‘They’re fine at school'!

Updated: May 12, 2021

How often have I heard that from a frustrated teacher? At the same time I’m hearing (and often seeing) the damage caused by a highly distressed and destructive child in the home. 

These are the ‘pop bottle’ children. 

Thoughts and feelings

These children (many with autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, DCD etc) just want to ‘get it right’. They are often socially motivated and desperately want to “fit in”. They buckle down, they struggle to understand and keep up, they struggle with noise and lights and too many people. They work their socks off… and still fail. 

They observe their classmates and try to get the rules right, and just when they think they’ve really nailed it, they get told off, and have absolutely no idea why. The pressure of coping with sensory challenges builds and builds. They don’t want to stand out, or ‘kick off’, or make themselves appear any more inept than they already feel - so what do they do? They wait for a safe place, where they can let it all out - somewhere private and where they are accepted and loved - home!

Letting it all out

I have seen children walk calmly through the garden to the door, walk in, close the door and… BOOM! Sometimes the explosion is at everything and everyone around them; furniture flies, doors are shattered, TV screens smashed and usually (but not always), Mum gets hurt in the process. 

Sometimes it’s more of an implosion of self-hatred and despair. Heads are banged against walls and floors; arms and hands are bitten till they bleed. Their own faces are punched until they swell and bruise (that was my son’s particular favourite!). The pent up frustration, pain and confusion has to come out somewhere, and often parents are helpless until the child has released it all - only able to comfort their child afterwards, and literally pick up the pieces.

Getting help

When the parent speaks to school, at best the response is usually ‘he/she is fine at school’, or far too often the accusation is hinted at... “it’s poor parenting…”. In some of the more extreme cases an accusation of FI (Fabricated Illness) is made; with all the serious consequences. 

Don’t get me wrong, there are some very enlightened schools out there, who really ‘get it’ - but unfortunately many don’t. It often takes another professional to get involved, and to accompany the parent to school and say, “No, actually they’re fine at home; it’s only when they get in from a day at school. This isn’t happening at the weekend, or during school holidays”. 

As they say… ‘go figure’.

Sadly there are not enough advocates to go round for these families. For those of us who are out there, we need to educate other professionals that ‘pop bottle’ children are in every school, and that we should all listen to parents and children with an open mind when they say they’re struggling. Children don’t cry out for help for nothing… and neither do parents.

Perhaps we can help...

If you are having a tough time with communicating to your school, we can help. Contact us and we will be happy to have a chat with you.

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