Tag Archives: new term

CitC Take 2 – 7Y2D COVID-19 Diaries Week 23

With the start of the new school term being just a week or so away now, the last few days have been a great end to the extended break from school for G as she has eagerly followed in M’s footsteps and taken part in this week’s Midlands Siblings Camp in the Cloud. She has been waiting patiently for camp to start and firmly put M in his place last week when he offered to help her explore the virtual campground and point out where cabin chat challenges would be set and so on.

Being the ages they are, both children had the same set of challenges, which you might have thought would make this second week less attractive, but in fact the exact opposite has been true. A couple of the craft activities set had proved challenging for M as he found some of the finer details frustrating with his dyspraxia and he spent much of his time browsing the virtual campsite and taking part in the online activities, rather than completing the practical ones.

G, however, has tackled the crafts with relish and with perseverance; and, having discovered that watching the online videos was key, created a beautiful origami crane mobile, a working robotic hand and whizzed her way through the clues for the “locked box” challenge. She has loved joining in the nightly cabin chats and has come more out of her shell as the week has gone on. Her blue team has connected via Instagram, and if the amount of notifications buzzing through to her phone is any indication, they’re a chatty and engaged lot!

With Storm Francis hitting us hard with rain and wind this week and wiping out our new-in-lockdown 16ft trampoline by taking down one of the trees in our paddock, this week’s Camp in the Cloud has been a welcome distraction. Even better, M has re-engaged with some of the free-flow activities he didn’t complete during his week of camp, which has kept them both quiet and occupied with something other than the inevitable screens. In a summer that hasn’t quite been what we were hoping it would be, Over The Wall has kept us all sane and given both children some much-needed smiles on some otherwise grey days.

A Survival Guide For School & Allergies

The end of August always seems to be something of a surprise in our household. We arrive home from our holiday feeling relaxed and calm and then almost immediately face a madcap race to reach the finish line of shoes bought, uniform named, PE kits found and bags packed before school starts. In years past I have also had to make sure provisions are packed, discussions had and medical notes updated for M, but, for the first time ever, this year I wasn’t trying to squeeze in a critical meeting alongside my own new start with a new job. img_11331I know that next year when M moves up to our local secondary school it will be a very different picture, but after 3 years of working with the teaching community at our junior school, and with no major changes to contend with, M was able to start in Year 6 without this over-anxious Mum hovering in the background.

Without a doubt we have been incredibly lucky with the amazing support given by the fantastic teaching staff at our local school, but we have also had more than our fair share of bad experiences and teachers who don’t care in the past and I can well remember the anxieties and hours of meticulous planning that heralded the start of every new school year. The novelty of not having to head into the classroom before the end of M’s first week back has still not worn off and I’m certain that it’s thanks to the hard work that’s been put in on all sides to formulate strategies that meet M’s needs and to develop a strong working relationship between home and school that is reliant on open communication that flows both ways.

Over the last few weeks, there’s be a lot of chatter in the online allergy community about the fears that surround the milestone of starting school and, with over 8 years of “parenting-a-school-child-with-allergies” experience under my belt, I’ve been asked what tips I would give to any parent facing this situation for the first time. In all honesty, M’s first few years at school were difficult and certainly not the positive experience we would have liked. We had to deal with a SENCo, who trivialised his allergies because they “…wouldn’t have to call 999 if he ate something he shouldn’t…” and refused to recognise how important it was to communicate his allergies and health issues to any member of staff dealing with him and not just his class teacher, which led to numerous occasions of him being offered food he couldn’t eat. His teachers lost their focus in teaching him because they felt he already had a lot to cope with with his regular appointments at GOSH and his education suffered as speech impediments, dyslexia and dyspraxia were missed by those who worked with him on a day-to-day basis.

Fast-forward to the start of Year 3 and all our negative experiences became a thing of the past. The year actually began at the end of Year 2, when I met with the Head, SENCo and class teacher of his new school to discuss all of M’s health and educational needs and worked with them to put practical solutions into place before the term started. They understood the value of seeing him as more than just his EGID and food allergies, circle-timebut also knew that his health problems were a big part of his everyday life and couldn’t be ignored. At the end of his first week there, M’s teacher held a circle time in class where she shared about M’s ill-health and restricted diet with his classmates. It was done in such a nurturing and non-confrontational manner that by the end of the session M was willing to answer any question that his new friends had about what they had been told himself and has being doing so ever since.

fabed1The information sheets that I had provided were given to the teachers and, combined with the notes they had taken whilst talking with me, used to draw up a healthcare plan for M that covered all possible situations. His on-going bowel control problems were sensitively handled and a contingency plan put in place to ensure that he always has access to a toilet wherever he is in the school. The HCP was written by the school SENCo and then sent home for my review before being published, shared with the whole teaching team and displayed prominently in the staff-room. Even better, every year since then I have been asked to review and amend his HCP to reflect any medical changes that have happened and the school continue to be sympathetic to his needs.

SAM_1175As for his swap box, it has proved to be an invaluable tool in the classroom setting and is something that is really easy to implement. The idea behind the swap box is a simple one – it contains a selection of safe items, be they edible or non-edible, that can be swapped for those unexpected treats that sometimes come into the classroom to celebrate birthdays or other special events. When M’s swap box came into being, it was filled with a mix of Haribo sweets and the odd Lego minifigure and the choice was his as to what he chose to take. Since going elemental 2 years ago, the box now contains Lego, trading cards and other fun small toys and ensures that M never feels that he is missing out when his friends celebrate. What’s more, his teachers have taken inspiration from it for their own purchases of small gifts at Christmas or the end of term and given him something he can enjoy.

I think the biggest secret to our great experience with our Junior school is communication. The lines of communication are always open and actively work in both directions between home and school through meetings, phone calls, e-mails and the home/school book. The willingness of so many of the school staff to learn to support M to the best of their ability has created a level of trust unlike any other and means that I am ea544311f5697d6334b2df7079ccedf9happy to leave M in their more than capable hands on a daily basis. It is a testament to their dedication to their work that, in the last 3 years, the only things that have caused an extended absence from school have been the annual hospital admissions at GOSH. They have always endeavoured to make sure that M is safe whilst at school and the fact that he was able to attend as normal with both his NG feeding tube and his broken leg is incredible. A truly remarkable relationship has grown over the years between our family and so many of the teachers and is something I really value.

They have also nurtured and encouraged M to talk about his allergies and EGID and have shown continued support as he has become an advocate for educating others about his illness. M has held cake sales, run playground games and created short films explaining the impact his diagnosis has on his life. He has developed a confidence in talking to others and 18 months ago was able to answer the questions asked by members of home-school-connectionevery class in the school. When he left his Infants school, he was a child reluctant to talk about his food allergies or hospital appointments because he was scared of being isolated and bullied because of how different he was to everyone else. These days he has an incredibly strong friendship group who look out for him during school hours and think about him when he’s had to be in hospital, and he never thinks twice to share what’s going on with his friends.

If I had to sum it up, I guess I would say this:

Be open, be honest, be available. Keep communicating and tell them how they can make it better if you need to. Do what you can to help them out and don’t forget to say thank you when they get it right.

A new term

September marks the start of the new school year and an opportunity to look ahead and plan for the coming months.  For our household, September has seen M starting at his new school as well as a number of appointments to make and keep regarding his health. There’s been so much to deal with that, for my own sanity as well as ease of reading, I’ve spread my thoughts over a couple of blog posts.

Courtesy of carevan.org

Courtesy of carevan.org

School-wise, the start of term has gone amazingly well for both M and G, who have enjoyed meeting their new teachers and are slowly settling down into their new school routines.  G was a little nervous on the first couple of days meeting her new teachers (she has 2 who job-share), but her class is the same, so she’s with her friends. It’s hard to believe that my first-born is starting in Year 5 and makes me feel old to realise that I’ve been parenting for nearly a decade.

Sadly, the continued use of Movicol meant that M wasn’t able to start back without wearing a pull-up as we had hoped.  The risk of an accident during school hours and the massive negative impact this would have on him left the school and us in agreement that the pull-up was a necessary evil, and M reluctantly agreed.  It has been hard to judge his real feelings about this as he has been deliberately disengaged from the decision-making, which has been no surprise at all.  He just doesn’t want to face this new reality at the moment and who can blame him? His biggest fear is that his classmates might find out, but the school and I have worked alongside each other to make sure this possibility is minimised.  The pull-up is hidden by his underwear – a sensible pair of trunks long enough to cover it completely – and school suggested he uses the classroom toilet to change for PE, away from prying eyes.

His sensitivity to his “different” lunch-box has been handled well by his new teacher, Miss K, who suggested a special circle time at the end of the first week to introduce his diet and health issues to the class.  By the Friday, M had decided he was open to answering any questions his new friends might have and, as we expected, most of them revolved around what he could or couldn’t eat.  Following that Q&A session, Miss K has also suggested that perhaps we could arrange a “tasting” session for the class, so that they can see, taste and understand some of the foods M has to eat.  M loves the idea of being able to share his diet with his new friends and is drawing up a list of what to take into school as we speak.

Which will make the final cut?

Which will make the final cut?

School have also made allowances regarding his use of the toilets and impressed me by thinking around the matter of which toilets he would need to access.  They considered what could happen if the toilet was in use when he needed to go and have given him special permission to use the Year 6 boys toilet, which is just along the corridor.  They’ve also agreed that as long as the adult in charge is aware he’s dashing off to the loo, then he can forego the need to ask permission before he leaves the classroom or playground. All important when time really is of the essence.

All of this is a refreshing change for us and a real affirmation that we made the right decision in choosing to move schools.  Their positive approach to working with us and with M means that we all feel a great deal more relaxed about the school day.  School are keen that the day is as stress-free for M as it can be and the effect of this on M is clear, as so far we’ve had no toileting issues at school and he is the happiest we’ve seen him in a long time. They really have restored my confidence that M will be supported as he needs and the lines of communication are very much open for us all.

Well, it might be a bit more high tech than this... Courtesy of www.lifeschocolates.com

Well, it might be a bit more high tech than this…
Courtesy of http://www.lifeschocolates.com