Yesterday I was struck with such sadness. I was talking about my son ‘Eric’ to a friend. We were discussing where he was up to. I was discussing that on the whole he is calmer at home, bar one incident the week before last when he blocked me in a room because I was saying that he wouldn’t be allowed on his phone because of the way he was talking to me. He became quite threatening but it did not last long. These incidents are rare these days.
Mainly he huffs and puffs but tends to, eventually make better choices. He still struggles with his peers, he targets the alpha male of any group and thinks the way of making friends is to wind them up to such a degree that they want to physically assault him. This is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout his life, one boy after another.
He cannot change his approach because in that moment, it is how he is wired to approach these young men ( as they are now) in this confrontational manner. He is fantastic at the throwing of insults that hit the mark every time, his aim is faultless. However, he is not a fighter, he hates violence and collapses onto the floor at the first sign of physical threat. Which is of course good in that he does not fight but equally he cannot defend himself.
With the right support at home, talking endlessly about how relationships work and communicating with school very frequently, these dangerous situations have so far been safely navigated without a visit to A&E. These issues are Eric.
My sadness came when I thought about the fact that he would leave Year 11 without any qualifications to his name. His behaviour has meant that he has lost his opportunity to be educated. Throughout his school life he has been anxious, angry , non compliant, suicidal. This meant that the only school that could manage him was a special school for students with moderate learning difficulties.
I love the school. In so many ways it saved him. Certainly after receiving his autistic label over 2 years ago and he was taken into the Autistic Hub, the teachers have worked so well with my complex, challenging child. They like him, look at the behaviours he displays as a means of him communicating with the world. They try to understand his triggers. They talk to us as parents and work with us. They are never judgemental.
However, in many ways this support is too late. My son missed too many years of education. He has been let down by his primary school and the efforts High school, by health professionals and adoption workers. He ended up at a school surrounded by angry young men and women. His peers are not aspirational for him. His survival instinct has been at the forefront of his brain, not the need to learn. It was the only option for him but not the right option on so many levels.
Eric is bright, articulate, interesting. His memory is phenomenal, he has wit, empathy and energy. He has potential but it is locked within him, reinforcing the belief that he is different, not bright and too scared to try in case he fails.
Eric is not alone. How many young people who do not fit into education as we know it, get labelled as being ‘naughty’, or disruptive? How many young people get little or no education because they cannot conform to the rigid systems that we use in schools? One size does not fit all.
I hope Eric finds a goal that he wants to aim for. if he does this then there will be no stopping him. Lets hope it is an aspirational goal! Please do not write off the ‘naughty’ young people..find a way to see their potential.