Neither here nor there: a family update

Not for the first time, our heads are spinning at another round of disappointments and uncertainties. When are we going to get Joanna an appropriate special school place? And which country will it be in? The long-running Meadows family saga continues…

special school

The end of Plan A

Yesterday we heard that the SEMH school we’ve been fighting for for Joanna for two years has decided not to offer her a place, despite having visited her in her mainstream school and having previously given verbal assurances that she would be welcome there. (You can read The fight begins or Post-adoption support and the special school saga for the background.) The reasons are spurious but we don’t hold out much hope of changing their minds, and after all this time and the various hurdles along the way, we’re running out of steam for the fight.

I can’t tell her yet; she’ll be devastated, having built this place up in her imagination to resemble some mythical melange of Hogwarts and Malory Towers, where everyone understands trauma, she has wraparound support, and there is occupational therapy on tap. As it stands, we are still due to have an EHCP tribunal in three weeks’ time, although I presume that is now in question given that the primary objective of naming a different school seems to be off the table.

So what now?

Plan B: Emigration

On to Plan B. Our hope is currently pinned on the ongoing discussions about a job for Pete in Copenhagen. He works for an international charity and has always got on well with his colleagues their Danish branch. They have a vacancy, thought of him, and recently he went over to see them and talk about it all. They then said it would take them another couple of weeks to work it all out. That fortnight finishes this weekend, so we’re hoping to hear by tomorrow. I would say I’m trying not to get too attached to the idea of emigrating, but that wouldn’t be true at all. I desperately want to.

Moving to Denmark might sound drastic, but we’re hopeful that it could be really helpful for all of us. Leaving Brexit (grr) aside for a moment and assuming we’ll continue to have the right to access everything, the Danish education system is excellent and geared towards SEND inclusivity wherever possible, everything seems to be joined up and efficient, and frankly it can’t possibly be any worse than our experience of being repeatedly put through the wringer here, so what have we got to lose?

The vast majority of our support happens online anyway, with the exception of my parents (who’d be an 80-minute flight away) and one friend who travels a lot internationally and I’m sure would be happy to pop in occasionally. There are plenty of great psychologists in Copenhagen (the schools even seem to have one in-house as standard) and childcare is heavily subsidised to allow all parents to work. Sign me up right now, please.

Plan C

If neither our chosen school or the new job work out, what then? I think Plan C would be to continue to home educate both girls as I have been doing since June, when her mainstream school gave up. It’s not without its challenges, such as ongoing CPV and the girls’ astounding ability to annoy each other almost constantly by breathing/looking in the other’s direction/sitting in the wrong place/existing. It’s not easy to referee all that and try to engage them in learning and retain my sanity and get any work of my own done. I genuinely love my work and I miss being able to do more of it. But at least the girls aren’t having to mask any of their anxiety when they’re at home with me.

Plan D

Plan D would be to get Charlotte back into school so I could focus on home educating Joanna. Her EHCP says she’s fine in mainstream, though Pete and I are really not convinced by that. Charlotte has learning difficulties caused by pFAS. She is also autistic and has ADHD. Everything is too much and not enough; she cannot sit still and concentrate, and even when she does manage it for a while, the pFAS means her working memory is so poor that it’s like trying to knit with spaghetti – it all just unravels and she gets frustrated, though in school she masks all this very well, so to the untrained eye she appears to be coping.

I’ve discovered that she learns best through the medium of video (thank goodness for educational YouTube channels), combined with lots of time outdoors. Quite how a British mainstream school caters for that I’m not sure. But maybe we could make something work for her, and fight to get her EHCP changed (though I might need a while to work up the energy required for that).

Practicalities

How is this impacting our daily life right now?

I’m Kondo-ing the house in hope of moving and needing to drastically downsize. Here, we live in a four-bedroom house, and Copenhagen apartments are basically like those Ikea-style bedsits with a sofabed that folds away and turns into a kitchen. I exaggerate slightly but you get the idea. SMALL. I have no problem with this: less cleaning to do – but we have way too much stuff to even think about taking it all with us. 

I’m job-hunting. This means looking for either more freelance writing/editing work or an in-house job in Copenhagen (in English). Assuming we were to move in late April/early May, and the girls started at the local mainstream school within a couple of weeks, I could be working again by the end of May and taking advantage of all that lovely subsidised childcare.

We’re all learning Danish. All four of us have the Duolingo app and even Charlotte can confidently announce ‘Kvinden spiser ost’ (The woman eats cheese). Always useful…

We’re saving up. It’s usual to pay a deposit of three months’ rent in advance when renting an apartment in Copenhagen. We’re hoping this will be *mostly* covered by selling our car but yes, YIKES, the prices are high. I have forsaken Tesco deliveries for visits to Aldi. We’ll also be selling a fair amount of furniture and stuff if the move goes ahead, and renting out our house. But it’s going by to be a bit tight for a while unless I can get some work.

We’re following Brexit news more closely than ever. Pete and I are passionate remainers (I really hope this is obvious if you follow me on Twitter) and hope the whole business is cancelled. But failing that, a delay of a few months would make things considerably easier. It would mean we’d be able to register as resident in Denmark and thus be entitled to the pre-Brexit rights of EU citizens, even post-Brexit (because the Danes are nice like that).

We’re living on tenterhooks. As usual, it feels as though like is on hold, waiting for someone else to make another life-changing decision for us. It’s been school, and post-adoption support, and two rounds of safeguarding nonsense, and CAMHS waiting lists and FASD clinic waiting lists and all the rest of it for such a long time that this feeling of being in limbo has become almost normal. That doesn’t make it any more fun. I want to settle. And if it takes moving countries and learning a new language to do that, I’m very much OK with that.

Tell me we’re not alone?

What’s the most drastic thing you’ve done for your family and/or your sanity? I’d love to hear about it.

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3 Comments

  1. Sarah McKinnon
    2 March 2019 / 10:22 am

    Most drastic thing….just bought a small 2nd house in another part of country in hope we win tribunal and LA agree to fund our sons place at independent special school in said part of country!! If tribunal fails will use the house to escape once a week and prioritise self care! Our life is generally on the drastic scale as we battle to get our son an approriate education or any education!

  2. 6 March 2019 / 9:39 pm

    Giving up work for the last 8 years to firstly home educate them be at home “just in case”. Shattered and fed up of fighting for support but will never give up.

  3. 8 March 2019 / 6:34 pm

    The most drastic thing we did was sell up our house to pay off debts & buy some land. It was hugely unsettling for us all & terribly stressful as we had to move house twice within 6 months, but I wouldn’t change any of it. We now have a beautiful piece of land where we are planting a permaculture food forest as our legacy for our daughter & planet …. we have just ordered a shed so our daughter can have her own indoor chill out space there & a base to enjoy nature & we live in beautiful rented wee cottage near the woods & sea. Life ain’t all rosy but we have breathing space now & we feel so fortunate to have that. Good luck with your journey which will be challenging, but you will all grow.

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