The other week we had a meeting about another acronym. We met with DS1’s Senco to discuss his IEP – Individual Education Plan. This is basically the action plan the school is putting in place for the term, to start meeting the requirements that came out of the EHCP. During the course of this meeting I encountered another acronym – SPAG. Brilliant, I thought he must be learning cookery. Spag bol is my signature dish, so maybe we could make it together one night.
I was very disappointed when I Googled it later to find ‘SPAG’ is in fact Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar. What with SALT – Speech and Language Therapy – I’m beginning to think there may be a food theme running through this.
This meeting was quickly followed by Parents’ Evening. A 10-minute chat with his teacher – where we try to fit in three hours-worth of content – to find out how he is settling into his new class.
He has started really well, she said far exceeding her expectations. She had clearly been concerned about how he would settle into her class, given he didn’t know her and that she has had to build their relationship from scratch.
But he has been talking to her, answering questions in class voluntarily – still won’t speak if asked a question directly, but you can’t have everything – even asking her for help with his sewing (who’d of thought they did sewing, let alone him asking for help with it).
Though, as a caveat, she added that there had been a few low-level signs of him being overwhelmed by it all.
He’s achieving good results in maths, even literacy, although he can go off at a tangent, and “poo” and “bum” gets shouted out when he’s struggling to focus, she said.
There has been a bit of gentle barging here and there and he once got out of his chair in the middle of a lesson and, pretending he was an elephant, squirted water at another boy. But other than that all good, she added.
Oh, and he had “spat on the mat in the direction of another child”. But other than that…
A wee problem
The teacher admitted she was too soft on him, as she strove to be ‘accepted’ by him. But it’s about finding the right level. Being too firm doesn’t normally work either – because he doesn’t take kindly to being told what to do. But, he still has to learn the difference between right and wrong.
Though, to be fair, he agreed with her that spitting wasn’t good. That’s the important thing.
So, she’s going to try the discussing any behavioural issues with the teaching assistant in his earshot, rather than telling him off directly, because he usually denies any wrongdoing when confronted and won’t take in what he is being told. With this indirect method, the point is made – and hopefully it sinks in – without a feeling of a demand being made upon him. That’s the theory anyway.
When I got back from Parents Evening, I told him how proud I was and how well his teacher thought he was doing, and he looked genuinely pleased.
After this lavishing praise, I went into my study and was about to sit down when I noticed the cushion on my chair was turned over the wrong way. Righting it, I discovered a wet patch on the other side.
“Erm, any idea why my office chair cushion is soaking wet?” I asked.
“I wee’d on it,” he replied.
“Seriously?” He is prone to make outlandish statements to get a reaction.
Doubting him still, I sniffed it and recoiled instantly.
“Why have you wee’d on my chair?” I asked, surprisingly calmly.
“It was an accident.”
“How can it be an accident?” I exclaimed. “Your trousers aren’t wet and you haven’t changed them.”
“I was on my way to the loo and it just came out,” he explained.
“Let me get this straight,” I said. “You came out of your room, veered off in a different direction to the toilet, got your willy out on the way, took a detour via my chair where you had an ‘accident’ and then turned around and went into the bathroom.”
“That can’t possibly be an accident.”
“I promise you it was an accident.”
In this period of phony war, I let it lie. Apart from mentioning the fact that it couldn’t possibly have been an accident a couple more times. But he was not for turning – a bit like when he headed into the study instead of the toilet to have his wee.
Not getting ahead
The first cracks in his behaviour since being back at school have also started to appear at home. Aside from the wee incident, bedtime has become troublesome again. He can’t keep still, runs around the house, tries to avoid doing his teeth and follows me when I leave his room after stories – unable to deal with this point of separation.
Homework is proving tricky. Not in his intellectual ability to do it, but more the fact he doesn’t want to do it – and when he does eventually start it, he writes down nonsense or just scribbles – and a nightly argument ensues.
I am trying to instill the virtues of not leaving his homework to the weekend. “Just do 10 minutes each evening and by the time you get to Saturday, you’ll find it’s all done and you’ll have the weekend free,” I say. “Does that sound like a good idea?”
“OK, great. Maths or literacy first?”
Silence. I look around and he’s disappeared.
After discussing it with the Senco, we are trying a new regime.
“If he doesn’t want to do it, so what?” she said. “Pick your battles.”
“If it’s 30 minutes of tantrums, just write that in his book and be done with it.”
Another plus at school is that he has taken to going to lunchtime clubs. Something he never entertained last year. He does football, quiz club and colouring club, and seems to be enjoying them immensely.
There is a doing your homework at lunchtime option as well. As we discussed his reluctance to do his homework at home, I suggested that perhaps he could do it at school instead.
“Well, there is ‘Get ahead club’ [which is specifically designed for kids to do their homework at school]” he said. “Perfect,” I was about to say, before he interjected: “But I’m not doing that!”
You spin me right round
We have had a minor breakthrough, though. We’d got to Saturday without any homework done, but at least we were doing it now. Well, we were in the same room as his books. Hang on, no we weren’t.
“Where have you gone now?” I requested in a firm manner.
“I’m getting my fidget spinner.”
“You can’t do your homework if you’re playing with that,” I said when he returned. “Put it down and do your homework.” My resolve of laissez-faire was failing quicker than even I had anticipated.
I regrouped, and relented to the fidget spinner being spun. It was keeping him in his chair at least, I reasoned. I picked up his other spinner and started spinning it myself. I immediately felt the stress ooze out of me. Maybe there’s something in this, I thought.
We progressed quite well for a while, spin, answer a question, spin again.
It lasted long enough for him to do half his literacy and three maths questions before he reached the point where he couldn’t possibly do anymore. And there was no point making him.
But we had both relaxed. And we agreed they were good for helping him focus and for stopping me shouting.
“They’re good for people with HBT and autism,” he told me.
I have no idea what HBT is. I think he might mean ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) or maybe it stands for ‘Homework: Bugger That’.
This was a major positive, though – the fact he recognised his need and why.
A little while later, he was doing something that was annoying me and my voice level rose a tad. He rushed off and returned with my designated fidget spinner, which he handed to me.
“To help you stop shouting,” he said.
To be continued…