Monday 13 July 2015

What a difference six years makes

Left to right - 2007, 2008 and 2009

Well we are nearly there, just under two weeks and this school term will have finished and JJ will have left Primary school. He is so ready for Secondary school that it is untrue. I have had to coax him into school since his transition days just over a week ago.

It has been an amazing week from my point of view. On Tuesday the kids all ran through the door waving their report envelopes at me and they all did well. I am super proud of all three of them and particularly Miss E making such a lot of progress when she has her reading difficulties. That little lady works like a trooper to improve and to stay on target for her age.

This post isn't about Miss E though, this one is to mark the changes in JJ since he started school aged 4 years. I've sat here tonight and read through all his school reports from foundation stage through to year six and he is a very different child now. He has always been academically clever and once he moved into Key Stage 2 it became apparent that he was a year to two years ahead in terms of his academic attainment and he joined the Gifted and Talented Register for three or four subjects. However, his emotional and social skills were always the issue.

Take this excerpt from his nursery report (age 4) for instance -
"He can be a little dominant on occasion and has needed support to address his social skills on occasion. He is starting to respond well to the behaviour system we have put in place"
Oh yes the behaviour systems, the stickers chart, the home to school communication books - there was always something with JJ. he was the boy who was taller than everyone else in the class and had no spacial awareness or empathy. He also attended speech therapy for continual dribbling aged 4 and we had lots of fun blowing bubbles in drinks and in the bath to strengthen his facial muscles.

Do you know how hard is it to pick your son up and to dread what the teachers might tell you he has been up to that day? Not because he was being unkind or malicious they'd tell me, he just had no idea that stepping on that child as he walked over them might make them cry or running into the boy as they both played meant he would knock out four of his teeth.

it was hard and as time passes it is so easy to forget what it was like. It wasn't a lot better in Reception class sadly and his report had a lot of "JJ speaks in a very loud voice", "He needs to learn not to just call out", "JJ can be over zealous with his play and this has led him to unfortunate situations with his peers" and a dozen more similar statements.

By the time he was about seven and in year two my husband and I were convinced that he had some kind of learning difficulty and needed some extra help. We started the process for him to be assessed for Aspergers as he has many of the classic signs and school put into place an IEP (Individual Education Plan) to help him be able to deal with the practicalities of being at school.

On the one hand it broke my heart earlier to read on his first IEP -
"He is a very able child but likes to control situations with both adults and children. he finds it extremely difficult to cope with changes in school routine and is given to crying and sitting on the floor when he cannot cope."
but then on the other I'm so proud that he has made so much progress, as I can hardly even remember this little boy they are describing. The Communication Disorders Assessment Clinic recommended that JJ have occupational therapy for his fine motor and gross motor skills and the assessment process for Aspergers seemed to naturally peter out. I think we got forgotten in truth but dh and I decided to leave it in God's hands and knew another referral would come through if necessary.

Left to right - 2010, 2013 and 2014

Two years ago we moved from Hertfordshire to East Sussex and I truly think this was the best thing to happen to JJ in terms of his education. The school in Herts was a big one with about 500 students and it had really high attainment levels and a great SEN provision but I do believe that JJ had made his bed and now had to lie in it. He was pigeon holed as the loud, rowdy, inconsiderate boy with little emotional intelligence.

When he came home from his first week in year 5 at his new 120 pupil school with a certificate from the Head Teacher to acknowledge how well he had fitted in and was progressing we knew a massive corner had been turned. I am so grateful to all the teachers that have played a part in JJ's education and particularly to those he has had in the last two years.

When he came home with his report on Tuesday showing me all his level 5 and 6 SAT results and practically every tick box was marked as exceptional performance I silently shouted yes in my head but as I mentioned at the start, he has always been smart. There has never been an issue with his academic attainment so it was the comments on the report and in today's parents evening that really did make my year and help to confirm what I already know, that JJ is a wonderful young man and is completely ready for secondary school.

Here is an excerpt from this report -

"JJ has had a very successful year. Well done - he has shown an excellent attitude to learning and is very mature in his outlook.... He handles himself well in all aspects of school life. He is always reliable and dependable when asked to undertake any task of responsibility and has shown himself to have a love of learning.... He has a great sense of humour and has developed very positive relationships with his peers."

I was also made up when I met with JJ's teacher today and she said if JJ didn't get into the top sets at his secondary school that I should complain and more importantly that she has seen so much progress in his relations with others and he is now recognising visual clues and being able to read situations. Thank you so much Mrs C, you and the other teachers at this new school have done wonders for JJ. Now you just need to work your magic on Miss M! lol

And JJ - You've done great babe, Dad and I are so proud of you.

Love you Mummy xx
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