Tag Archives: education

In Praise of an Attachment Aware School

Slowly but surely I feel my girls’ school are beginning to understand them. Things are going pretty well this year!

school_building_colorful

Though it is such an individual thing, I have thought about the top 5 things that have made a difference to us as a family.

1.The number one for me has to be an excellent Senco (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) that respects me as a knowledgeable parent, listens to me and works with me. If I make a suggestion she trusts that I’m doing it for the best of reasons. She welcomes me into the school to support the girls for trips or activities they may find too challenging. And agrees that we are all on a journey to learn how to help the girls and we need to do this together.

2. All school staff also had training in developmental trauma and attachment from an outside provider last year and I feel this has made a huge difference for obvious reasons.

3. Communication scores highly for me. Each day I drop each child with their own key worker and each afternoon I collect them from the same people. This way we can communicate about what has happened at home or during the school day. That regular open sharing of information is so important. Once again because I know the school support me as a parent I can discuss our home life without being blamed for the girls’ difficult behaviour and I have the same blame-free approach to the teachers. On days when I can’t do the school run there is a home school communication book so we are all on the same page.

4. Personalised approaches to the girls’ needs are critical. My youngest is overt in her need for support. She has her box of sensory items in the classroom and she has free access to them. She uses the LSA for emotional support, whether it’s holding her hand, sitting next to her or on her knee. And if she doesn’t feel able to do something she feels safe enough to say so. Unfortunately my oldest girl is still not able to express any of her needs yet. This makes supporting her very difficult. However her teachers try their best by ensuring she is sitting near them and with her back to the wall and they try to stick to a firm schedule of activities so things are predictable. They are working hard to raise her poor self esteem with a caring patient and positive approach. However she needs to know they are firmly in charge if she is to feel safe – it’s a difficult balancing act!

5. Neither of my girls are subject to the school behaviour system. Put simply, traffic lights, smiley/sad faces or sunshine/clouds are never going to help my girls modify their behaviour, so they are not used. I know many schools are resistant to accepting this so I’m pretty relieved this is one battle I’ve never had to have at this school.

Things still go wrong sometimes.Both children have had changes to their routines sprung on them this year and of course the tremendous fall out is always saved for home. The difference is now I feel I am believed when I explain what has happened and staff try to learn from it. My eldest girl often comes out of school dysregulated and it is virtually impossible to help her calm down once she has got to that point. This is something I know I need to discuss further with school but I don’t think there is an easy solution with my tricky big girl.

I guess the thing that strikes me is that the most important things for us don’t cost money; trust, knowledge, communication, flexibility, care, support, empathy….they’re all free!

Working with Schools – a balancing act

This year I moved the girls  from a large multicultural city school who had lots of experience with children with attachment disorders to a small village school where they admitted they had none. The previous school looked great for the girls but failed to put anything concrete into action.

I have to admit that I’m a fairly demanding parent but with good reason:

Firstly I have already had to move the girls twice already – once while they were at nursery and then again at the start of this school year. I can’t let that happen again.

Secondly I was open about the girls’ difficulties before they were accepted at the school and the HT promised they would care for them and was prepared to do things differently for them

When the school gets it wrong it has a devastating impact on my children and on our home life

Lastly I am a teacher myself and I am expected to provide an outstanding level of care for every individual I teach, I expect nothing of them that I don’t do myself for any of my students who need it

School 2

So how has it gone?

Well it’s not been perfect. There have been a couple of teachers who seem unable to grasp the reality of the girls’ high levels of anxiety in school. This has been very frustrating to say the least and has sadly caused considerable damage which they seem oblivious to. But to be fair the school’s leadership have stepped up to support us and one teacher now emails every night without fail to tell me any arrangements for the next day even if just to confirm it’s a normal day. This means I can let my daughter know what is happening the next day and also head off any issues I can foresee that the teacher does not. Things are still very difficult for her in school, I know she does not feel safe or contained. I have had to accept that I cannot change these teachers’ opinions so I just need to work round them and minimise any impact on the children as much as possible. Happily neither will be with the girls next year.

But there are some wonderful teachers/LSAs too. The LSA who has devised a secret signal for my 6 yr old to let her know she isn’t coping. The teacher who will call my daughter to her side to offer gentle calming support during a challenging activity. Comments to me saying – we are doing X topic in PSHE and I know it will be a sensitive topic for both the girls. Or another saying – I realise you may have considerable fall out at home this afternoon after we do Y in school. And emails saying – we really want to support both you and the girls. These things are priceless to me as they show there are staff who are starting to understand how much the girls struggle despite the smiles they plaster on their faces at school. Crucially these members of staff accept that I know what the girls need to function in school and they don’t blame me for their tricky behaviour at home.

I guess it’s as simple as this – iinstead of blaming me they believe and trust me.

I knew that this would be a steep learning curve for the school. And I was right.

Happily staffing for the girls has been carefully chosen for next year and the school are also having training soon on trauma and attachment. I have great hopes for next year!