Homeschooling a child with S.E.N or a background in care

Updated: Mar 14, 2021

My eldest child, Kaiden, was diagnosed with dyspraxia a few years ago. But our problems with him are further complicated by the fact he comes from a care background. Kaiden is our maternal nephew, he’s lived with us now for four years and we love him to bits. But there’s a constant undertone to his behaviour, like a shark lurking beneath the surface of the water, and we are always waiting for it to bite. Instinct plays a huge part in parenting as any parent knows. I once went on a fostering course that taught us techniques to deal with children in foster care and one of the things they reminded you of daily, was the fact that you were a detective. Part of your parenting role is to play the detective, constantly having to figure things out. I suppose this is true of any parent and child situation, having to work out why your baby is crying for example, or why your teenager has become moody and sullen. But when there are complex layers to a child it’s very difficult. Dyspraxia affects people in different ways, there is no one size fits all. For Kaiden, the main challenges are that he’s very forgetful when it comes to his short term memory, and things have to be explained to him very literally. He’s also got poor balance, hand to eye coordination and foot control and he’s hypermobile too. But this is where the challenge lies. Because whilst it’s true that Kaiden is forgetful, he’s also very stubborn, and he gives up way too easily. So he might tell you he’s forgotten something, simply because he can’t be bothered and wants you to do it for him. Using your parental detective skills, you have to work out if this is a dyspraxic situation, or a lazy one. He also likes to play dumb if the penny drops on a situation, because he doesn’t like to admit he’s wrong, so then you’re left wondering if you didn’t explain something literally enough, or is he just pretending?

You might think it doesn’t matter what the reasons are, and to treat him as if he’s being genuine on every occasion. But this is much easier said than done. Kaiden is almost ten years old and needs to start learning some common sense. He’s also got to learn to try to figure things out for himself and not give up at the first hurdle. Now I admit, I don’t always handle these situations well, there’s kind of a reset button that needs pressing at the end of every day, when you tell yourself tomorrow will be better, that you will be more patient. This is especially true of a homeschooling parent, because you don’t want to feel like you are doing it all wrong. But it’s tough. Very tough.

let me give you an example of a situation that has just taken place. So Kaiden has some very disgusting habits. Partly due to his laziness. He picks his nose and eats it, and I think it’s because he can’t be bothered to go get tissue paper. At the moment, he’s got a cold, so when his nose runs, he licks the snot rather than blowing his nose. So yesterday, my other son Theo, could be heard reprimanding Kaiden about his grossness, which culminated in me having to march into their bedroom to intervene. Theo told me Kaiden had just picked his nose and eaten it. Kaiden, who is a natural born liar but not quite quick enough to think of ways to keep the lie believable, immediately argued that he did pick his nose but did not eat it. So I asked him where his bogey was then. At that point Kaiden knew he’d been rumbled. He has this look that glides over his face, a very telling “oh damn, how am I going to get out of this”? But this is where the battle starts. Instead of holding his hands up there and then, Kaiden digs his heels in and pushes on with the pretence. “What do you mean”? He asks me. This is such an infuriating question, one he always asks when he’s caught out and simply a stall tactic while he tries to think.

“So if you’ve picked your nose but not eaten it where did you put your bogey”? I ask again. Kaiden does that searching look he always does, his eyes rolling around and resting on an imaginary corner of the floor. ”Did you wipe it somewhere”? I ask him. Kaiden tells me he didn’t. “So where is it then”? Kaiden tells me it’s on his hand so I ask him to show me. Again I get the “what do you mean response“, before finally he shows me his hands and seeing nothing there, points to a freckle on his palm. So I explain to Kaiden that I’ve had enough of him being so disgusting and that it’s not fair that people should happen upon one of his smeared bogeys somewhere, it’s disgusting. Fast forward to later that night when the kids are in bed, I happen upon a giant, wiped bogey on the windowsill in the living room, right next to where he had spent most of the day sitting.

So that brings us to this morning. As soon as Kaiden wakes up I give him some cleaning spray and kitchen roll and tell him to go and clean his little present off the windowsill. Kaiden, finding the bogey is completely grossed out. I see this as karma personally. He starts denying it’s his but we all know it is and with tears streaming down his face he reluctantly cleans it. Kaiden‘s next task is to make his cereal which both boys do every morning. He comes to tell me there’s no cereal so I tell him to look out in the pantry where the crisps are kept. Literally within a minute he walks back into the living room to ask me “what do you mean“? Before the words have even left his mouth I put my hand up and tell him not to dare ask me that question. Not to pretend he doesn’t know where the crisps are. The crisps that he manages to find every time he wants a pack.

At this point in time, there’s tears and a little face looking at me like; ‘honestly, I really don’t know, I need your help’. But the detective parent in me has already established that Kaiden is angry with me for making him wipe away his bogey, and because he only shows anger in a passive-aggressive form, this is his payback. I was right Kaiden walks back into the Kitchen and through the crack in the door, I see him open the door to the pantry without a moments hesitation. But as is typical with Kaiden, he knows he’s been found out, and he doesn’t like to be shown as ‘wrong’, so he starts playing a game. After visiting the toilet and then mooching around in the pantry for another five minutes he comes back into the living room to tell me he doesn’t know what I want him to find. Now at this point in time I have to be sure of my response. Here I have standing in front of me is a young boy who is claiming to have forgotten that he’s looking for the cereal he asked for five minutes ago. My thought process is:

  1. He could be telling the truth and has forgotten due to his dyspraxia

  2. He could have forgotten because the trauma of cleaning the bogey, and subsequently getting told off for pretending he didn’t know where the crisps were, has caused a heightened sense of anxiety often found in foster children, which has caused his thought process to shut down

  3. He‘s angry with me and wants to make my life difficult to pay me back. And also he‘s too lazy to look and wants me to do it for him.

I choose option 3. I tell Kaiden that I do not believe for one second that he’s forgotten what he’s looking for. Because I didn’t ask him to find anything, it was he who came to me to ask where something was. The tears start falling and Kaiden stubbornly denies that he can remember. He tells me he honestly doesn’t know what he’s supposed to be looking for. Now we have a battle of wills going on. Before I completely lose it I send him back into the kitchen to get on with it. I have a fleeting moment of wondering if he really doesn’t remember and then, when Kaiden realises his dad has opened the door to the pantry to look for the cereal, I hear him say; “Don‘t bother looking out there dad, there’s no cereal out there“. I call Kaiden in to ask him how he would know there’s no cereal if he had forgotten that’s what he was looking for. And the cycle continues.

So my point is, homeschooling a child with special educational needs or who comes from a care background, is very difficult. In my case I think if Kaiden didn’t have the background problems, I would be able to just accept that every single issue we face is due to dyspraxia, but I can’t do that. I know that it isn’t. Figuring it out is the hard part, getting it wrong is even harder. How do you know if you’re doing the right thing? How do you know if your approach is the right one? I suppose the only benefit is the more time you spend with your child which you inevitably will do with them being homeschooled, the more you will get to know them. Anyway, wish me look. It’s only 9am and our day has already started badly.

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