*Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, or sanity.
So today I was looking for an email to find out exactly when I took my PDA autistic and dyslexic son off roll and during the search inevitably all the old emails to his school popped up. I usually just scroll on by as they filme with a sense of shame that a) I failed to get the right support for my son to stay in school and b) that i became so upset and embarrassed myself. Today however I thought ‘hmm 8 wonder how those emails would look to me now?’ And in I went…
Much to my surprise what I found in those emails was an organised, concerned and engaged parent, not a bit of a neurotic mess, not abusive or unreasonable or demanding. Yet when I was writing those emails that was how I was made to feel. I was so honest with the school and the LA about my fears and my hopes and my need for their help to stop my son crashing out of education. Not only that but I managed to be all those things despite being on my sons third school.
The other thing that surprised me was how many solutions I was offering and not only how few they offered me but how little support they gave me in pursuing mine. I even tried to get my son into 2 separate independent schools and was. Told his support needs were too high for them to take him despite being told by mainstream state schools he had none. That woman I was who was dealing with so much personally (at the time must sister was terminally ill) was dignified, reasonable, respectful and so obviously had her child’s interests at heart was completely gaslighted by the powers that be. Their motivation could only of been lack of funding and fear of being ‘marked down’ by OFSTED if they accepted what I was saying to them. They had to get rid of us somehow, they even tried calling in social services with an accusation of medicalising my son despite (by this point) him having a diagnosis.
I have also had comments in the past from some activist parents who say you should keep your child on roll and fight for provision no matter what, that if you don’t manage to get it you need to stay in the system and try harder.. I say to those people you can not know the mental state of the child in the middle of all this, you can not know the LA’s position on that child or their funding situation, you can not know what is actually available on that ares unless you live their, let alone whether any of it is suitable for a particular child. Yes all children have a right to a suitable education but under the current system it can be next to impossible to find that and in the meantime some children (and parents) are having their mental health damaged in the process and their chances of being able to engage in any provision compromised as a result.
So I will not be ashamed any more of not getting the right support for my son, I don’t even know that the right support exists for most PDA children anywhere under the current system at least not for them to thrive. I acted with strength and integrity seeking support and when my sons mental health got to the point even he realised school was no longer a option I took him out as it is my job as a parent, first and foremost, to safeguard him. Even the LA and social services have since agreed it had been the making of him. Oddly though the LA still can’t help suggesting we give school another go but there is only one person in all of this I have a responsibility to and that’s my son and he is doing so well in HE and doesn’t have an desire to return so I will respect his wishes and fulfil my duty of care by going him the feeling of safety and the education he deserves.
So my message is clear;
- Don’t let anyone tell you that you are being unreasonable to expect a level of support suitable for your child to get the education they deserve
- Be aware that motives such as lack of funding may cause some professionals to quash your concerns or requests by any means necessary including gaslighting.
- Go with your gut as to what is right for your child.
- Do not feel you have to continue to fight the system if your child is being damaged just because others think you should.
- Your first duty of care is always to your child never be afraid or ashamed to stand up for that.
If you are going through this now remember one day you will be looking back on it, things change and you can only ever do your best and if that’s what your are doing then be proud you gave/are giving it all you had/have.