Today I’ve decided to share what I like to call, our Special School Horror Story. It’s horrible outside and not much is happening, Jack and Lily have barely been out of their bedrooms. Lily does this sometimes but not to often, for Jack though this is a fairly normal Saturday.
Every Saturday he says he’s tired, and to be fair he normally looks it. So he wants to stay in his room most of the day. We used to try to encourage him to come out, but that only caused problems as it would irritate him.
After thinking about it. The school week takes a lot out of Jack. It does for all children but with all the extra things a child like Jack has to cope with it must take an ever bigger toll. We almost take for granted now, that Jack will go to school 5 days a week, and he will travel in his taxi with no issues.There was a time this wasn’t the case at all.
Special school horror story
Before Jack found his way to his current school. It was a very different story. One I like to call our Special School Horror Story. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and I will go back and tell you the story in more detail. It’s not a particularly nice story, but at least you know it has a happy ending. As Jack is on a much better place now.
Jack was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. He was only 18 months old, but when it came round to choosing a school. We really didn’t know what to do, originally we were just going to send him to a mainstream school, due to advice we were given by the professionals, that we were seeing at the time. Advice we now realise was terrible, and that is putting it mildly.
It is only because we moved out of the city and into the County Council area where we live. Which meant all the professionals we saw changed, that it quickly became clear that Jack was not suitable for mainstream school. But it was to late for starting in September, so we had to delay him starting school.
The best specialist school for autism in our entire county, is literally on our doorstep. But we were told it’s almost impossible to get a place. They were right. We looked at other schools in the area, and in the end Jack got a place at our second choice, which we were happy with as it seemed a good school.
Jack Starts School
He started in January and that first half a year went well, and we thought we had made the right choice. How wrong we were.
The second year started ok too, but then the problems started. Jack was at a general special needs school, not an autism specific one. So there were children of varying conditions. One of Jack’s biggest problems is loud noises. He is hypersensitive to sound, he also doesn’t understand that if he does something once. It doesn’t mean he can do it all the time.
So of course they put him in a class with children who’s conditions meant they made a lot of loud noises. Then they had him take a toy in for show & tell, which meant he then wanted to take a toy everyday, which he wasn’t allowed too, but couldn’t understand why. It caused problems with Jack’s behaviour. As he was still a small child the school appeared to be dealing with it. I will state here that because of what comes later, I do not trust any thing this school ever said.
The troubles really begin
Year 3 at school started off ok. We now know that it takes Jack time to settle in, before he starts display his behaviours. He needs time to get comfortable with his surrounding. Then he will push back and test the boundaries, hitting and kicking and pulling your hair, throwing things around and spitting is what we’re reported back to us.
It’s like he needs to get comfortable with a situation or person, before the real Jack comes out. Which is why when people meet him for the first time, they think he is lovely. Which he is when he is calm, and they find it hard to believe the story’s you tell them, regarding what his behaviour can be like. We’ve had support workers ask us if the reports they get on a child’s behaviour are right, after having a couple of sessions with him. Especially more recently when he has calmed down a lot. We have to keep all safe guarding in, because Jack is so big and strong, if something does trigger a meltdown, it becomes dangerous for everybody.
Travel to school
Jack started off going to school on a mini bus, where there were 14 kids on the bus, and he really struggled with it. In the end the transport broke down. He was continuously refusing to get on the bus, and if he did get on, often it would be too much. He’d get aggressive with the passenger assistants, and then refuse to get on the bus at home time. So in the end we took him to school ourselves.
Again there was noisy children in the class, and the behaviour started again. For the last term of the year, as his teacher was pregnant. The school moved Jack out of the class on safety grounds. He was moved to a class where the kids were older, more advanced and no one who was continuously noisy. Apart from the odd moment he had a good last term, and we thought it showed an obvious solution to Jack’s problems at school.
The special school horror story really starts
We were told that for year 4 at school, he would stay in that classroom. Well it was the same classroom. The same teacher, but not the same children. Considering by this point it was agreed by pretty much everyone, that the noise of classmates was the biggest issue Jack was having in school. When we saw the children that were in his class, we couldn’t believe it. It was like they had rounded up all the noisiest kids they could find.
Shock, horror. It wasn’t belong before the behaviour started again. Only now Jack was getting bigger, so the staff were getting hurt. We started getting the phone calls. The calls that he needs to come home, because he’s smashing things up, or refusing to do anything. This then resulted in Jack not wanting to go to school, and thinking he didn’t need to go. The school started not very subtly suggesting, that Jack might be better at another school.
The battle to get Jack to school
The battle every day just to get him to school was unreal. I only did it on Mondays due to work. The physical and mental strain it took is difficult to explain. If you’ve not experienced it, it basically feels like you are in a fight. You are being hit, but you can’t hit back. You just have to try and calm him down.
It’s difficult to do when Jacks at the point of punching straight through glass panels. Yes he has done that, and some how he was only left with a scratch on his knuckles. Strangely enough it was around this time. That the services involved started listening to our pleas for help….
Anyway these battles to get Jack to school, would take 1-2 hours most days. Then he’d be there an hour or 2 and they would ring for us to take him home.
Realising something isn’t right
They started to put him in a small library, that was connected to the class room. So he would be in a quiet room, and he could integrate with the class on his own terms. Apparently when no one was looking, he climbed out of a window. Which happened to be outside the security fence that surrounded the school. Great design!
It was only when the head teacher saw him running around the car park, with a big stick hitting all the cars that anyone noticed he’d gone missing. Which obviously left us with a lot of questions. How long was he being left in a room on his own. It just didn’t sit right, but the school weren’t forthcoming with any answers.
Then one day we came to pick him up from school, and we found him outside on a small playground on his own. It was the middle of winter, it was a cold day and he didn’t even have a coat on. School told us they called us because Jack had been kicking a glass window and it had cracked. That’s what the thought anyway, they didn’t actually know how it happened when we asked them.
So our first question was, How long have they been just putting him outside? Out of the way, so they didn’t have to deal with him. There was no way we were going to have Jack go to a school, thattreated him like this. We know more than anyone how hard it can be to deal with Jack, but never have we just thrown him outside on his own.
The school claimed they only did it as a last resort, for the safety of the children. In his time at school Jack never hurt another child. Claiming the only option was to leave a distressed autistic child unsupervised was not good enough.
Deciding it was time to find a new school
We told the school that we were looking to change schools. Honestly, they seemed relieved. The sly comments and suggestion they might have to exclude him, had been going on for well over a year. The plan was to try and see through to the end of the school year, as we were in the final term. School would sort things out to just keep Jack happy until the end of the year. They sent him over to the sixth form building, with the sixth form age kids. Who were all calmer and more mature, they supported Jack and he had a great time. That lasted for one day, and they put him back in his old class.
We were looking at just pulling Jack out of the school. Looking into who we would need to notify etc… but it wouldn’t matter I got a phone call whilst at work. It was the school wanting me to come and pick Jack up. When I got there I could hear him before I saw him.
He was out on the play ground again. He was growling and kicking everything. Normally when we came to pick him up, he was happy to go home. This time it took a while to get him to calm down enough to take him. Then it was only when he was alone with me that he properly calmed down, which really had my mind wondering what had gone on.
Jack gets excluded
We didn’t have to worry about him going back, we were informed he was being permanently excluded for kicking a teaching assistant on the shin. Now I’m not saying it’s ok to go around kicking people, but this was a special school, where many children, not just Jack would lash out at times. To me it was a weak excuse to get him out quickly, as they knew that’s what we wanted anyway.
I’d even go as far as to say it was planned. They put him back in a situation they knew he wasn’t coping with. Then at the first opportunity he was excluded. This happened just after school were told, that they would get extra funding for Jack. Including a porta cabin class room just for him. It was clear they didn’t want that to happen, but at least it was an end to our special school horror story.
Jack at home
For the next 3 of months we had Jack at home, whilst trying to find him a new school to go to. Whilst also being expected to home school him, eventually we had a home tutor come out 3 times a week who was very good with Jack and did a great job teaching him. We went to pretty much every special school in the county, and not one could meet Jacks needs. We’d heard this before when making enquires over the past couple of year, which was part of the reason we weren’t quick to pull Jack out of school. Finally we found a school in another county a 45-60 minute drive away.
Reflecting on the situation
Not everyone at the school we’re to blame. The staff tried their best in difficult circumstances. The family liaison officer was very good, and continued to help us find a school after Jack was excluded. Going to view schools with Natalie whilst I would be at work or with Jack.
But the Head Teacher I have no good words for, and I will leave it at that. I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t mentioned the school by name. Since Jack has left we have discovered a few things.
Hearing of other children’s problems
When parents asked where Jack had gone. The school told them we had chosen to move him to another school. We got word to people what actually happened, and the news soon spread. Next thing we knew, we were being told stories from other parents of the same things happening to their children. That had happened to Jack. I know that at least 2 kids are looking to be moved school.
The Head Teacher doesn’t like any of these stories being talked about. Not even in private WhatsApp groups, and has made threats to people of legal action. So I won’t be naming any name, but if anybody is looking at sending their child to a special school in the Amber Valley area. And would like some advice, feel free to message me. You can use the contact page on here, or find me on Facebook, or twitter @DadDoesAutism