I wrote this blog at the end of last year but never published it because I was on holiday. Here it is...
Wow, what an end to the year. It was shaping up like the last week for the year was going to be the most difficult. We were having many problems with a couple of families in particular. In my last blog, I wrote about John, the boy who was on the edge of having to stay back a year in school. He finished his year with flying colours. He has a second chance to pass some of his subjects in February next year but with the help of a volunteer tutor, Karina, he passed many subjects. One that he was having particular trouble with was mathematics but with Karina supporting him one on one he was able to pass the subject.
It was amazing to see a complete turnaround by this young fella! He was literally fighting, abusing and spitting at everyone three weeks ago. With some extra support and encouragement, he changed his tune and put in a huge effort to completely change his attitude. I am against exclusion but we had no choice but to limit his hours in Food for Thought in the second last week. He could come for lunch but not for the activities. He could also come to spend time with our child psychologist, Carla.
It became obvious that he really wanted to be part of the project. He would be waiting outside the gate before lunch, and very hesitant when leaving. During lunch, he was very controlled and polite and after a week of this, we offered him the chance to come back full time. He did so with an interest in engaging in all activities. He wasn’t perfect by any means but we could only congratulate him for the huge effort he was making.
It probably helped too that another boy with a very difficult home life, Steve, didn’t come for the week. We had a few parents complaining about Steve as he really didn’t stop annoying and picking on any child that was smaller than him for the second half of the year. We tried everything with him but any strategy worked for a very short time only. The only time that he wasn’t annoying anybody was when he was by himself eating or drawing. We could see that he just wasn’t coping in the presence of the other kids and the project was probably even having a negative effect on him. His needs were not being met in Food for Thought.
We were also not getting any kind of cooperation from his mother so trying to work in collaboration with her was impossible. We wanted to continue working with him, trying out new strategies, but his mother ended up pulling him out of Food for Thought. We believe that on top of having some serious psychological difficulties, he may have some type of neurological problem too. His mother refuses to take him to the doctor so that he can be tested. He probably has diabetes, he has a thyroid problem which means a hormone imbalance, and he may even need to be tested by a neurologist.
In the last six years, we have only seen one other child that could not be supported in a positive way by our therapeutic environment. I’m not saying that we are the bee’s knees, but what I am saying is that in our experience, connection, affection, and respect have positive outcomes with most children. We believe that there is something else going on with Steve. The problem is that his mother is unwilling to take the appropriate steps and his school is also dragging their feet on stepping in as they are legally obligated to do.
I think our only option from here is to put some pressure on the school when they begin next year. They have the power to insist on medical exams if they feel that the child needs them. We could take legal action ourselves but that is where it gets very ugly and is definitely the last option. We have seen some huge changes in Steve over the last four years. What is making life very complicated for him is the mixture of challenges that he currently has on his plate. His extremely stressful home environment, his fragile emotional/mental state, and his medical problems are all topped off with his current state of maturing preadolescence. That’s tough!