Sunday 22 November 2015

School trips... should they be compulsory or not?

A few months back, our autistic girl's year group were booked to go on school trips on two consecutive weeks. First was planned to be 30 minutes by train to London, and the second was by coach to some other destination, also not very local.
A few people reading this blog may enjoy this image..... ;)

For the first trip, I kept her off school as she was refusing to go and had extremely high anxiety about the travelling as well as the format of the day (it was to be a walk along the River Thames and a river boat trip back,geography or topic education I believe). As her Mum, I knew there was likely to be little about this trip that she personally would learn from (great for all the other children though), and that there could also be safety issues. We would struggle ourselves to do that kind of trip with her, so to make it along with 59 other children, even with individual support, was asking a lot of her and the TA.

We were then called and asked to take her into school for the day of the second trip, after we explained that her anxiety over any sort of travel longer than 20 minutes would just lead to refusal anyway. I'll admit to not being keen on the idea, as it seemed strange to me for her to be in school and the two classrooms where none of her other peers were, but our girl definitely preferred that idea over the school trip one and so we agreed to give it a go. There were many other issues around this, such as how strange and out of routine the whole day would be for her, who would she eat lunch with and play with at lunchtime when her year group had a separate playground at that stage etc.

However, the whole day ended up being remarkably successful. Could possibly have been because she had amazing individual support, and was given choices over what she could do.... she mingled with the older children in school and achieved that day more than she had any other day in that school year. What does that tell you? Well, what she told me was that it was so much better without all the other distractions, and that in essence the flexibility of the day worked well.

If only she could have individual teaching and do what she wanted every day, hey?! That sounds ideal for children with PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance), who struggle with high anxiety levels over too many demands placed on them. Is mainstream school the best place for those difficulties?

Thought I would end by including this great mind map which gives ideas and strategies on how to approach children with PDA (these could also work well at home):

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