The virtue of respect is something that the children have been learning about this half term at my daughter’s new school.
They have values which underpin their community ethos and these are:
On the last day of term it was great for me to learn more about how these values are ingrained into school thinking – the focus on the final day was respect.
Not only was my daughter shown respect by the school but she learnt to give it in return.
So the exciting news I get to share with you this week is that she managed to spend the majority of her time in the classroom 🎉
AND if that wasn’t enough of an individual achievement (when you consider this is only just happening and she started school in January), well the part that’s even more incredible is that she was working alongside her peers in adult led tasks🙀
If you would have told me that a year ago I would have been floored.
She had regressed recently with the unprecedented change of her 1:1 in a situation that was unavoidable and without the transition school were aiming to do.
This meant she went back to being in school for an hour a day and even then her anxiety was overspilling leading to her usual response of fight or flight before she could last the hour.
On the last day she stayed the entire school day and got to eat lunch with her new friends.
There were definitely tricky moments throughout the day but with a lot of distraction these can be manoeuvred into a new direction.
And to top off the inner success she experienced this week her class teacher found the opportunity to give her the Principal’s Award as a result.
This meant she got to stand up in assembly to collect a sticker from the Principal and receive a round of applause from the entire school.
As she sat back down I could hear her peers congratulate her and give her some high fives 🙌.
The child who stood up with her and held her hand, both physically and metaphorically, had been pivotal to the process of this happening this week.
This child became an enabler to an individual who has as a disability of trust.
Opportunities had been found to facilitate play between the children and once there was a buddy, which then extended to a group of buddies, well the anxiety dipped enough to be able to maintain some social play and learning opportunities.
The impact this has had is just momentous.
At the front of the assembly I could see her, crippled by stress and masking her identity behind a baseball cap, but staring at me with an uncontrollable smile.
It reminded me of the happy go lucky baby I once had and the infectious laughter that used to draw in the world around her.
On days like today I must not forget that child is still buried deep inside – hidden by the false exterior.
My eyes were so wet with pride, admiration and at last belonging.
I wish I could have had a snapshot of the moment to show everybody but that wasn’t to be.
Instead I took a photo at home with the sticker proudly on and a beaming smile:
The first glimmers of hope had begun earlier in the week when she came home clutching pictures her new buddies had drawn for her.
She couldn’t stop babbling on about all of her new best friends and what they had done at school.
I must have heard the kids rhyme, “my little pony skinny and bony went to the circus and farted on purpose” at least a zillion times.
Enough to say it was starting to grate on me!
You probably can’t see the words but on one of the pictures, etched in beautiful children’s writing, say well done you are doing so well.
Now nobody told these children to do this gesture of support; the respect has just been ingrained in their thinking.
It came from the school rhetoric of being inclusive to all.
To spot the learning opportunities in every unique success takes some powerful observations and that positive vibe ripples outwards to the entire school community.
I can assure you my daughter was very shocked. It’s not really the script she has been used to.
She’s a very clever button, as she reflected on this news, then said:
She was talking about her past school history and she was right. It was also the deciding factor in selecting this placement. She had written a note in her worry book last year saying “I want to go to a school where they understand my Ortism.”
Not every time was she wrong before, not every time was she void of kindness and not every time was she shown respect by adults modelling it.
I can sift my mind back to last year and one of the horrific meltdowns that happened at school when she trashed the entire nurture room.
It was actually my birthday and she had been in the middle of making a card for me. Something had been misinterpreted during a social interaction which then led to a catastrophic meltdown.
Everyone only ever focuses on the end result which is often the case for my daughter.
As a parent I can remember all eyes on me as I took control and calmed down the situation but the panic and judgements in everyone’s eyes permeated my skin.
We both felt vulnerable and detached from our community.
Well that day she was excluded for two days and she sobbed to me “I’ve ruined your birthday.”
At the end of the school day her little sister came home from nursery with a headteacher’s bronze award.
It kind of added insult to injury and I felt so sad to not fully enjoy her sibling’s success.
My PDA’er cried so much until her cheeks were red raw as she uttered the heart wrenching words “I just want to be good!”
This week when she won her own Principal’s Award it taught her to have respect for herself – she had a chance to celebrate something and that she was good.
So how do you earn respect then and is it something we can just command from our children?
The simple answer is no – you have to earn it.
And how do we do that?
By modelling respect, that’s how.
It may be a slower process in terms of social and emotional capabilities but my daughter, like any other child, can learn the true virtue of respect.
We need to just demonstrate it to her first.
Would you like to read more about the approach this school is taking? Click here for a full article featured in the Special Needs Jungle.
For a summary of our individual PDA Story it can be found here on Steph’s Two Girls. It is part of a series of written case studies on both children and adults with Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA).