Story: Lee’s story

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Lee was finding primary school increasingly stressful. The noise of other children and all the questions from the teacher made him anxious and upset. Nobody seemed to understand how he was feeling.

Soon the frustration boiled over, and Lee became angry; shouting at his classmates and his teachers. He even began to get violent and would strike out when he was particularly emotional.

Lee’s school had really tried to help, yet they were becoming fearful for his safety and that of his classmates, and on occasion felt they had no choice but to send him home.

Lee didn’t feel any better at home. His parents and siblings didn’t understand him and that made him angrier and more frustrated. He would shout at them, telling them he wished they were all dead, and that he wished he was dead too. He even started to hit his mum and she was becoming frightened of her son.

Even though he was only 10 years old, Lee would storm out of the house in a rage, refusing to say where he was going or when he would be back.

The council had been trying to help. For two years, an Early Help team had been paying regular visits. But matters seemed to be getting worse, not better.

Lee was eventually diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and experts were brought in to help Lee control his anger.

But Lee’s mum and dad weren’t convinced. They’d lost faith in the system and felt badly let down by the authorities. They were mistrustful of what they were being told.

This is when Silvia Blenkley got involved. She is the new Vulnerable Learners Lead at the NEAT Academy Trust, a pilot position funded by Let Teachers SHINE to work with families to tackle problems that lead to exclusion and extended absence.

Silvia met with Lee and his parents and immediately realised something was seriously wrong. The family were at crisis point and needed much more intensive, personalised support.

She spoke with colleagues at the school and they agreed that immediate action was required.

Silvia began to work closely with Lee, his family and his school. She and her colleagues offered counselling and advice and soon built up a strong relationship with Lee’s mum. She was able to replay information to the school that they’d not previously known.

As a result, Lee’s family were provided with new, more bespoke support; a safety plan was devised, and a keyworker was assigned to help them and to share information between the family and school.

Lee was encouraged to share his worries, hopes and dreams, and a plan was developed to help him.

He confided that he was anxious about going back to school after being excluded and this triggered some of his anger. The school put together a new timetable that would help ease the transition back to school.

Conversations with Lee’s mum and dad revealed other trigger points and they were given advice on how to best handle these.

Lee’s condition was explained to his brother, using words and pictures, helping him better understand his behaviour and what caused his rage.

Meanwhile, to help ease his anxiety in the classroom, Lee’s school agreed to create a quiet space for him, and he was given one-to-one support.

Lee soon felt more comfortable at school. He didn’t feel so distracted by his classmates and he felt that his teachers and his family had a better understanding of what made him upset.

He returned to school full time and his behaviour improved. He did not need to be sent home again and he completed all work set for him in class.

Any flare-ups at home were handled quickly and effectively. When challenges did arise, the family felt more supported and they began to trust the judgement of professionals.