Following on from one of my earlier posts which you can read here I thought that now would be a good time to give you all an update on how things are going.
Following my request for interim provision to be provided for Mollie, until a permanent placement has been identified and her EHCP finalised things have come on in leaps and bounds.
For many parents the thought of a child with PDA attending a Pupil Referral Unit may simply be seen as a disaster waiting to happen. We may often assume that such a setting may be inflexible and rigid with tried and tested behaviour management strategies that have served them well for many years. So it was quite a pleasant shock when I went to visit one and found the reality to be the polar opposite of what I had previously perceived.
Mollie, during her initial visit, immediately took to the head of the school and the wonderful facilities that are available for their students. Learning is very much based around doing projects and there is a strong leaning towards creative topics and encouraging artistic flair. Perfect I thought but now to the hard bit, you know it folks, the bit where you try to explain PDA to a professional has only recently heard about it. Not to mention that you need to follow this introduction to PDA with a request that they completely throw away all of those tried and tested methods and accept a whole new approach to behaviour management.
Thankfully this did go very well and the head was open and willing to learn about PDA and the necessary strategies that would be required in order to keep Mollie’s anxieties low when she is in school. After all, if you can keep her anxieties low then this in itself can drastically reduce overtly challenging behaviour. Following this initial meeting I forwarded the Head some links on PDA which she duly read and shared with a hand picked selection of staff.
We then attended a meeting with six staff members, including the head, and discussed PDA, Mollie and how her needs could best be met in more detail. It was at this point that I shared with them a document that I had created outlining Mollie’s condition, how it presented in her and what I felt would be the most suitable provision and support for her.
The following evening we took Mollie back to the school and each member of staff from the meeting had prepared for her a menu of topics that she could do in school. The head went through each list with her and Mollie could choose which things she fancied trying and which things she didn’t want to do. From this list a timetable of short sessions was drawn up and a very nervous Mollie attended school the next day for the first time in over two and a half years.
It is now two and half weeks later and she has attended every single day for a period of between approximately two and four hours a day. She has enjoyed one to one sessions with six different staff, which is an amazing achievement. Her lessons include maths, English, IT, Art, Urban Art and Environmental Science. Each lesson she chooses from a prepared list of activities what she would like to do.
We still have a long way to go and this may of course be a honeymoon period but I do have high hopes. I am not experiencing the spike in behaviour, that is all to familiar for so many of us when our child is holding things in when they are with others. In fact since starting school she is actually, on the whole, happier and calmer at home.
It has taken us twelve years to reach this wonderful milestone, and I don’t mind admitting that it is a milestone that I certainly never thought would happen. I do believe that the years of radical unschooling have been instrumental in calming Mollie enough in order to be able to access education some two and a half years later. Other contributory factors to the vast improvements that we have recently seen are, I believe, Mollie’s maturing years, puberty & hormones and finally her total and utter awareness and understanding of her condition.
A big thank you to the wonderful provision that is currently supporting Mollie and helping her on her journey back into education. You have made one little girl, one big brother, two parents and three grandparents very, very happy indeed.
A thought to end on is that when it comes to schools it really isn’t the type of provision that is always important but the flexibility and willingness from the staff who work there! Therefore never judge a book by it’s cover or from what you may have heard from others, open the pages and have a read for yourself because you may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.