Wednesday, 19 November 2014

End Of An Era

When it's time to eat my words, I have no shame in doing so and admitting when I'm wrong.  My post a few weeks ago about strategies being used with the child I was assigned to felt true at the time, but I fear it was just a honeymoon period.  We had a few weeks of keeping the peace, a few blow-ups on his part but they were managed at the time with minimum fall-out.  I wasn't enjoying my job particularly, it felt like walking on eggshells and I had to be one step ahead of him the whole time in order to make sure nothing set him off.  Have you ever heard the story about the little boy who had to be kept happy because if he wasn't, he had the power to make the villagers experience terrible misfortune or even die?  That's what it felt like to me, and I really resented having to let him get away with behaviour that would have caused my own children to be under house arrest in their rooms until they apologised and changed their ways!   I also was not happy with the constant worry that he might get handy with his fists or feet at the drop of a hat - it made life stressful to say the least.

Strategies were followed, but a lot of the time it is not possible to get an angry flailing six year old into their 'quiet area', let alone keep them there until they calm down - half the time you are exascerbating the behaviour and causing it to escalate.  Which it did, quite spectacularly a couple of weeks ago.  It began with a tantrum over spellings - he hadn't paid attention to the teacher, got them all wrong and when I was quietly correcting him and showing him the right way to write them, he lost it, threw his whiteboard and while looking me straight in the eye, lobbed a chair for good measure.  I was pretty fast and got him into his quiet area, whereupon there ensued a fifteen minute struggle, trying to prevent the tables following the chair, him escaping, all the while fending off kicks, bites and punches.  Nobody was going to get calm any time soon. It ended with him coming at me with fists flying as I was sat on the floor - I restrained him as we have been taught, in a firm but gentle bear hug, pinning arms to the sides.  It was not easy - he's a big lad, and may I point out that up until this time I had been left on my own to deal with this. Finally the teacher came over to assist, and I lost concentration for a second and he got an arm free and punched me in the face, knocking my glasses off.  At which point I realised I was going to lose my temper any second and that I really did not want to be doing this any more, so I left.  First time in my life since being a stroppy teenager I have walked out of anywhere that angry, slamming a door behind me - it was not a good feeling, very frightening and shook me up for the rest of the day.

It took the headmistress and another LSA half an hour to control the child, during which he managed to throw a heavy book at the head, cutting her face and bruising her nose.

So, I refused to work with this child ever again - it felt horrible to admit defeat but I am in my fifties and my patience and body are no longer what they used to be.  I  have to go home and care for my daughter and to be in a state of stress does not help matters there either. There is also the fear of injury - if anything happens to me, I would be unable to look after my daughter and there is no-one else to take over should I be incapacitated. It is also very hard to do my other work as an artist when my brain is whirling with the events of the morning - and the potential for an injury to my eyes or hands affects that too.

I have been assigned to another troubled child - who I could probably work with now that I have got to know him and discovered that despite his outbursts there is no risk of bodily harm! But the heart has gone out of me as far as this job is concerned.  I'm no longer working with special needs children, it feels more like child-minding/being a bouncer.  I have loved working with children with Down's, using what I know to help them progress and grow; I thoroughly enjoyed working with children with speech and language problems, MLD and those needing occupational therapy - to know that you have contributed in some way to their improvement and growth, to see them confident and happy as they go on to junior school, it makes the job worthwhile.  But there does not appear to be a place for me to do this any more at this particular school, so I have decided to leave.  It is sad in a way - it has been 11 years of ups and downs but thoroughly rewarding up until now.  I know I have moaned and whined over the years about clearing up bodily fluids, the frustrations of seeming to get nowhere for weeks on end and dealing with parents intent on scuppering their child's learning with good intentions, but it has been something I have actually been happy to do because at the centre of it has been a child who needed something I was able to give.  It no longer feels that way - I feel weary, slightly demoralised and the motivation has gone.

Having made that decision though and handed in my notice, I am excited to be moving on - it's time to try and make a go of being a full-time artist, which ultimately has always been my vocation in life.  I'm hoping that while doing this, I will be able to return to happier times, devote more time to my daughter's needs and no longer run the risk of being punched in the face unless I absolutely deserve it!

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