Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland, Happy in School

Your autism/ADHD tribe

A recent group of #happyinschool-ers enjoyed the project so much, in particular the friendship they provided for each other, they decided to set up a WhatsApp group. Think about that for a minute. They opted to stay in contact, rather than drift off to continue their struggle alone, like lily pads on a lake. They have created their own community of empowered parents, enriched with the knowledge, confidence and the belief in their power to influence and support their child’s education.

What excites me most about the natural group dynamic is the ‘opting in’ nature of it. Lots of groups fail because the joining in feels forced; this happens all the time in the corporate sector.  But when a group willingly gets together with common goal and shared experiences, huge power and potential lives at the core of it.

All parents will testify that everything changes when you’re raising kids, you have to constantly shift your decision-making and boundary-setting, to accommodate your developing child. But for parents of children with SEN, the rate of change is accelerated. Calm waters at school can break into an angry storm within days, minutes. Many small things can create BIG changes in children with SEN:

  1. Transition to new school, year group, classroom.
  2. Change in route to school.
  3. Something different for breakfast.
  4. Waking up somewhere different.
  5. A new jumper, pair of shoes etc.,
  6. New environmental factors: a new teacher, new room or setting, a different position in the classroom, a slight change in routine.

Sometimes, that change is so minuscule, and the impact on the child so huge, it’s difficult to identify what the trigger was. Such is the nature of managing children with special educational needs. It’s a dynamic, ever-changing situation.

The #happyinschool project encourages parents to bond, work together, sharing ideas and suggestions, particularly if their children are of a similar age. The peer support of other autism parents is reminder that we all need to constantly re-adjust, revise and review what’s happening with our children’s learning and happiness in school, as it can change in the blink of an eye. Knowing that someone else has experienced a similar thing will help you to react calmly and rationally, swinging into ‘constructive response pattern’, (the subject of my next blog possibly), rather than press the ‘blame’ button which results in wasted energy, frustration and no actual solution.

One of my watch words is emPOWered parents, the P.O.W. stands for Parents on Wheels! I use this analogy because wheels are all about motion, movement (hopefully in a forwards direction(!) and travelling somewhere, a journey. The autism/ADHD parent journey can be uncomfortable, so travelling with a few trusted friends or confidantes is highly recommended. It can help you see where you’re going and maybe, just maybe, you will enjoy the ride a little.

Warm thanks to everyone who’s already experienced the #happyinschool project. If you haven’t and you’re interested, do get in touch. Click here for Details of the next session

© Suzy Rowland


Education, SEND, Autism, ADHD, hidden disability, Suzy Rowland, Events

Aim High

So many children and young people are disadvantaged by their learning difficulties or neurological difference. I believe that every child or young person should be encouraged to be the best they can, supported, stretched. Praised for their efforts and achievement; there is always space to grow, learn all of which can improve self-esteem and a sense of well-being and happiness.

Difference doesn’t need to be a short-hand for disadvantage. The routes for learning are many and varied, it is our job as parents and educators to find as many entry points to learning as possible. We all know what the barriers are, many children are stumbling over them every day. There are many creative ways to access channels to learning but our education system has chopped them down to a few. Many talented, educators and pupils find these few routes restrictive, uninspiring. But there are others ways; not all of them costly.

My concern is that currently teachers just can’t spare the time to explore new and alternative learning styles in a busy mainstream classroom, as so eloquently explained in this opinion piece: But I’m optimistic when I read about a 16-year old autism advocate who is promoting a NeuroDiversity Celebration Week between Ma7 13 – 17, asking headteachers and SENCOs to sign up. Will you share it with your place of learning: 

I will be talking all things education, diversity, autism, and inclusion in a couple of week’s at Khembe’s Return to Your Roots in Birmingham, UK. Would love to see you there.

I would love to hear your thoughts?

Next up on the blog… if campaigning and taking to the streets isn’t your style…

© Suzy Rowland

Events, Happy in School

#happyinschool in the Hamptons!

Sounds rather grand doesn’t it? Hampton Court Palace isn’t far but don’t let that fool you. The Hamptons is a lovely place to live and comprises Hampton Village, Hampton Court (home to the palace), Hampton Wick, just a hop from Kingston Upon Thames and Hampton Hill, not too far away from neighbouring Teddington. But just like every town and and city in the UK, the Hamptons is home to a variety of families, experiencing very different lives.

I can’t wait to host the #happyinschool workshops at the Greenwood Centre; it’s a great local community centre, with several nursery schools, infant and junior schools within walking distance. The Greenwood Centre used to have its own charity shop and newsletter but sadly both are wound up. I think it’s important to support local community centres and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of parents.

In my capacity of #happyinschool project founder and principal trainer, I meet parents from all walks of life, who have children with disabilities. It’s a real eye-opener; disability of any type, is a great leveller. I love how parents relate stories about their kids and the things they do to support their experience of the world.

One parent purchased about twenty boxes of  cereal with a cartoon character that their boy loved, only to discover a few week’s later, that his obsession with that character had passed! A mother revealed that she buys highly calorific snacks for her child, as his heightened sensory responses to certain foods have resulted in weight loss. Then there’s the parent who get to work late, travelling in the rush hour, so her daughter can be dropped off to school at the exact time when the children are going into the classroom. Why does she do this? Because her daughter doesn’t like waiting in the playground in the mornings – the noise levels and intense pre-school conversations cause her anxiety levels to rise significantly. Not the best start to her day. All of these different experiences bind us together.

confused child
#happyinschool  – a unique tribe of parents

One of the most powerful things we discuss in the #happyinschool sessions, is how to articulate our child’s needs without resorting to anger, sarcasm or passivity. Feelings can run high when parents and educators are in discussions about what accommodations are reasonable for a child with additional needs. Due to funding challenges, changes in the law and school behaviour policies, conditions are perfect for opprobrium on both sides.

Learning how to recognise our behaviours under pressure and that of our children and their teachers, is a powerful step towards reaching a successful outcome. Although in reality, it’s just one step of many.

Tickets for Greenwood Centre:

Join the #happyinschool tribe over on Facebook:

© Suzy Rowland