanted to get a poppy wristband and such like, but was too scared to approach the older children to make the purchase.

I tackled him over it and he admitted that he hadn’t spent his money because he didn’t want to have to talk to the older kids. I asked him if he wanted me to tell his teacher, so that she could go with him. This seemed an eminently acceptable solution.

The only issue was, when I drop him off in the morning, his teacher is in the classroom, so I needed DS1 to ask her to come outside to see me. This was not so agreeable.

“You come in,” he pleaded.
“No, I’m not allowed to go in… Look, you don’t have to ask her, just point to me out of the window and she’ll see me.”

His head was down. I’d lost him. This called for Plan C – get another kid to ask the teacher to come out. Job done.

That afternoon he came out of school clutching his newly acquired goodies.
“We popped into the office on our own didn’t we?” said his teacher, turning to me. “Now, we’re all poppyed up.”

The last school disco proved equally problematic. Part of the deal for this welcome 1.5 hours of additional childcare is that parents have to supply their offspring with money so they can get a drink and some snacks.

On this occasion the cash did get spent. Only, not by DS1. Again, too afraid to approach the parents who dish out the refreshments, he’d given the money to a friend. Not to buy something for him, mind. No, he’d generously given it away. Presumably so he didn’t have to communicate the fact that he wanted said friend to get something for him.

Likewise, when we go to buy Match Attax with his pocket money we run into the same issue. The packets are kept behind the counter (to stop those thieving youths, I assume), so you have to request them. I’m trying to get him to ask for them, but to no avail. He does hand over the money, though. Although, not necessarily into the cashier’s hand – and there’s certainly no eye contact – but it’s a start.

A medal pupil

We have, however, seen a glimmer of progress in the last week. He came home from school clutching a Well Done certificate (the sort of thing that is handed out for good work or behaviour; indeed, DS1 has been bestowed such an honour for “good sitting still”).

As he stuck it alongside the others on his bedroom wall, a light bulb appeared above his head.
“I’ve got 10 now, Dad. That means I get my bronze medal.”

To explain: once 10 of these certificates have been attained, a bronze medal is presented to the recipient in assembly. I could see problems ahead.

He gleefully collected his 10 certificates together, ready to take into school the next day. He explained that he had to take them to the deputy head to show her and then she would present him with his medal at the next assembly.

He clearly recognised that this would be difficult for him and he asked me if I would speak to his teacher to ask if she would go with him to see the deputy head.

This was a great step. Acceptance of a problem is the first step after all.

The conversation with his teacher was duly had and she agreed with me that it might be better if he was given his medal in private rather than in front of the whole school.

“So,” I asked him that evening. “Did you get your medal today?”
“No, I asked to get it in assembly next Tuesday.”

His pride, it seemed had taken precedent over his fears.

“In assembly. That’s great,” I said.
“Well, yes and no,” he replied.
“Oh, why’s that?”
“It’s good I’m getting [my bronze medal], but it means I have to go to singing assembly.”

He’s not a fan of that one, and he is usually allowed to skip it. Too much noise for him to deal with, which results in him not being able to, let’s say, sit still (now you see why such certificates are on offer).

Tuesday came, and a very happy boy ran out of the gate, clutching a certificate, wearing a bronze-coloured badge on his shirt and a medal around his neck.

“So, did you get the medal in assembly?”
“Yes.”
“On the stage?”
“No, just in front.”
“And did you have to talk to [the deputy head] when she presented you with it?”
“Shut up.”

Well, you can’t have everything.

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