Adopted son 'thriving' after changing schools

Karen tells how her adopted son Josh was excluded from his previous school on a number of occasions as staff were simply unable to deal with his emotional needs. 

Twelve-year-old Josh was placed with Karen, 56, a nanny and her husband Keith, 51, who works for the DWP, when he was five and they adopted him when he was eight.

Josh went through the mainstream primary education system, attending a first school and a junior school. He is now at a short-stay special school.

Josh suffered trauma in his early childhood and has a lot of anger towards his birth mother.

Karen said: “Even a mention of her name and he gets very angry. Our relationship is very volatile. If he’s angry I’m the one who cops it! My husband does not get any of the abuse I get.

“At Josh’s first two schools they really could not deal with somebody with his emotional needs. We were constantly having to battle with the authorities. He was excluded on many occasions. We tried lots of different things. We went to a group to help children with behavioural difficulties, but the school was not equipped to deal with it. It was very hard on Josh and very hard on us as a family.

“When he was in junior school my husband had to give up work to look after him for six months because he was constantly being excluded. Josh was just not coping. When we felt he had improved Keith went back part time. Luckily the DWP are very understanding.

“It had a huge effect on us, emotionally and financially.

“Josh’s early experiences really shook him up. He was constantly being taken out of classrooms. This had a huge effect on his self-esteem and confidence.

“His attention span was so limited. He was trying to leave the classroom, he would not leave other children alone, he was extremely disruptive. His emotional problems meant he was constantly in people’s faces and was invading their space.

“He thrives on attention and if he was not looked at or noticed he would start to become aggressive so another child or adult would get hurt. It was quite severe behaviour. One of his teachers, who was a SENCO, said she’d never come across a child as bad as Josh!

“A lot of his confidence was affected because of being excluded. Other parents began to make us feel uncomfortable when we went to pick him up, especially if there had been an incident involving their child. You wanted to wear a T-shirt saying ‘he’s been adopted’.

“I just felt the school was really floundering with him, he was such a challenge for the teachers, they were totally out of their depth.

“We had a really good social worker who supported us through this time. They recommended we look at the school Josh is at now.

“We knew he would not be able to cope in high school so we had to look at other alternatives.

“Josh joined the school he’s at now two years ago. It was all very new – there were a lot of teething problems in the first year and he did get into a lot of trouble. It was new staff, new surroundings. Everyone was trying to find their feet – but now he absolutely loves it.

“Josh is working through all his issues but they still present themselves. But he’s somewhere now where they can deal with it.

“His concentration levels are minimal. Any structure is no good for him at all. He still won’t stay in the classroom for long but the school he’s at now has options for him, with different places he can go to.

“The only complaint I have is that he is with other children with behavioural issues. Josh’s background is what has affected his behaviour, it’s more emotional than anything.

“These kids kick off and Josh thinks ‘I’ll do that as well’. In some respects it’s brilliant and the staff are brilliant with the children but the influences he’s surrounded by are very difficult. He’s subjected to listening to swearing and children throwing

chairs. I’ve been a couple of times when the school has invited parents to spend the day there and I’ve found the whole situation very stressful.

“The positive is that he’s now at an age where he can identify why he’s feeling the way he is and he can now articulate that.”

Josh can only stay at the school until he’s 14 – it’s a short stay school. Then Karen and Keith will have to think again.

Karen said: “It will have to be some kind of apprenticeship – there’s no way he would cope with mainstream.”

She believes a number of things would have helped Josh settle in his previous schools.

She said:  “One of his schools was getting funding for one-to-one support for Josh but we found out that support was being shared with other children which made us a bit cross. Had he had one-to-one support he might have improved significantly.

“Josh does not connect very well with female staff or females in authority. Had he had support from someone who was a younger man that would have helped a lot.

“At the last school he went to there was a man who did forest school work with Josh and he really liked that. They realised a bit too late what would work for him.

“Just having more understanding of what his early experiences were would really have helped. We did tell them but they did not fully understand. One teacher went to an Adoption UK talk which she said she found very helpful but unfortunately when you’ve got a whole class full of children with different needs it’s difficult to concentrate fully on one child.

“Josh is now in smaller groups. There will be no more than six children in his class. In mainstream schools smaller classes would really help.

“It has been noted at the school he’s at now he works better with a young male key worker. He’s related really well to them. They talk about bikes and cars etc.

“They also reward the children for all positive behaviour which he did not get at the other schools.”

Karen’s husband has gone back to full time work but she has gone down to part time to make sure she is available for Josh.