We had a flying visit back to the UK for Wonder Boy to attend his secondary school induction day. We were lucky enough to meet our Looked After Child Coordinator who helped put Wonder Boy’s worried mind at ease. It’s brilliant that as an adopted child he has his own special teacher to go to when he feels overwhelmed by school. Perhaps you are a teacher. Do you have an adopted kid in your class? Maybe my adopted child will be in your class.
Many adopted children struggle at school
Adopted children are more than twice as likely to achieve poor GCSE results. Fewer than one in four adopted children are awarded at least five grades of C or above including in English and maths.
School can be tough for adopted children, and all too often the behaviour experienced in the class room is put down to ‘bad behaviour’.
I know, it’s hard, you have a child that seems to be ‘out of control’ with non-stop fidgeting, shouting out, rude, answers back, won’t look you in the eye, a face like thunder, breaks things, clumsy, accidentally gets into a fight, can’t admit when they’ve done something wrong, can’t be quiet, line up, sit quietly, concentrate, focus, keep their books tidy, won’t listen. It’s frustrating, I know, this is my life!
Many a time I’ve been brought into class after school to have a quiet chat with the teacher about the latest shenanigans my kid’s got into.
My children are adopted from the UK care system therefore like many adopted children, their early lives have been marred by neglect, trauma and abuse. And the effects can be life-long.
And that behaviour, often construed as ‘bad behaviour’, is just some of the effects of early life neglect, trauma and abuse.
As the new CEO of Adoption UK says: “It may not always be obvious why a child is being disruptive in class but they may not feel safe or they may be very anxious about this person in authority because someone in authority may not always have seemed like a safe person to them in their lives in the past.”
Wonder Boy was only six when he said: “Grown ups, they can do bad things can’t they?” That was his experience.
I know, you are a teacher, not a social worker. But there’s a lot you can do
Start to understand attachment and the effects on kids with disrupted and broken attachments. This will equip you with the skills to support children like my kids.
- Look beyond the behaviour, think about the emotions the child is feeling
- Praise, no matter how small, it goes a long way
- Build that child’s self-esteem – give them a job, a sense of responsibility and achievement
- Unstructured time can feel threatening, build some structure into lunchtimes and play time, so this child knows what to expect
- If you are going to be away or a supply teacher is stepping in, tell the child, and their parent
- Let them play with younger kids, this can be less threatening
- Set up nurture groups
- Have quiet and calm play
- Fidget toys – they work, even squeezing blue tac or play doh – it all helps
And there’s help to help you support my adopted child (and other adopted kids too!)
- Adoption UK has teamed up with the National Headteachers Association to make every school an attachment-aware school. Their aim is to equip school leaders with the skills, awareness, strategies and knowledge to support adopted children in school
- PAC-UK has a range of support services for schools
- PAC-UK runs the Education Advice Line 0207 284 5879 (available Wednesdays and Thursdays term-times)
- Attachment Aware Schools is an excellent resource looking at improving attachment awareness in schools
- Read the brilliant teachers’ and parents’ guide Let’s Learn Together leave copies in the staff room
- The Adoptables is a network of peer support for young people. Run by Coram, the children’s charity, it has produced the Adoptables Schools Toolkit, freely available for all schools
- Pupil Premium Plus provides adopted children with £1900 pupil per year of extra support
Photo credit: Photo Aterlier courtesy of Flickr
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