DM Case Study

Anxiety and Reluctance to Attend School

  • DM joined High Grange School on 13th May 2015
  • DM has had previous placements fail due to his anxieties. It was felt that he had been pushed too soon into attending schools for longer periods of the day. He has felt, along with his mother that his anxieties have been made worse by approaches that have not considered his very specific individual needs
  • DM has a history of significant school-related anxiety and stress which has resulted in a lack of engagement, poor attendance and school refusal. He also has anxieties about his mother’s ill health and worried about leaving her since he witnessed her having a seizure. His Statement refers to a January 2013 Educational Psychology report which describes DM as being “often in emotional turmoil.”
  • His original Statement issued in December 2013 identified his main needs in the areas of behavioural, emotional and social skills, self-esteem and cognition and learning due to specific difficulties with numeracy and literacy. His current EHCP is centred around outcomes which contain specific targets related to; educational, social and emotional needs
  • DM has a history of attending a number of different primary schools, a period of being home-educated and disrupted secondary schooling
  • Support services were put in place at his previous mainstream secondary school
  • An annual review in April 2014 raised concerns over DM attendance, emotional distress, social isolation, self-esteem and lack of progress. The review concluded that a change of placement was needed
  • At that time, DM had been referred to the CAMHS ASD service and in September 2014 a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder was confirmed
  • DM presented as an emotional student who was nervous, shy and experienced high anxiety levels
  • DM is very school phobic
  • DM is reported to be highly sensitive to the following; shouting, certain sounds, touch and changes to routine/plans. These are known triggers for increasing DM’s anxieties and according to his mother will lead to ‘fight or flight responses’ which he signals by smiling excessively, putting his hands over his ears, and saying ‘get off! or leave me alone!’ At these times, DM needs to go to a designated safe place
  • Additional negative sensory issues for DM include; water splashing on him, washing his hair, brushing his teeth, clothing textures (seams, tags, wool) and busy places. These can all increase DM’s anxieties
  • DM uses an inhaler when required (usually in winter time or if he has been around birds). He also takes Piriton when needed. He should take Movicol (re: constipation) but refuses because of the taste. In the past, he has experienced blackouts
  • He has no known allergies but does have sensitive skin and sugar intolerance which means he should not have granulated sugar
  • Food preferences include; pizza, chicken, blue cheese, sour sweets and chocolate. He dislikes olives
  • DM is interested in astronomy, computers, science, Lego and Magnetix. He used to like tennis
  • He dislikes English, specifically reading and writing
  • DM’s mother’s aspirations are for him ‘to enjoy going to school’
  • Initially DM looked around the school with his mother, Principal and Dr Chris Morrel. The visits were sort and positive. DM did not engage with other students on the visits
  • Initial meeting with the class teacher took place at a contact centre close to DM’s home. DM had requested a neutral ground as he felt so anxious
  • During initial visit, he quickly established a rapport with the teacher and they played video games on his phone for an hour
  • During initial meeting at the contact centre DM expressed that he felt he could manage an hour of school per day
  • DM travelled to and from school in a taxi with a class member of staff as an escort as he felt he was not ready to go on school transport with other students
  • One-to-one support at school from an experienced member of staff at all times
  • Individual visual lesson symbols approach set up on DM board by his desk allowing him to clearly see what his daily routine at school would be like
  • DM to have a safe place in school that he knew he could go to without restriction in the day if he felt he needed time out
  • Detailed Positive Behaviour Support Plan and At a Glance in place before DM started school so all staff could be knowledgeable about his needs before he started school to ensure all staff were dealing with DM behaviour consistently and with the understanding required
  • DM started school at the beginning of the Summer 2 term. A taxi with staff escort would pick him up from home at 8.30am to get DM into school for 9.00am. DM initially stayed for one hour, returning home at 10.30am after leaving school at 10.00am
  • Four weeks into the Summer 2 term DM requested that he extend his time to 11.00am, meaning he would get back home for 11.30 am
  • During the last week of the Summer 2 term (2015) DM accompanied his class group on a day trip to Drayton Manor. To access the trip, he needed to be in school at 8.45am. Derek agreed to arrive on school transport. DM accessed the trip for the entire day with his class and his mother picked him up from Drayton Manor at 2.30pm when other students returned to school
  • Autumn 1 term (2015). DM attended school agreeing to stay until 11.45am. He arrived at school on the 7th and 8th in a taxi and returned home on individual school transport
  • From the 9th September DM agreed to travel on morning school transport with other students, arriving in school at the start of the day (still leaving at 11.45)
  • From the 21st September DM agreed to increase his hours in school, completing five days per week, returning home at 1.30pm with a school escort (Lisa Thain TA) and individual school transport
  • From the week beginning 09/11/15 DM agreed to completing one full day in school on a Wednesday alongside his four days until 1.30pm
  • From Autumn 2 term 2016 DM improved his attendance and he indicated he wanted to come in to school full-time. DM was in school each day, 9.00am until 3.30pm although these times were littered with days off and periods of long absence. DM’s attendance improved as the academic year continued
  • As from September 2016 DM came into school full-time. He has had very regular attendance and by Summer 2 term (2017) it stood at 88.54% with any absences being authorised and due to illnesses
  • DM’s current rate of attendance is at 92.95% (Autumn term 1 2018). This takes into account a family holiday in week one due to family financial circumstances and ongoing medical condition which requires hospital visits
  • Due to a need to continue to nurture him, DM spent September 2016 to July 2017 in a ‘transition class’ covering missed Key Stage 3 work
  • In the academic year 2017/18 DM was based in one classroom as he felt he was not ready yet to move around specialist rooms in Upper School for all of his lessons
  • DM has been able to successfully transition to specialist lessons with additional teachers in many other parts of the school since September 2018
  • Strong relationship with class teacher and TA resulted in DM wanting to spend more time in classroom, attending school regularly, increase in self-confidence in achieving academically and is more willing to complete academic work
  • Regular pastoral sessions reduced DM anxieties as understanding of himself and his barriers to learning both academically, socially and emotionally grew
  • Consistent approach resulted in DM feeling happy, valued and not afraid to experience new learning
  • The assessment data shows that DM has improved by an average of one sub-level per term in Key Stage 3 overall since starting High Grange School
  • DM is now very happy to attend school. He is showing more independence in his learning as well as with his social skills
  • DM has developed a strong sense of responsibility to other students, where he has become a mentor to younger members of the school community
  • DM has gained a Level 3 Entry Level qualification in Geography (Summer 2 term 2017)
  • DM has gained a Level 3 Entry Level qualification in Design Technology (Summer 2 term 2018)
  • DM has gained a Grade 2 GCSE qualification in Maths (Summer 2 term 2018)
  • Short-course ASDAN English pass (Summer 2 term 2018)
  • DM has started his BTEC Science Level 2 qualification, to be completed by June 2020
  • DM now feels confident to challenge himself to gain further qualifications in the 2018/19 academic year

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