Starting school.


So we have completed our second week of school and I wanted to share a few things about how we got on.

The first day:

In my dreams hubby would have had the day off and we would have taken photos etc. but we knew that would just make it really hard for Tom to leave us so we made as little fuss as possible and hubby went to work as usual.

On the Sunday we did our last drive past the school and talked through what was going to happen, he was nervous but excited. He went to sleep the same as any other day.

On the Monday we got dressed and went with minimal fuss (except the parking). It was easier than I thought, he just took it in his stride. 

When I picked him up at lunch all he talked about was the mash potato, he didn’t seem fazed by this significant change. While I was waiting to pick him up the head teacher popped out to say hello (they all seem to know who we are, maybe they heard about all the prep I tried to do for the teachers and thought it best to play nice). The head teacher was lovely, she asked questions about how we were feeling and gave some good advice- the kids do really well the first week or so and then they start to struggle when they realise school is a long term thing. It was great that she acknowledged this and gave me hope for when we do have our expected wobble. 

School achievements:

Now this heading sounds silly but here are some highlights from his first 2 weeks.

1. The teacher said he plays well with other children and likes asking them questions, they were very impressed with this as other children apparently don’t ask many questions of their friends; we did give him a question to help him talk to other children “I’m Tom, what’s your name?”, however this has transpired as “I’m 4, who are you?” but it seems to work for him. Previously the feedback was always that he didn’t know how to interact with other children or play together so this is huge for us! They even said he seems more socially advanced than most of the other children (I’m proud).

2. He has managed to play without adult prompting during play time. Again a massive step, we expected play time to be impossible but he’s just got on with it (I watched through the gate one lunch time).

3. He has shown empathy! Most of you will understand this is amazing. The teacher sent me a text about it saying this “well done to Tom who showed what a kind friend he is today by looking after an injured child. We are very proud of you”. (The school do lots of communication by text). Apparently another boy really hurt his face and Tom was very caring. I was so pleased to see yet another massive area of growth and especially pleased that his teacher (knowing the problems he has) took time out during her day to text me. He has never shown that level of empathy before, again I’m really proud.

So in summary my boy is amazing and school seem to love him and he’s settled amazingly well.

The difficult bits.

So all is great then…… I wish, he has sensory and attachment issues so despite school being great, home is worse.

He isn’t sleeping great, he was up 7 times Thursday night with nightmares and has been clingy on and off. 

He’s been aggressive when we try and get him ready for bed and fighting us to stay up saying he wants to be with us (heart-breaking).

He’s been getting home and is clearly hyper stimulated and literally bouncing off the walls and trying to hurt me (sadly I have been on the end of more violence again). I have started doing an hour of sensory regulation as soon as he gets home and this has helped the last few days, but is hard work especially with his brother around.

We are still mixing full days and half days trying to build up to a full week soon and I’m working on my range of sensory regulation tools to help with the come down after school.

I am hopeful for the future, the school are responsive and we are seeing huge improvements in his behaviour generally. I feel if we can get the regulation right at home we might just get through the next 13 years of school.


DDP Part 3 & 4. Using the ASF.

We have had 2 sessions since my last blog post, it has been a pretty busy few weeks which is why we’re combining them (writing about each session was a good idea but much harder in practice!). For a change Nick is writing this post (his first one) so I will hand over to him…

Here are links to Part 1 and Part 2 for those who are interested.

Session 3: 

One of the things that has come up a lot recently is Tom talking about having been in a car that crashed and hit a wall. Some of the details make it seem made-up (a four year old was driving!) but it’s been repeated often enough that we began to think it was at least partly a real memory. Dr. S suggested ways of helping him to talk more about it, and to distinguish between memories and pretend events. 

The most useful tip here was to try talking to one another about it – “Mummy, do you think sometimes Tom remembers things that are hard for him?” “I think sometimes, Daddy, Tom can remember things that were very scary but can’t always remember all about it.” “Do you think Tom knows that some stories aren’t real?” – without directly talking to your child, but keeping the conversation open enough for them to join in. Results from this have been a bit varied but Tom does seem to find more helpful than direct questioning. 

Dr. S had taken on board that the intensity of adoptive parenting makes it really hard to switch off, so we spent some time on ‘mindfulness,’ which involves narrowing your focus to the sensations of a specific activity. We were set to work on enjoying some strawberries and chocolate – so far so good – but then had to encourage each other to explore and describe the experience, which was a bit weird! However we both felt a bit more chilled afterwards, so perhaps it did help. 

Session 4:

I took Tom to the barbers’ the day before this session, and he gave a twenty-minute nonstop story the whole way there. Every sentence began with either “And do you know…” or some version of “when I was a baby…” and was a mix of recently read books, TV stories and what may have been real events or at least Tom’s impression of them.  Dr. S looked at helping him to explore these stories and tried to give us some tools for understanding his past, based on the material from last week. 

So far, however, Tom has shown no interest in anything beyond his own stories, though he is occasionally able to say that a particular incident is ‘pretend.’  This is complicated by his limited grasp of Time, meaning that lots of stories begin “when I was a grown-up” or “last week” when they can’t have been. We do have plans to try and help him draw/develop some sort of timeline picture but we won’t be doing this until all the Starting School mayhem has died down. 

Next steps:

We have a few weeks off while Tom starts school and are seeing Dr S possibly for the last time when hopefully we will know who is going to be providing the therapy.

In the mean time we will continue to help Tom label his emotions and discuss what he means by them in a PACE way.