The school nursery teacher rang me. On the phone they sounded extremely cross. “Come straight away” “out of control” “hurt another child”. I ran, I was only down the road and I got there in less than two minutes not knowing what to expect.
I was greeted by the angry headteacher, the deputy head and a teacher I didn’t know. They marched me down the corridor with that superior, your child is awful march, all talking at once, crashing through the doors until we came to the SENCO’s office.
I couldn’t get to the door through the teachers trying to look and sound important. My sons class TA was stood looking apologetically at me from behind them all, unable to talk through all the drama. The nursery teacher that rang me was there, with a year one teacher and the SENCO, all crowded into the small office along with the three teachers that had formed my angry welcome committee. My son was sat so small, in the middle of it all. He was crying with his hands over his ears and blood coming from his mouth.
The crowd of dramatic teachers spoke about how naughty he had been, he had lashed out at another child in the playground and got into a fight, he had tried to get away and climb the fence when two teachers were trying to hold on to him. They needed me to take him home.
As I walked my baby out of the school I could feel him shaking with fear. I looked at his class TA who looked devastated. She quietly told me she wasn’t sure what happened as she wasn’t there. I knew everyone else had taken over. I told her it was ok. My son clung to me crying all the way home.
When we got in, I saw to his face. His lip was twice the size as normal and bleeding quite badly. He had grazed his knee. I comforted him knowing this wasn’t the time to try and find out what had happened as he was in no state to talk. I let him go on his laptop to calm down.
Half an hour later I had an idea and I asked him to type on his laptop what had happened at school. This is what he wrote:
“What happened at school was that A, B, C and D were being mean and winding me up on purpose because they think it is funny to wind me up and at playtime they were still being mean so I hit them and B scratched me on the lip and I punched and kicked him then A was being mean and I threw a stone at his head and then C was being mean and calling me names like a fucking idiot and stupid so I kicked him then D called me a fucking piece of shit and laughing at me so I punched and kicked her. + I HATE SCHOOL!!!”
He put two pictures of pigs at the bottom because he likes animals.
As I pieced together the paragraph my son wrote, what his TA later told me and what the other children in the class told me they had seen, I worked out what had actually happened.
During the morning, before lunch, some of the children in the class had been deliberately winding my son up, as they regularly did. He could not regulate his stress levels or ask for help so he would go into fight or flight mode or meltdown, which the other children found funny. The school were aware of this. The class TA was not in the room that morning and his teacher didn’t notice.
In this instance he had been getting more and more stressed until lunch time, when he was made to go into the playground. In the playground the children had surrounded him and carried on winding him up. Normally he would run in that situation, but this time he was surrounded by children making fun of him and calling him names. Instead of his default flight mode he went into fight mode and lashed out. Let me be clear I am not excusing the fact he fought, but explaining the reasons. The teachers had eventually intervened and grabbed him and he had broken away and ran. He tried to get to me by scaling the fence. They had all grabbed on to him and dragged him into the SENCO’s office where many teachers he didn’t know felt the need to stand over him and loudly talk about the terrible ten year old that he was.
Am I excusing my child fighting? No, and we did talk about how it wasn’t the right response. He did a lot of work with his occupational therapist and psychologist over the next year on alternative ways he could deal with those situations.
But this situation could have been so avoidable.
The school were aware he struggled in the classroom yet no one had noticed what was going on with the other children and put a stop to it. No One had noticed that my son was getting more and more stressed as the morning went on. No One took my child from the room to help him calm down. He was forced to go out to play even though he didn’t want to. The playground was too much for him and no matter how many times I had asked for him to be supervised outside or allowed inside, no one listened. He was alone when he shouldn’t have been. He was stressed and overwhelmed. He didn’t know how to react, he wasn’t even aware he was reacting.
I personally would expect a teacher to intervene before a situation where a child is surrounded by other children making fun of them and calling them names escalated into a fight. Especially an Autistic child with Sensory Processing Disorder know to staff to often get overwhelmed in a playground full of noisy children. But nobody did anything until it was too late. My child, that needed round the clock care and supervision, that needed someone else to regulate his feelings for him and remove him from situations when it got too much. My child that needed a lot of understanding and care, was left alone in a situation he had no idea how to cope with, when he was already overwhelmed to the point of meltdown.
My question is, where were the three teachers that felt it necessary to meet me at the door? Where were the other teachers who were standing over my child in the SENCO’s office? Why did they only get involved after the incident, when they had a naughty child to deal with and a parent had been called? Why did no one care my son was hurt? Why was no one looking after my baby that morning?
Why was it necessary for seven members of staff to supervise a scared, crying ten year old, when it could all have been avoided if one member of staff had been available to supervise an autistic child properly that day?
My son didn’t have an EHC Plan in place at that time. It was in the process of being applied for and taking far too long. The head teacher had previously acknowledged that he needed one to one support but they didn’t give him that because they didn’t have the funding for it. Only children with EHC Plans got that.
So the answer is that my child that needed round the clock care and help, didn’t have the necessary supervision in a busy classroom or playground because of money.
Too many autistic children are stuck in mainstream environments without the help they so clearly need because of funding.
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