Tuesday 13 March 2018

Drama club trial

Last Saturday, I got to enjoy the highs and lows of sitting in a coffee shop.
coffee in coffee shop

Yes, I know that sounds a little odd. Lots of people would not register going to a coffee shop as an exciting event, but for me, it is extremely unusual. Thirteen years ago, when our eldest was born, I did visit some local ones a handful of times, but over the years it has become a very rare activity indeed.

I’d love to say I was relaxing in that coffee shop at the weekend, but having just walked out of the building where I’d left Sasha, I was slightly on edge. She was trying a new drama club session. It’s a fully inclusive group, which of course means that it’s generally only children with additional needs who turn up.

Sasha was full of beans, bouncing around and eager to join in. There were other children there who were not so keen and I really felt for the mum whose children would not let go of her. I remembered when my eldest girl was younger and not confident or comfortable enough to let go of my hand. It never really happened with Sasha; the clinging wasn't there, but neither was the ability or desire to sit and pay attention to a group leader. All sorts of toddler groups which we had tried and enjoyed with our eldest dwindled to nothing.

This was not a toddler group however, it was drama aimed at slightly older children. There was a variety of ages and needs in the room; Sasha started off in a good mood, full of fun, playing tag with some younger boys. When she wanted the game to end and they didn’t however, she got frustrated with the one young boy who still wanted to follow her and be close to her, asking him to 'just leave me alone!'. Luckily the session leaders were very good and picked up on that quickly. They had a variety of strategies to make sure everyone was interested and that they joined in for as much of the time as possible. I had total admiration for how hard they were working!

I stood at the back of the room at first, watching what was going on and trying to gauge whether Sasha was enjoying it. I was surprised at how enthusiastic she was, given that our journey there had been slightly fraught. This drama group is in the next big town along from ours, an 18 minute drive away. After ten minutes of driving there, Sasha started to get very stressed and upset and declared it was too far - ‘it’s not taking 10 minutes, it’s 20 hours!’. She wasn’t convinced she wanted to carry on with our journey, and I had to gently persuade her on the grounds that if the drama class was fun, it would be worth it.

So I was surprised, but happy that everything seemed to be going so well, and when Sasha told me I could leave, I waited a bit longer, until she practically begged me to go. The room they were in was a basement room with no chairs around either inside or outside the building, and that's how I ended up in a coffee shop across the road.

Whilst enjoying my tea, I nervously wondered how it was going. Whilst I thought Sasha would enjoy the drama side of it all, I did think that the variety of characters in the room all calling out and doing their own thing might cause her some concern.

I wandered back over to collect Sasha at the end of the session and as the door opened, my heart sank. Sasha was on the floor, in what I call her 'mushroom' position. Head down, very hot, and with tears in her eyes, it was clear she had been there for a little while. She was upset that she hadn't been allowed to leave at the point at which it stopped being fun for her.

She insisted that it wasn't the other children, or the teachers, or anything that anyone had done, and that she really didn't know why she had got upset and angry. She just knew it wasn't fun any more, something had flipped and that was it. Game over. The day was finished off by somebody piling into the back of my car on the way home - luckily not much damage done, but it was a bit of a shock.

Sometimes, no matter how much we try and prepare Sasha for new experiences, and no matter how much information about her we give to other people, it still doesn't work. There's hardly ever a time where she would agree to go back and try again - I wrote recently about the trampolining sessions which were an exception to this.

This is another path in our lives which has a closed door now, and I feel sad. It's so difficult to persuade Sasha out of the house for any activities and it would have been a big positive for her to feel part of another group on a weekly basis.

What I can take from the weekend though, is the positive way in which Sasha reacted to the car accident. She was already upset about the drama session not working anyway, but she didn't get as distressed about the bump as I might have imagined she would. She listened to me and stayed fairly calm, which was a big relief.

Maybe the time for trying something new just wasn't right; in fact I know it wasn't ideal, it's just the way things worked out this time. Tomorrow will be her first full morning at her new school and we have all been experiencing extra tension from this long drawn-out process of late. Sasha has become noticeably more edgy, with bigger mood swings, and this is probably being driven by her 'nervous-citement' about getting back into a school after eight months at home.

Or, it could be puberty hormones. Or a mixture. Oh joy. Keep your fingers tightly crossed for us please, that this school placement works!

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