Last week the NC and I had a meeting with the Head Teacher at Mini's school.
Not because anything particularly negative had happened, but because we want to avoid a repeat of last school year, and because I'd written a note in Mini's homework diary (asking Mini's teacher to could confirm how much she knew about Mini's particular issues) and it took her 4 days to respond to it, which she finally did the afternoon before our meeting with the Head - coincidence?
She is not the easiest person to chat with in the playground partly because she disappears inside so quickly in the mornings, and partly because there are so many mums with buggies (me included) in the playground, that it is often impossible to get anywhere near the teachers at the end of the day. (If you get to the front with a buggy, you then face a brick wall of parents to get out again...although buggies are useful for taking out people's ankles!).
So, anyway, luckily the Head is aware (sort of) of what happened last year, because my parent supporter has talked things through with her. Last year I didn't talk to the Head directly, although regular readers with know that I spoke to Mini's then class teacher (now SENCO) instead several times. I'd hoped that would be enough, but it didn't help all that much, and I didn't feel I was taken all that seriously.
This year, given the Head had an awareness, I felt it was easiest to go to her first, she would be able to disseminate information to her staff, and she would be able to make the best decisions about how to move forward.
It was a positive meeting. I learnt that it is apparently a statuatory requirement that ALL teachers have at least a half day away from the classroom for Planning, Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time. Which means that all children have a substitute teacher at some point, even though in most cases it's the same regular teacher. Mini's teacher Miss P, will be out of the classroom different days on different weeks, but the Head has given me the timetable so I can prepare him and remind him. (Would have been nice to know this last year when the issue first arose...)
We have also agreed that one of the teaching assistants (who is full time) will keep a particular eye on Mini. I am yet to meet her, but intend to in the next few days. Mini can focus on her as she'll be a permanent classroom figure. And I'm sure it's a coincidence but even the Lollipop Man informed us he
would be on holiday this week so it'd be a different patrol person
there, which was great because it's another change that Mini could have stressed over today if I hadn't said anything.
The Head has also given me the names of all the teaching assistants and Mini's dinner lady so we can use the names comfortably at home.
We also talked about shame-based reward/punishment systems. The head was shocked when I told her that the Happy/Sad sides are considered shame based. Putting a child on the sad side for all to see, makes them feel shame about their actions. In many traumatised children, they cannot convert the shame to guilt (which is an easier emotion to deal with, overcome and learn from), and so it just reinforces the shame they already feel. (See I'm learning, 9 months ago we very successfully adopted the happy/sad sides from school and used it at home to provide a consistent system...we ditched it a little while ago when it stopped working and produced an undesirable effect)
Mini has never ever been on the sad side at school but she will ensure that he never is either. It defeats the point of the system for him, but she won't take him off completely so he's not singled out and different from the others.
We also talked about a few others points that they ought to consider to make Mini feel accepted and comfortable - such as ALWAYS verbally acknowledging what he's saying (even if he says it 2/3 times). A nod isn't enough, a thumbs up isn't enough. 'Yes Mini' is what works for him.
Great news is that the school have agreed to fund Theraplay training for my parent supporter. I'm sure this isn't just for our benefit, but it's great that they're trying to support us (and others). And I told the Head that we will probably need to take Mini out of school for Theraplay sessions - assuming we do get the Theraplay.
Which leads me onto...our MIM feedback. You might remember that a month or so ago we had our videoed assessment (or MIM). This week we see the actual Theraplay therapist (who ran the introductory course that I did a few months ago) who will have watched the video, and will be feeding back to us with (hopefully) thoughts and ideas to change our approaches. He'll also tell us whether he thinks proceeding with Theraplay will be right for us, and we might even get some dates in the diary. Our social worker will also be there, so will guide us in the right direction (again, hopefully) if it's decided that Theraplay isn't suitable.
Otherwise, all has been OK. Mini's done really well in the last couple of weeks back at school. We've only had night-time wetting on the occasions where he's had an alternative teacher, and on those days we've also had horrendous attitude and behaviour after school. He seems to like his new teacher, and his new classroom. His reading is improving already and he seems to have a new enthusiasm for it. He still has a small group of friends, but is mentioning new names every now and then.
Weekends haven't been great. The NC has been struggling but he's engaging directly with our CAMHS therapist Glenda for some support.
Let's hope the changes at school help Mini, and the MIM feedback gives us some positive steps forward too. I feel now that the Head is more approachable after seeming quite intimidating before. She certainly seemed to take what we were saying on board, and there were some things that she hadn't given thought to before, but could see how they could be stressful for Mini. So hopefully we'll be able to work together to help Mini...