Monday, 12 September 2011

Meeting with parents, by the Support for Learning Teacher

On Friday (9/9/11), Mrs Morris, the Head Teacher, Mrs Irvine and I met with Jimmy's parents.  We all have concerns about Jimmy and felt it was best for us to all meet to discuss things together so that we could find a way forward.

Our joint concern (the school and the family) is that we can see the current situation is not working for Jimmy.  In class, Jimmy cannot join in with group activities at all anymore.  He takes himself away from the group and plays with his favourite toy, the farm.  He loudly repeats phrases to himself.  Mrs Brodie has to take him out of the class in order for him to do work.  The social stories do not help.  From this meeting, we decided that the school should apply for more Learning Assistant time from the audit. 

At home, Jimmy's dad says he can tell the situation is not working because he is hearing the repetitive chanting we are experiencing in school.  It generally occurs prior to school starting - "as soon as the school uniform is put on," Jimmy's dad said - and on the way home.  In fact, it takes the whole of the walk home before Jimmy "snaps out of it", reports his dad.  This "going into his own world" is increasingly worrying to Jimmy's parents.  Jimmy's dad feels that the environment of the class, with the bright stimuli typical of a P1 class and large number of pupils (25), seems to be having an adverse effect on Jimmy's development.  Jimmy's parents think they want to appeal the decision to deny Jimmy a place at a special school.  They were told that decisions are reviewed around January.

Over my many years of teaching, I have had so many meetings with parents - good, bad, ugly, downright contentious.  This meeting we had with Jimmy's parents, for me, typifies the worse kind of meeting for a teacher: a meeting when you feel helpless.  The frustration of Jimmy's parents was evident, and not necessarily even directed at the school staff; they were frustrated with the situation.  And I felt in some ways that our hands were tied at the school in trying to eleviate that frustration.  I feel that, at this time, this educational setting might be too much for Jimmy and yet his application was rejected by others that felt differently.

If Jimmy's parents appeal the decision, the school want to support them.  I hope our willingness to help Jimmy's parents with their appeal is not viewed as us wanting rid of him.  At the school, we want what is best of Jimmy.  Unfortunately, right now it seems that is not our mainstream school.

Written by Ms Childs

Friday, 9 September 2011

Social stories, by the Support for Learning Teacher

Last week, Mrs Irvine, Mrs Brodie and I received training from two VTSS teachers on social stories.  A social story is a tool to help children with communication difficulties understand situations that can be perplexing and confusing.  Essentially, they are written explanations of life's grey areas.

This means that sometimes stories are about situations that could be slightly embarrassing, like toileting or farting.  But these things can be confusing to a person who is Autistic: when exactly are we allowed to do these things?  

I have tried writing my own social stories in the past, but it was good to have this training.  I've come to realise that I added too much detail to previous stories: the last one I wrote had 10 pages!  Ooops!  From the training, I learned that the stories should be to the point - concise.  So unlike myself.

We were encouraged to use this approach on the cuff: we could literally write one in front of the child and read it to him or her then and there.  So Mrs Irvine wrote the story below.  I'm pretty sure she or Mrs Brodie only read the story once, but it is no longer an issue and we didn't even need to send the story home.

I'm looking forward to using this approach more in the future.

Written by Ms Childs

You can find out more about social stories at