The lioness roars…


I’m sat here with a smile on my face. I feel like my chest is going to burst and no matter how hard I could try I know that the smile will be there for some hours to come. The bursting is due to pure, unadulterated happiness. I am so happy I want to climb the nearest mountain and shout at the top of my voice, ‘My son is amazing’…

We first noticed Ollie struggling when he was in Nursery but this continued throughout reception, year 1 and 2. His peers learned to write and whilst Ollie took to reading like a duck to water (not using the school books though, using a scheme we found) the writing was problematic. Ollie’s keen brain, overactive questioning and interest in the world around him made it all the more puzzling as to why he wasn’t grasping writing. I’m a teacher and I knew he was struggling but no matter what I did to help using the knowledge I have, nothing made it any better for him. The rubbing of eyes indicated to me that his eyes needed looking at and in Year 1 he started to wear glasses. Whilst his reading was shooting off his writing was still non-existent. He couldn’t properly form letters and was very upset at having to write. He would fidget, he was clearly uncomfortable but it was put down to his lack of concentration, his easily being distracted and he was beginning to feel pretty useless.

I decided to have him assessed by and Educational Psychologist. This was done at our own expense and without the knowledge (or support we later found out) of his school and the results from it at last showed us that all was not well with Ollie.

His peers were still moving on and the recommendations of the report weren’t implemented and I started to do more and more at home. Ollie was my son but also my pupil and at times this definitely interfered with our relationship. I was caring but he felt I was being annoying but we carried on as best we could. All through this time I found it difficult because I felt that school should address his issues that were clearly in the report but they didn’t and so we had no alternative than to find another school. We did and moved Ollie and he started in September of last year and this school looked at his report and took on board the recommendations and he slowly started to write. I was called into his classroom after school one day last term and the teacher proudly showed me his page of A4 writing that he’d produced that day. Yes spelling was exciting, it was barley legible but he’d written. He was ecstatic, his teacher was chuffed and I was nearly in tears. To see my son write and write happily was a huge step forward and I began to think there was hope.

This last assessment has confirmed Ollie’s issues (or ‘Ishooos’ as we call them) He has a huge working memory problem meaning he can’t process information or retrieve it quickly. He has tracking problems that mean when he reads and writes he moves his head which causes the text to move about giving rise to an almost dyslexic nature of a problem. He can’t write because he can’t think about the words to write how to spell them, how his handwriting should look, full stops etc. etc. etc. His brain just can’t cope with all the information and so he writes nothing. He looks at the blank piece of paper and feels rubbish about himself and it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, he can’t write so he doesn’t write and because he doesn’t write he can’t write. His peers moved on and was just left dreading anything to do with a pencil and developing his avoidance tactics (which there are numerous!) Just imagine how that would make you feel especially when you are bright enough to know there’s a huge problem as you’re not doing what the person sitting next to you is and you have no idea why you can’t…

Now we’re moving forward. He’s having touch typing lessons to help with future writing demands (you can’t use touch typing skills if you’ve never learned them) he’s having memory exercises to help develop his memory. This may or may not help but we have to try. He’s going to have a handwriting session everyday as he’s missed a whole lot of how to form his letters as he couldn’t really see what the teacher was doing and relate it to the page he was faced with and the best bit, he’s going to be given extra time in tests so he isn’t under that pressure of a blank page and a blank mind. We’re also teaching him exam technique so when it comes to real exams he’s not fazed and has had plenty of practice. This may sound extreme but this society we live in bases a lot on a person’s qualifications and so he does need them and it won’t do to start at 14. His personality will win through in an interview (did I mention he’s amazing?) but the qualifications he has will get his CV onto someone’s desk…

SO I take a huge sigh of relief. I didn’t take what his last school had said about Ollie having concentration problems, I didn’t believe it was all Oliver’s fault and I did find it very hard to be slightly more experienced as a professional than his previous teacher who appeared not to see any of the issues he had. I fought for him, I got in people’s way I ‘offended’ our last school by having him assessed but do you know what? I don’t care. I knew there was something wrong with Ollie and I feel now I have proved it.

If I’m being honest, maybe a part of me wouldn’t give up until we had answers as I felt I had let him down as a baby when I was ill with depression. I wasn’t the best Mummy he could have had and I know his brothers had a totally different start to the one he had. At times I thought ‘are his problems my fault? Did I get it so totally wrong?’ Hubbie thought I had become to obsessed with Ollie due to feeling guilty about how I was when he was younger. Yes, perhaps I was and we argued about ‘my obsession’ but I also felt that as a professional teacher I knew there was something not right so I knew I had a reputation to upheld.

So, as Hubbie sat there on Thursday night (whilst I taught my sewing class) in front of Ollie’s teachers and they told him that he is bright, articulate and puts so much effort into his school work and that his scores are steadily improving and they hope to be seeing what he really can do in the near future. They tell us they recognise his frustrations as he desperately tries to get his thoughts out of his head and that his tiredness comes from the extra effort he has to put in just to keep up I know we did the right thing in moving schools. Ollie is settled and Ollie is understood (and supported) but most of all, Ollie is happy and in the words of his current teacher, ‘If a boy is happy, he will learn’.

So if you feel that the school isn’t doing enough for your child make sure you challenge them. There are good schools and bad schools as there are teachers. Not all schools know what to do with a child like Ollie who doesn’t fit the norm or stick on the path of achievement. Go with your instinct and make sure you have all the investigations you can. Too much information is never a bad thing and at least you can rule things out.

My son is a sponge when it comes to learning, he wants to know everything. His enthusiasm is endless as are his questions! I feel now the teacher in me can back away into the shadows as I can trust his school to do their best for him and I will become his Mummy again. I will be back to the annoying one who shouts that he’s going to be late if he doesn’t hurry up, badgers him to finish his homework and tells him to get his head out of the book and to turn his light off and do you know? I can’t wait…

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About littlewhitecottage

Tales from a contemporay cottage.
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6 Responses to The lioness roars…

  1. Mel Hillyard says:

    Hi,
    I have just read your blog about your lovely son. It brought back alot of memories regarding one of my daughters and her problems at school due to her deafness, which the school at the time refused to acknowledge, they put her down as stupid and a troublemaker. We fought, she got her hearing aids at age 15 and now at age 22 is at University. Well done to you and him, keep up the good fight 🙂
    Mel x

  2. Gay havers says:

    What a great blog! We moved our little girl because she was being failed by the school despite going in everyday asking for work to do at home with her, when the school were told she was leaving I was taken into the office (I worked there at the time oops) the headmistress wasn’t interested in Emily’s needs it was all about how it looked when a member of staff removes their child from the school, I was treated as a member of staff NOT a mother of a child they were failing! We only get one chance at educating our children we must do what is best for them and their needs! thankfully she is coming along in leaps and bounds and on the whole is a happy little girl xx

  3. Alison Lamper says:

    What a great blog! As I was reading it it was like watching a brilliant movie where all the characters have a happy ending with lessons learnt all round. In it there is bravery, struggles, bad guys (old school) and good guys (new school) but most of all, in this epic tale of mother and son vs the world, there is love. X

  4. Rachel says:

    I’m glad you managed to find an educationalpsychologis who was helpful. Does your son have any additional adult support (TA) at school or does he do extra sessions? Sorry for the questions but I am a primary school teacher I experience children with similar problems day in, day out. Problem is, I just don’t have enough time in the day to give each one the additional support they need and it upsets me.
    Rachel

    • Hi Rachel :o)
      My son didn’t have any help in his last school though he should have been on and IEP since reception and this is what confused me. Hi last teacher had 12 in her class and had no reason as to not a) notice Ollie’s problems and b) plan more effectively for him. It appears he was ‘taught at’ and he picked up what he could. When you have only 12 there should be more individual time for each child which lends itself perfectly to a more individualised curriculum though still working within the learning outcomes.

      My first class had 34 children. 28 year 4’s and 6 low ability year 5’s. I had to plan effectively and wilts I can honestly say I might not have reached all the children I did my best for those that struggled. My Head Teacher believed that every NQT should not have TA help in the first year as this makes them a better teacher. One child was desperate to read the Harry Potter books that were all the rage then but his ability stopped him. I talked with his mother and she agreed to support at home (which she did) and I heard him read every day before school and she heard him read at night. We both worked with him on something he was highly motivated to do though for the first few weeks he struggled. He was so proud to carry the book around as he could show children he was equal to them and this helped his motivation no end. (He had admitted he was embarrassed by his scheme reading book) I had another child who couldn’t stop fiddling so I bought him a stress ball which he merrily enjoyed squashing when he needed to help him concentrate.

      When I worked in a special measures school (I chose to work there leaving from a Beacon school as I wanted a challenge) I had 17 very low achieving children with mixed special needs and behavioural problems so I do have some experience of a broad range of needs. I worked with the parents -some were special needs themselves, some were school phobic and lots were very wary of any white young woman with a ‘posh’ accent as they felt intimidated by the school system. It’s hard to engage disaffected children but my son’s first school had absolutely no excuses. I was a motivated, educated and qualified teacher yet they chose to ignore my concerns at every turn – the Head of infants didn’t even reply to my letter enclosing the EP report of my son that proved what I was saying.
      Emma :o)

  5. Maxine Tromeur says:

    It’s such a shame that as parent’s we have to fight the system…my son (who is now 17yrs) was having trouble with reading. He always turned away from books, I tried all kinds to interest him but to no avail. He’s also a bright boy and loves to debate, he’s very comical too and quick wittered. In secondary school they would say he was not focus and never finished his work. I challenged them and said they needed to look further, explained about the reading, explained that i believed that he couldn’t finish he work because he had reading problems. This was in yr 8, they did test and said his IQ was 126. So everything was fine…but it wasn’t. At the end of 10 whilst preparing for his exams he told me he was worried as he didn’t seem to be able to finish any of the paper I complained. He was retested and found that although his IQ was 126 his reading level was 86!
    He was given extra time in his exams and passed them with B’s + C’s. I was very proud of my son but sad also as I believe that through the lack of support from school he missed out on possibly achieving A’s. He’s now doing his Sixth Form in another school and he feels a little inferior as the large majority of his peers achieved A’s and A*’s. I remind his constantly of his abilities and how far he has come, and how he is my hero. ❤
    Today he loves reading Marvel books, he has a great collection x

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