The results of Mollie’s interim review last Thursday are as follows
- I explained the type of homeschooling that I had been giving Mollie and showed the LA lots of examples of the work and topics that we had covered.
- I then went onto explain the huge emotional shutdown that we were currently experiencing and why I had felt that this approach was not proving beneficial to Mollie.
- Mollie cannot tolerate any demands and as she approaches puberty the amount of demands that we have success with are virtually none. Teaching Mollie anything is just a non starter and so I feel that the only way and option that we have available to Mollie is to allow her to learn naturally.
- This is a process called ‘unschooling’ or ‘autonomous learning’ and it is basically a philosophy that all children are natural learners and will learn from their environment naturally without the need to be taught.
- Children are free to follow their natural interests and to acquire knowledge naturally whilst parents support and help them follow their interest but the children are never directed into which interests to follow. It has to be totally child led and supported by adults rather than directed by adults.
- I am by no means an expert in ‘autonomous learning’ but research and the testimonies of parents who have adopted this approach to education do appear to completely back up this style of learning. This is an area that I am currently studying in an effort to learn and understand more.
- For a child with PDA this would appear to be the perfect approach to adopt in order to meet her special needs. The child’s anxiety is so high that the process of being taught or asked to partake in anything that constitutes learning leads to avoidance, anxiety, low self-esteem and shutdown.
- I really don’t see what I have to lose by adopting this method, after all, the previous method of traditional schooling and I include my recent attempt at home schooling has taught Mollie very little and has caused off the scale amounts of anxiety and stress for the whole family. The result has not been a well-adjusted, sociable child who enjoys school and is learning well but has, in fact being, the polar opposite. Multiple school refusals, placement breakdowns, low self-esteem, social withdrawal and a sense of failure.
- I have written a statement of how I propose to move forward with Mollie’s education and how I propose to cater for her special needs.
- The results of the meeting are that the home education officer and a newly appointed Educational Psychologist will make a home visit. I do understand that I do not legally need to allow this but I really don’t have any problem with a home visit and I would rather work with the LA rather than against them.
- Following this the LA will reconvene to discuss Mollie’s case and to come to a decision with regard to whether permission for the school to register Mollie will be granted or not.
- I have always enjoyed good relations with the LEA and so I really don’t want to rock the boat but the long-winded method and reluctance to give permission to Home Educate until possibly Christmas is extremely confusing and bewildering.
- The child has failed miserably in three different placements, a traditional home ed approach has produced shut down and further withdrawal and she has spent the best part of the last three years at home essentially being unschooled for that period.
- They have no concerns regarding child welfare issues and the LEA have, during the past 5 years, made numerous home visits and so they will be well aware of our home and the facilities that are available to Mollie.
- To me it is a complete ‘no brainer’ but time will tell and, for now, the process of deregistering Mollie from school really is a never-ending story.
Please click on the link below for my proposal and objectives for Mollie’s needs.
Where do we go from here
- At this moment in time, while we wait for a decision, Mollie is being totally unschooled in the hope that she will begin to explore and learn by herself.
- It is so hard not to try to tempt her by asking her if she wants to do this or that knowing that I have an ulterior motive i.e. to teach her something. This would, of course fail, she can pick up on ulterior motives and see through them at a thousand paces.
- She is currently doing an obsessive amount of colouring in, printing off and colouring in the same picture hour after hour, day after day. As Mollie grows older the ASD aspects of her condition are so much more obvious to see and this routine and repetitive play is a very glaringly obvious sign of the ASD that lurks beneath the outer layer of the PDA features that distinguish her from Classic Autism or Asperger’s.
- The colouring appears to keep her calm and is one of the few activities that she appears to be able to focus on. Behind what may appear to seem a senseless waste of time is possibly a child that is learning to self soothe and to stop her mind from flitting from one thing to the other.
- She sources all of her pictures and downloads them herself and she simultaneously colours in whilst watching / listening to back to back episodes of TV shows, some are new and some are ones that she has only recently watched. Again the comfort that repetition and routine bring seem to soothe her.
- Children with PDA love novelty and hate routine and so Mollie seems to be contradicting this thesis. This was very true for Mollie when she was younger but as she matures the PDA appears to take on an ever-changing shape. Unlike children with Autism / Asperger’s giving Mollie a routine will increase her stress levels rather than decrease it. The relief that routine brings to Mollie is only if that routine is of her own making. Once the routine becomes the perceived expectation of another person then the routine ceases to be soothing and instead becomes an anxiety provoking pressure that she will avoid at all costs.
- If I were to suggest everyday to Mollie that I would love her to colour in then she would stop the routine as quick as a flash in an effort to avoid the now perceived demand.
- I shall use this valuable time to see just where unschooling Mollie leads us. Surely the method of self soothing and managing to keep herself calm and focused on something, even if it is re runs of ‘Power Rangers’ is a step forward and is of emotional educational value.
- We have offered and continue to offer Mollie opportunities to leave the house and engage in other activities. I am hopeful that unschooling Mollie may reap positive results in other areas of her development.
- Every month we shall be offering to take Mollie to regular activities organised by our local Autism group. These activities include, soft play, arts and crafts and organised days out.
- We are also trying to encourage her to come out with us on day trips more often. On Saturday we did enjoy a pleasant day out at ‘Chester Zoo’. Once she was at the zoo and her anxieties were high it was very evident that the ASD features subsided and the PDA features became the controlling force. The need to control and avoid demands ironically extended to not even wanting to look at animals. We passed the time at the Zoo by doing activities that didn’t involve looking at animals. We didn’t care either way we were just pleased that she was out of the house.
- When we got home she found it difficult to settle back down and we spent a lot of time making arts and crafts for her new parrot puppet, ‘Pip’ from the zoo. She made a play with ‘Pip’ which Lee and I were summoned to watch in the conservatory fully decked out with disco lights and a stage for Pip to perform on. From repetition and routine we have now jumped to novelty and fantastic imagination. The PDA remains the dominant force force for now.
- She had made a wonderful trailer for her show on her IPad involving filming, writing, music and special effects.
- I asked if she had enjoyed her day out or if she preferred staying at home. She commented that she had enjoyed her day out but that her favorite days are those spent a home when Ann, her PA, comes to play for a few hours also.
- So with regard to socializing and how important it is to Mollie remains to be seen, the jury is still out on that one. The opportunities will be there for her but I really don’t know how much importance I should be placing on an area of life that she seems to be content without.
- A friend would be fabulous for her but if the emotional cost is too high, if it all goes wrong as it has in the past, then is it really something to pursue or something to help her live without? It only becomes an issue with her when she is exposed to what she is missing out on, not through lack of opportunity, but through her own choice as a form of self protection from an area of socialization that has, in the past, only served to hurt her.
For more information about PDA please visit the following web page http://www.thepdaresource.com/
For more information about unschooling please click on the following links
Facebook groups that offer legal advice and support about home education in general and unschooling
Websites that offer advice and support about home educating
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.