Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Parenting - A slap in the face

This morning while I was still in bed, groggy and sleepy and Ruby was doing her damnedest to coax me out of bed by bouncing on me and shouting "GET UP" in my face, we finally managed to snuggle down for a cuddle.

Then, out of the blue she told me something which came like a slap in the face to me.  She said that a boy at her nursery had been hitting her.  Further conversation lead to her telling me that he hits her 'lots of times in the face and it hurts'.  I asked what she had done when he hit her (hoping to God she didn't say she hit him back!).  She said she cried.

And what did the teachers do I asked.  They didn't know she replied.

The thought of my little girl crying, hurt and upset in some lonely corner of the nursery garden nearly broke my heart.  Swallowing down my initial reactions (which shockingly seemed to involve wanting to do the same back to this boy myself, and possibly his mother), we cuddled and I told her I would speak to her teachers, but if it ever happened again she must tell them straight away.

I asked her who the boy was - not that it particularly mattered who he was, but I wanted to be sure she could identify who the problem was with.  She told me a name, but it wasn't one I recognised.  I have no idea if he's new, how often he attends, how old he is, or anything about him. She's never mentioned him before.

Since starting at 'big nursery' a few months back, we've had an ongoing battle at home trying to counteract bad behaviour and habits she's started with.  Has she picked these up from other children? Maybe. Probably.  But I guess all kids and parents go through this when their little ones start mixing in a wider circle.  We've had several conversations about how it's not ok to hit/kick/spit/speak to mummy like that. 

Dropping her off today, she was clingy, quiet and clutching her tummy - another recent trait she seems to have adopted every time she doesn't want to do something. 

I spoke to one of the teachers.  She didn't seem surprised when I told her, nor was she surprised at the name.  "We are aware of the situation with this child" she said - although they clearly weren't aware that Ruby had been hit.  She apologised for that but informed me that the child in question has special needs and is receiving one-to-one support in nursery.

Well, I'm sorry, but it's not very good bloody one-to-one support if he can repeatedly hit a 3 year old in the face and it goes completely unnoticed!  Where were they??

The staff member didn't go into details with me (presumably for reasons of confidentiality?) but she explained to Ruby that the boy doesn't mean to hurt anyone. It's just that he doesn't speak and sometimes he can only communicate by hitting out.

She them said to me that this particular boy is somewhat of a 'whirlwind' and the children often hear his name being called out by staff.  Therefore, his name is quite often the one that children will latch onto when they have a problem.

Dilemma!  I completely understand how difficult this must be for the boy and his parents for that matter.  I've talked to parent's of children with special needs and hear about the problems of labelling, the shunning and exclusion from groups, and the fact that 'difficult' children are sometimes turned into scapegoats.

On the other hand, my daughter is not a tell-tale.  She doesn't tell lies. It's taken her over 2 weeks to confide in me that this is happening.

Now.  What am I left feeling?  Whatever the issues this child is dealing with (I don't know the full details of his needs), it's not ok that my child is getting hit.  It's never ok surely?

Another mum at the nursery told me her son was being punched by a child.  She told me she'd raised it with the staff but it's still happening.  I don't know if it is the same child involved or not, but if it is are they really dealing with this?

I guess all I can do is keep talking to Ruby and hope that it doesn't happen again. It's a difficult lesson to teach a 3 year old though, that's it's bad to hit others, but that this child does it and he can't help it and doesn't mean it.

Do you have any thoughts or advice for me?


  1. I think that you should definately, have reglar contact with the setting and remind them that they have the responsibility to care for all children. Also advising you on how the child is special needs seems like a cop out in some ways, and the one-to one support should be around more potentially. I would ask the setting what support they will put in place to ensure your daughter comes to no further harm, as they should be intervening as the child "turns" and it does not seem like this is occuring. From my classroom experience the child should be given more responsibility and where necessary removed. I understand he could be labelled but i think the staff seem to be doing that already by drawing attention to the issue in an inappropriate way

  2. I don't have any real life experience to help you but in my opinion it does not matter what his reasons are for hitting, but that the nursery should be protecting all the children in their care and it sounds like they are not doing that, firstly by not knowing your daughter has been hit but secondly by virtually condoning his behaviour, its ok to explain to an adult that a child cannot communicate and sometimes lashes out but a 3 year old shouldn't have to deal with it.

    I really hope it gets resolved for you!

  3. Oh my goodness - what a dilemma. I can see this from all sides (having a brother with Aspergers who used to lash out when provoked) but hitting a child out of view of the teachers is clearly more than that. I hope you can successfully reslove this issue before it takes too much of a toll on your little one. x

  4. Having worked with children in a variety of settings (live in nanny, creche, special schools) I would like to reassure you that this isn't a supervision issue. I worked in one class with 9 pupils and 7 staff, yet every day there were 'incidents'. Predicting, preventing and dealing with such behaviour is incredibly difficult. I would ask to see the nursery policy on behaviour, ask that you see an incident report every time anything happens to Ruby so you can chat about it, and ask what behaviour management training the boy's 1:1 staff has had. You may be doing the nursery a favour with the last question, as it may be a catalyst for extra training. Behaviour management is an area of speciality often overlooked. E-mail me at Lucyabberleyatgmaildotcom if you'd like to discuss any further. I worked with some excellent teachers who specialized in challenging behaviour.

  5. I don't really have any advice, but my thoughts are that it is totally unacceptable that they are just telling your child (who is saying she is being hurt)that he doesn't mean it..If they are aware of his SEN they have a responsibility to him & your DD and it is not acceptable for them to shirk that. My gripe would be with the nursery, I think they are seriously in the wrong, they have duty of care to *all* children in their care, yet they were unaware?? My health visitor also does visits/checks on nurserys, could you speak to your health visitor? And as for your DD telling tales...well..that has made me sodding angry! What a cop out on their part!

  6. Thank you thank you all for your excellent advice and your support.

    I'm really out of my depth here and don't know how to approach it. It's almost like it's a taboo to raise it because there are SEN involved, which is so wrong.

    Lucewoman - thank you. I'll talk to other half about it - it's only come up this morning and i may take you up on your offer.

    I think you guys are right - the nursery seems to be using this as a bit of a cop-out and not actually dealing with the issue x


  7. Whether the child has special needs or not he should be steered away from bad behaviour, it sounds to me like the nursery are trying to make the children accept that this lad has problems and will hit them, instead of tackling the tougher issue of letting him know his behaviour is unacceptable.
    My son has special needs and can still get violent even at 17, but I would never say to anyone that they just have to put up with it!
    Whether the little boy means it or not, it still hurts and can potentially cause psychological damage. Keep talking to them and make a pain of yourself if necessary, that may be what it takes to get through to them, to make their easy option a bit more difficult.
    Sorry if this doesn't make much sense, but I'm half asleep and have had nowhere near enough caffeine yet!

  8. Big hug! All I can say is keep on the teacher's backs and get this resolved. No matter what special needs a child it is not okay to hit another child. My son has a one to one support worker because of his allergies and she is always with him so like you I am wondering where this boy's support worker is.

    I think for Ruby's sake, be a nuisance Mum and demand something be done about it. At this tender age it's important they enjoy nursery and don't associate any negativity with schooling. You get in there and sort those teachers out.

  9. big hugs, Just wanted to say you aren't alone in feling like this. my son has a special needs lad in his class at school. There seem to be regular incidents involving him, sometimes its my son (pencil thrown at head on 1st day, chin split open on play equipment) sometimes its other children (one boy had his bottom bitten and has to go to hospital for jabs as it drew blood!). Other times my son says this lad is his friend and they've been playing nicely! the school knows whats going on but they have to accomadate all the childrens needs.
    Anyway, should do some work! hugs to you and ruby. x

  10. Having read through your comments, I feel obliged to defend special needs children, having a child with autism myself. It is most definitely not okay for ANY child to hit another and it is very much a failing on the part of the nursery staff to not have informed you of this incident. It is also a massive failing as far as training is concerned as children with special needs should never, ever be made to feel "different" or segregated from their peers. It seems to me that this nursery does not have the qualified staff, whether they are one-to-one or not, to deal with special needs children and it is disgusting that they have blamed his special needs on the hitting. I would take my child out of the nursery immediately if she were mine. Incompetent staff are useless for any child; it takes a special kind of person to manage a child with special needs and if they are happy for such a child to attend their environment, they should be happy to employ staff with 100% relevant experience.

    It angers me so very much when I hear "special needs" being blamed for a child's actions. That boy cannot be held responsible at such a young age, but he must be taught, in a specialised way, that aggression is not the correct way to communicate. His parents should be addressing this issue with immediate effect, and he should be in receipt of communication therapy, which he is entitled to, as is any child.

    To take a child with special needs out of the class and segregate them from their friends is THE worst thing a professional education environment can do. They will never improve their social skills if this happens, which is why qualified and experienced staff are so very, very important. At three years old, ANY child can be found to have special needs, it is the most common age for this discovery to be made. No one has a perfect child, but we do all love them unconditionally. I know it's hard, but please try not to be too hard on the boy. His parents need educating, as do the nursery staff. It isn't the child's fault that he has special needs.

    CJ xx

  11. I have two children of nursery age. One hits and bites, the other has been hit and bitten. Both sides are tough for parents. I had a meeting with nursery, and we discussed strategies. Things improved drastically, my child hits less. I also met my eldest's keyworker to discuss why she was unsettled, she soon settled. Our nursery is rated ofsted outstanding, But small children will always be antisocial. We worked together though and that is the key I think, nursery building on your expertise. And meeting at a scheduled time with no kids around!
    Good Luck :)
    Good luck,

  12. Coming from a background working with children in nursery's childminding and special needs school and being a nanny this really angers me from both sides. Firstly being a mother and having your child hit and no one doing anything about it and secondly just copping out by saying that the child has SEN. I would ask to see an incident report everytime something happens, you need to know how often this is actually happening and they should be showing you that anyway. I have always been given an incident report if something has happened at the school. Also I really think you should ask about the childs one to one support I totally agree with CJ it takes a special person to work with SEN and if they are not trained right then there are issues.

    I really hope you get it sorted good luck xx

  13. As far as i would be concerned it is the teachers responsability to make sure that the child with special needs is supervised at all times if he is continually hitting other children!!
    katie was having problems at school a while back with a pupil who kept hurting her and i contacted the teacher to be fobbed off with the fact he didn't spk english so didnt understand! Well i ment mad at them and it got sorted i wasn't just going to be fobbed off!
    At the end of the day you dont want your little girl getting hit by another child and you have a right to demand something be done to prevent it!
    Children with special needs need teachers who are trained to deal with them to teach them what is right and wrong, katie has a couple of children in her class with autism but those children have come on in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years due to the support workers they have and they are never left out or treated any differently by the other children!
    Hope you manage to get this sorted and hope little ruby is ok x x
    missdaisy :)

  14. Obviously the one to one supervision isn't working currently. It might be inadequate training of that staff member or it could be that there is a management issue - is that staff member expected to do other duties too e.g. Prepare food that take them away from their duties? Or does the problem arise when they go to the loo say? It doesn't really matter which it is in some ways, as it's a failure of the nursery management to deal with an ongoing issue. I would speak to the manager & monitor the situation for a little while. Of they don't move quickly, then I think you will need to consider whether to move your daughter.

  15. I think you have had some fantastic advice here from both sides.
    I am a parent who has gone through exactly what you and Ruby are describing - and a deputy headteacher who is very pro inclusion.
    Look at the behaviour policy, discuss the training of the 1:1, ask what communication methods they are using to support the child who is lashing out as a form of communication (Makaton, PECS etc) Are they getting advice from behaviour specialists, ed psychologist etc
    Ensure that the parents are working with the setting.
    Are they analysing each incident (look at what was happening immediately before the incident -as it probably caused the incident, the behaviour and the consequence. In my experience (too long!!) it is very rare not to be able to spot patterns and then predict behaviours.
    Regularly ask questions and ask for an updates.
    Good luck - and thank you for thinking of not only your daughter but also the other child here that is so obviously in need of more specialist help. I think you asking loads of questions of the setting will benefit both.

  16. Love the fact that blogger will only let you comment as anonymous on your own blog lol!

    Anyway back to the issue.

    I can really only echo what other people have said. My DD is currently going through the process of being diagnosed with Aspergers but I never tolerate antisocial behaviour and she is disciplined for such - her special needs help me to understand why she behaves like that but it is not an excuse or a reason to allow that behaviour to continue. Fortunately she isn't a hitter. She gets one to one care as needed at nursery but it isn't constant. I would be mortified if I found out she had been hitting children and would meet with the school immediately to resolve the problem and find out what they had in place to deal with it.

    It does sound as if your daughter's nursery is not up to coping with a child with special needs - do they have a designated special needs coordinator? And is the nursery linked to the school? I would not want my daughter with her special needs at a school or nursery where they obviously are not equipped to cope with such. Personally I rely heavily on my nursery to advise me on what tactics to use and how to deal with DDs Aspergers as they have more experience than I do. Allowing the child to hit other children because 'he has special needs' doesn't help that child!!

    It's such a hard call to make. It would certainly raise warning bells in my head as to whether I wanted my children to attend that nursery. If there are reasons why you can't remove her from that nursery then you may want to raise the matter with the management, or certainly a higher member of staff than you spoke to originally.

  17. Oh I am so sorry Ruby is going through this. It must be difficult when the child in question has special needs, but like others have already said, it still needs to be dealt with as unacceptable behaviour. Like you say, if he was having one to one care, why didn't they notice? AT the end of the day, they are responsible for the welfare of all the children whilst in their care, so I think a meeting would be beneficial.

    Bug hugs xx

  18. Really sorry your little Ruby has been suffering at school. It sounds to me that the little boy with special needs is not being properly supervised.

    By the nursery letting his agressive behaviour continue then this will surely result in the little lad being eventually completed allienated and that is also not fair on him just as much as his violence is on the other kids. His needs are not being met so the other kids are suffering.

    Personally I would question the support workers qualifications and if the hitting continues then I'd change nursery x

  19. Thanks everyone for your excellent advice and support.

    It's really helpful to get so many perspectives on this. I have a meeting arranged for tomorrow with the nursery manager to discuss. I'll keep you posted! x


  20. So sorry to hear this - makes my blood boil. Poor Ruby.

    I know what I'd be doing in your situation, and that would be moving my child to an alternative nursery with immediate effect.

    Clearly the staff are aware of this child's 'issues' or whatever they like to call them these days, and they claim he has one to one supervision, but if this is the case, how has your daughter been hit in the face by him numerous times on more than one occasion without a member of staff seeing this? Don't know how old your daughter is, or what the staff ratios are like in her nursery, but it doesn't sound acceptable on any level to me that children are being left unsupervised to hit each other in any type of establishment, let alone one for pre-school age kids.

    Really hope you get it sorted, Lizzie. x

  21. I have just had a chance to read this post, and as I was reading I felt first your hurt, and want to protect your child, and how I would have wanted to do the same as you having been told the same! but as I read on I then felt a pang of guilt, the reason for this is my little boy has just started pre school he does'nt speak and like this little boy can hit out though frustration and lack of communication.
    I get regular reports and they are not always good, as he has just started I am hoping it will settle down. Having said all that, I know that the teachers are dealing with him in the right way, like many of your other comments, it sounds like this child is not being as carefully watched as he should. I really hope that this gets sorted for you soon.
    Keep me posted
    Justine x

  22. It's a shame to hear you daughter has been hurt like this, and in general a sad situation. I have younger sister, 24, whom works with special needs children, the secondary school took her on as a teachers assistant, 6months ago she was asked to work with an autistic 13yo blind girl, as a one to one carer. My sister is employed through an agency, the child repeatedly digs her long nails into my sister hands and slashes out and hits my sister. My sister explained their isn't anything that can be done, this is part other job, being part of agency staff she can be replaced and lose her job.
    She has become very sad, and is now looking for a placement with able-bodied children.
    It sounds to me it is very difficult to find the right carers for some children, its hard to point the finger to blame. I really felt my sister had been given a job where she needed have the experience to look after. The girl is know for doing this and the other carers don't get involved. Who is to blame, the special needs school, the Childs parents?
    The pleasure my sister had from helping to care with children has now gone! It's a shame because her other experiences have been loving and happy.
    I wish you and your daughter all the best, and hope the child gets the proper care they require.

  23. What am dilemma! Poor Ruby, it must awful for you too to hear that she's not been happy. Hope it has resolved itself now? You had some great advice, I wouldn't know where to start and am not always very good at diplomacy!
    The more I hear about these sorts of things the happier I am that we Home Ed, the first two went through school pretty unscathed mind, am just being selfish with my last two babies :) x

  24. Thanks Mumma bunny and LondonBirdLucy.

    I did call a meeting with the nursery manager and her key worker. I though it was resolved, but she's still reluctant to go. Thankfully we're moving house soon so only a few more weeks to go. xx