So, as you may already know by now, Rune moved into St. Josephs, a residential and day, independent, specialist school and college on Saturday 7th January 2017.
Rune has dealt with a real mixed bag of emotions during the past three weeks as brand new sets of boundaries have been put in place and familiar routines and behaviours have had to fall away. It’s safe to say that Rune has been pulled completely out of his comfort zone. And how remarkably well he’s coped with it!
In this post, I shall be writing about:
Rune has never particularly been a keen participant in the education system, preferring instead to stay at home with me. This is a theme which has continued from his first school days when he was about 5 years old.
His attendance at the various special schools he’s attended over the years have always been fraught with transition difficulties and behaviour once he was at school has been challenging, to say the least. I remember (and far from fondly) those treacherous journeys to school, all through primary education, when he would be having a major meltdown in the car. I tried sitting Rune in the back with one of his sisters but he would hit out at them and reach forward and pull mine and the passenger’s hair, take his seatbelt off and generally try to wreck the car. This would result in me driving with one hand on the steering wheel and one hand behind me trying to control him whilst I drove. My eyes were sporadically on the road and we had many near misses. The other option was to have Rune in the front with me and I did this to spare the girls. He would still be trying to wreck the car, pull the rear-view mirror off, fiercely wobble the gear stick, turn the radio on and off and pull every knob on the dash he could find, off. Taking his seatbelt off and punching at me whilst I drove were the norm. We would arrive at school in tears, exhausted and me feeling, every single day, that I just couldn’t cope with this anymore and that I desperately needed help. The lack of help we received is a whole different story.
Rune qualified for school transport and this worked well, sometimes. As he grew older he became more aggressive during his meltdowns and very often staff and children bore the brunt of his fists until eventually, Rune was banned from school transport. So, we tried taxis with his own escort. He would usually be having a full meltdown by the time they arrived and refused to get in the car. He usually wasn’t dressed either, with school uniforms having been either put in the toilet or thrown out of his bedroom window.
During the period between October 2013 and January 2015, Rune had no formal education whatsoever. You can read about this in another blog post coming soon.
Rune started at St. Josephs properly in February 2015. Due to the outstanding work that had been done with him by two wonderful and dedicated St. Josephs staff members for a period of 6 weeks in our home before he even stepped foot in the college proper, Rune could transition beautifully in a taxi each morning and then back home again after the school day. He still had his challenges at college and rarely actually attended the classroom, completing small bits of work in his own room instead, where he was of course supervised full time. But overall, given that Rune hadn’t spent anytime without me, nor attended school for 17 months, everyone involved with Rune was super impressed. His progress was remarkable!
These smooth transitions carried on for a further 15 months and then suddenly, out of nowhere, in March 2016 Rune’s smooth transitions slowly, gradually, became a thing of the past. No one knew why and everyone was flummoxed.
First, there were the occasional half-hearted flips of the hand on the arm of the escort. This progressed to regular, full punches and total refusal to get in the taxi, both from home to school and vice versa. On many occasions, I would receive a phone call from St. Josephs asking me to come and collect him. I would drive the 17 miles there only to sit outside of his special room waiting for Rune to come out of his meltdown or shutdown mode. Often, we wouldn’t leave the college until gone 6 pm, nearly 3 hours after school finished. We were both mentally exhausted (and I would imagine for Rune, physically exhausted too) and after fighting our way through rush hour traffic, the last thing I felt like doing was cooking. So, menu plans went out of the window and we’d get some fish and chips in instead. Thank Goodness for Rune’s disability allowance.
Finally, Rune started to hit the taxi driver in the back of the head whilst he was driving. The wonderful driver, a beautiful, gentle Muslim man from Sri Lanka, finally had to hand in his notice as Rune’s taxi driver. Him and the equally as lovely Muslim, female escort just couldn’t work with Rune anymore and no one could blame them.
In a strange way, unbeknown to Rune, he was helping with the case I was building with the social services to apply for funding for him to become a resident at St. Josephs!
Rune attended college a grand total of seven times from early May to July and then they broke up for the summer holidays. Then he went ONCE in September and that was it until he moved in on 7th January.
It wouldn’t be fair for me to sit here and type that the huge periods of absences from college were completely down to Rune’s total refusal to get in the car or leave his room in the morning. He more than likely would have attended on some days but I was so tired. I had completely reached the end of my battery life. Physically, spiritually, mentally and in every other way, I was exhausted. You can read about my own journey through all the time span written about in this post, in another post.
So, yeah. Rune now has no choice but to attend college every day. If a learner is refusing to go down to college and as an absolute last resort, teaching staff will come up to the group home. But this isn’t encouraged, of course. I believe this has only happened with Rune once during the past month and that’s amazing, I think. He seems to have transitioned into that routine quite well and I’m sure that the other young men in the group have been a positive influence on Rune.
Rune no longer has his own special room as staff have started as they mean to go on which is getting him into the classroom every day, which is so great. He has certainly had his wobbles and has become violent on a few occasions and this is to be expected. Like I said, his whole world has been turned topsy-turvy and he’s just finding his feet with it all.
Having said that, Rune has had many very positive days and received a Student of the Week certificate last week!
Rune moved classroom this week. Now he’s attending consistently, daily, the staff have finally been able to assess his progress and they have discovered that he was functioning at a level higher than the other pupils in the class. So, Rune is now in a classroom with the other boys he lives with. He didn’t take the transition well and had a very bad day but we all know he will become used to the new routine in time. He will most certainly be challenged more educationally in that class and this is something which I think Rune may initially struggle with but again, I’m hoping the other guys in the group will prove to be a positive influence on Rune.
All in all, well done my beautiful boy.