Safety in numbers

Today I spent the whole day up at my son’s specialist school listening to some of the staff speaking about how the school works and what the professionals there do to deal with difficult behaviour kids.

The staff there are just fantastic and I really did learn a lot about how they think and what they do. The standout feature of the day for me though, (and I could tell for many of the other parents there), was the fact that there were so many other people who have children with similar difficulties. All the parents there were normal, sensible, intelligent and lovely people. Just like us. A lot of them had more than one child and often it was only one of the children who had the difficulties. This was very heartening for me to see, as it really showed me that although there are things we can change in the way we parent our child, it’s not necessarily anything we have done. Specialists have told us this already, but I guess you never really believe it until you see it in other ‘normal’ families with kids who can’t attend normal school.

The really sad thing about this school is that it can only admit 15 children at one time, and they can only stay for 3-4 terms, which sometimes just isn’t enough to get the kids back into mainstream schooling. They don’t just dump you on the doorstep once they are done with you though, which I was very relieved about since my son is one of those who just isn’t responding to their programme as well as they like them to. They are able to refer you on to different schools in the area which are better suited to the needs of your child and may have an EDBD (Emotional Difficulties, Behavioural Difficulties) class. So far, with my son having been there for two full terms, I’m really hoping that things suddenly change after our family admission (where we all go and stay there for a week for intensive counselling and stuff).

I could almost feel the desperation in some of the families there today. The ones who are starting in a week or so and therefore haven’t actually started attending the school yet are just so anxious to get some help for their child and themselves. They have older children than mine, so I can only imagine the pain of having their child suspended from school so many times. The bad reputation that their children have gained already, and the disruption to their families and homes in general. So sad that we have these problems in ever increasing incidence in children these days. It’s also very sad the reactions parents receive from the general public and their extended family members. In many cases, these people, like ourselves, have been to many specialists, therapists, counselors, psychologists and Drs. They’ve tried every kind of special diet, taken out all artificial anything’s from their children’s food intake, changed the way they interact with their children and tried to be supportive of both the child and the school in alternating paths and times.

It’s exhausting. Yet we, as parents still suffer the prejudices inherent in a society which believes that all behavioral problems are due to some neglect or abuse by the parents.  I think I’ve mentioned before that I am guilty of this myself. I know better. I have a child who is difficult and I know how hard we work at helping him out. I know how much work we put into discipline and time we spend playing with him and talking to him. I know how we feed him healthy food, at the dining table, with the TV off. Yet, when I see a child being rude or cheeky to their parents at the shops, or screaming at the top of their lungs, or bullying other kids, I find myself thinking,

“Geez, what a horrible child. His parents really need to get control of him and sort him out! That’s just really not OK in a restaurant/shop/playground”

I think perhaps I make these judgments based on my own insecurities around what people must be thinking when my child is not behaving appropriately. The only thing I can say in my defence on this matter is that anyone witnessing something my son is doing wrong will also see an immediate reaction from me. I am always right there, ready to remove him so he doesn’t disturb other diners in the restaurant. I am ready to leave a trolley full of food in the shop and take him out and back to the car if it becomes necessary, and I certainly do not let him get away with bullying or hurting other children, and I always see what has happened because unlike many parents around, I am always watching. I am willing to bet that all the mums and dads I met today are also always watching. When you have truly ‘tricky’ kids, you actually develop a knack of watching all the time.

In conclusion, I had a really tiring Friday, but it was worthwhile, informative and I met and was able to reassure myself and some lovely people. I had a great afternoon with my little boy, playing, jumping on the trampoline and having a pizza and wii games family night. What a great start to the weekend!

KL

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