Thursday, 4 November 2010

I Don't Feel Very Well..........

We all have that sinking feeling when our child says that to us, but generally they are able to tell us just exactly how they are feeling and where it hurts.  Not so easy to obtain the information if your child has difficulty with communication and even harder if it is not your child but one you are working with, so you do not have a parent's inside knowledge.  Also, I have found that children with Down's Syndrome - and many others too - learn such stock phrases as 'I have a headache' or 'I feel sick' and use them to describe any ailment or injury.

A few years ago I was working with a little girl who was pretty good at getting her meaning across, her speech was clear and made sense.  However, when it came to feeling ill at school, she was unable to express how she was feeling and even closed questions didn't really clear things up.  In the end, I drew a simple outline of a human figure (rather like a gingerbread man) on a sheet of A4 card, with a sick looking face - two sad eyes and a wobbly mouth - and wrote a heading 'I feel poorly here...'  I then laminated the card and kept it with my resources so that whenever she was feeling a bit off colour, she understood to point to the relevant area on the drawing.  It was a very helpful little tool.

Something to keep in mind is children's knack for faking it.  My daughter learned very early on in her school career that by telling people she felt sick, they panicked ('oh no, the special needs child isn't well, we don't know what to do!') and immediately telephoned me, whereupon she was taken home.  Nine times out of ten, by the time we got home there was a miracle cure and she could look forward to an afternoon in front of the tv and no school.  It got to the point where I told the school that unless she had actually thrown up on the floor, I was not to be contacted - sounds harsh, but she gave us all the run around for a long time!  In secondary school I was contacted urgently and arrived in a rush to find her lying on a bed in the nurse's room, wrapped up in a blanket and looking as if she was at death's door.  Even I fell for this one, and took her straight home - but we hadn't even reached the school gate when she brightened up, skipping along and discussing which dvd she was going to watch when she got home......and you can't march your child back into school saying 'she's faking it, have her back'!!

You may think this was just my child, but over the years I have seen the same trick pulled by all the children I have worked with and their mothers in the same position as I was - exasperated!  If I rang them, after describing the symptoms,  I tended to ask them whether or not they thought it was worth them coming to pick up their child - after all, who knows their child better than their mother!

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