It's possible you won't like me very much after this, especially if I start off with a nice sweeping statement along the lines of 'I really don't like the parents of children with learning disabilities'. Sounds really awful, doesn't it? I know you're judging me, don't worry, I feel bad already.
Here's the thing. Every week we 'attempt' to get to a playgroup aimed at 2 to 3 year olds who wish to follow on to the nursery at age 3. Invariably we end up missing it as Hamish has recorded it somewhere in his brain that Wednesdays are the day that he should eaither have a late morning nap or a very early afternoon nap. Orla is the person with the place at the playgroup but siblings are allowed to come along and play for an additional charge. So there are two children who go both with different learning disabilities. Both from different families. Both of these children hit the other children on a fairly regular basis. The policy on discipline is that although their are 2 play leaders, because the parents are there with their child/children it is there responsibility to resolve any issues such as hitting.
So, the first thing that happened on our first week there was that the boy, let's call him Sam, came over to the reading area where the children were all sitting singing nursery rhymes with one of the leaders, and he picked up the chair next to Hamish and swung it at his head. Hamish had a narrow miss and I got a bit of a surprise. Sam's dad was standing behind him and I turned to look at him to catch his eye in a 'Whoa, what was that all about?' manner. His face was expressionless and he didn't say anything, even as Sam picked the chair up again to try again. Never having been in this situation before I just moved Hamish away and said nothing not wanting to make a scene in front of the other parents.
After that I just kept Orla and Hamish away from where Sam was so that I didn't have to deal with any problems as it became clear that Sam hits quite a lot with some force, though he seems to be keen on hitting his younger sister more than anyone else. Today though Orla was on a trike and cycled past Sam who took a step towards her as she went past and hit her in the face as she went past. Orla just took it and as his mum wasn't around I thought 'I'll just leave it. It doesn't matter'. A few minutes later though I saw Sam hit his sister so hard in the stomach that she flew backwards off her feet and landed hitting her head off the ground. Their mother came over and asked the now hysterical daughter what happened. As she couldn't speak for crying I went over and said that her brother had hit her very hard and it looked very sore. To my astonishment the mum started to talk to her daughter about her 'falling over' completely taking Sam's part in the incident out of the equation. It was a bit odd to be honest. But I couldn't help but think how confusing it must be for the little girl if she is always being told that she's 'just had a silly fall' etc even though she would be aware that it wouldn't have happened if Sam hadn't been involved.
Now ok, I don't know anything about bringing up children with learning difficulties, but I find Sam's parents attitude to his behaviour and how it affects others a bit annoying. In other shoving, hitting incidents where Orla or another child has been involved both his parents who normally witness the act tend to say nothing either to the other parent or to Sam. Their faces and attitude by just ignoring what he does seems to say 'He has a problem, therefore he can do what he wants'. To be honest it really makes me angry and there have been occaisions at the Playgroup where he has been hellbent on smacking Orla that I feel like I have an extra child to look out for because his parents don't. Of course my problem is that I don't say anything to them about what he's doing because their body language and attitude make me feel like I would end up looking like a really awful person picking on the poor boy who can't help it. Call me overly concerned about other people's attitudes towards me but I really don't want to have a scene in front of the other parents.
The other child with learning difficulties belongs to a different family and comes with her mum. We'll call her Lily. (Of course I could be using their proper names, but you'll never know). Lily seems to focus her hitting solely on Orla. Lily was really premature and when we first met her she used a walker to help her get around. Even when using her walker the first time she hit Orla she managed to hold on with one hand and use the base of her palm to smack Orla square in the face and knock her off her feet. I had thought it was a one off and (once again) just left it, but minutes later she was back again and yanked her arm and hit her in the face once more. Lily fell over once she'd done it so I picked her up and took her over to her mother and told her I was bringing her over as she had hit Orla. Her mother who had been busy chatting and hadn't seen it didn't say anything. Not even a 'sorry about that'. Lily hit Orla again at another session and I went to her mother and once again told her that Lily had hit Orla. Once again, her mother's response was minimal.So said 'oh.'.
I saw her afterwards in Tesco and she stopped to chat and told me that the reason Lily hits so much and so hard is that she has an older brother and they are always hitting each other. Her view was that this was perfectly acceptable and went on to suggest that Orla should just hit Lily back. What?? I was so incredulous about this I didn't even argue the point, that I don't want my daughter hitting and I don't find it acceptable behaviour. Never mind what the other parents at the playgroup would think if they saw me going 'Go on Orla! Hit her hard in the face!'. Seriously, can you imagine their faces? So Lily managed to get a good swipe at the side of Orla's face today when we weren't expecting it. Once again Orla just took it and didn't say anything. This is driving me mad. She seems happy to accept that other kids will hit her and she just has to put up with it. Anyway more words with Lily's mum and I told her I didn't find it acceptable. Still no apology or anything.
I feel bad that I am putting Orla in this situation, and I feel unsure of how to deal with the situation. I don't blame the kids, but I do think the parents attitudes are appalling. Anyway, I have decided we are quitting the playgroup, and I am training Orla into saying 'Stop! That's naughty' and coming to tell me and hopefully avoiding getting hit, but I don't know what else to do. Is there even any point in me taking her out of the situation if she's going to end up in a similar situation maybe at nursery or at school where I can't remove her from the situation?