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It’s a marathon, not a sprint – overcoming setbacks at school

Mother and son playing with paper airplane.

Testimonial: "It was clear to me that Liam was experiencing high anxiety – and no one was understanding it." - Parent

It’s a marathon, not a sprint – overcoming setbacks at school

Our son Liam’s first year of school was full of ups and downs. 

As a family, we started with high hopes, but Liam struggled with the transition to school. He started lashing out at other children and his teachers because he was unable to regulate his emotions. 

The school made us feel like it was our fault and we felt helpless watching the incident reports start flowing in. It was stressful, because a call from the school meant we needed to leave work early to pick him up and this put our jobs on the line.

We felt crushed and wondered if we should keep Liam home, but we wanted him to be part of the school community and enjoy everything that it involved. So, we kept turning up and going to all the school events. 

Our first Student Support Group (SSG) meeting didn’t go very well. We were shocked by how the school spoke about Liam and we felt he was a burden on the teacher and education support staff. 

The school wanted to limit Liam’s time there, have him see a therapist at school (which he didn’t like) and remove him from the classroom every time there was an issue. 

One day, Liam came home and hid his school bag because his teacher would put copies of the incident forms in there for us. Liam knew that these made us upset, and he was scared that he was ‘in trouble’, as he didn’t fully understand what they were. 

After this happened, we asked that incident forms be emailed to us instead. They kept arriving, even for minor behavioural issues. It was clear to me that Liam was experiencing high anxiety – and no one was understanding it. 

I was determined to get a better outcome for Liam at the next SSG meeting with the school. Firstly, I made sure our occupational therapist (OT) could attend the meeting, and then I was in touch with the ACD Support Line. The advice ACD gave me was very helpful.   

The Principal, Vice Principal, teacher, Education Support Officer, a representative from the Department of Education, OT, the ACD Support Advisor, as well as myself and my husband all attended the meeting. It was daunting, but then we started to agree on some reasonable adjustments. 

We agreed that Liam would attend school for two full days and three half days a week. He was allowed to arrive in the classroom 10 minutes before everyone else to settle in, and he would work with the Education Support Officer each day. 

Very slowly things started to improve. Liam has always been an outgoing, lively and friendly boy, which helped him to make friends easily. His teacher, the Education Support Officer and the Vice Principal all attended professional development workshops and began to use the strategies they had learned. The school also committed to doing an Individual Education Plan and a Behaviour Support Plan.   

Things were looking brighter but there were still setbacks. One day, after an incident, Liam wasn’t allowed to go to the Father’s Day Stall with the rest of his class. Another time, I had to speak to his teacher about not making him sit on his own in a separate area of the classroom all the time.

We have had to work so hard to advocate for our son, but by continuing to work patiently with the school, we are thrilled to see he is now a part of this community and is doing well. 


Posted on 08 August 2020