#ThriveImpact: "Full of false smiles and false confidence" - one mother's story of transformation

27th January 2022 | Blogs

We love hearing from settings that have embedded the Thrive Approach® about the difference it has made to the lives of young people and their families. The below is a letter received by Tuition Extra, about one family’s experience of the setting and its Thrive Lead, Amanda Thompson (pictured). Tuition Extra is a Kent-based bespoke education service and alternative SEN provision, which provides specialist one-to-one tutoring and creative therapeutic support. They work to remove barriers to learning and understand that behaviour is communication.

The letter is from the parent of 15-year-old Beth who initially attended Tuition Extra purely for Thrive® sessions which have enabled her to progress to face-to-face academic lessons and music sessions at Tuition Extra’s on-site recording studio.  At the same time, Amanda has been supporting Beth’s mother through the Family Thrive course and continuing weekly coffee morning sessions where parents and care givers are encouraged to drop in for a supportive chat.

“When we were first introduced to Tuition Extra just over a year ago, I didn't hold out very much hope for success. Beth was 15 years-old and she'd had a lifetime of being let down and being misunderstood by everyone that met her, including us, her parents. It was a case of ‘here we go again’ and waiting for things to go wrong.

Once again, I was waiting for those veiled, or often blatant, accusations of being that ridiculous, over-anxious, over-protective parent and me being ‘that mother’, yet again. I think it's fair to say that we both felt completely traumatised by the events of the past five years, in addition to Beth's initial early years trauma and attachment issues.

But, despite this, both Beth and I started the journey again, albeit with false smiles, trying desperately to trust but actually trusting no-one. We'd been there too many times before. Only as I write this, have I realised how much we mirrored each other and probably still do (Amanda would be proud that I can now recognise this!) So, Beth had her warrior face on from day one – a jolly, chatty, extrovert who was full of false smiles and false confidence.

I could see the confusion in some faces. How come she's here? She's fine. She's not anxious. Were they thinking that it was me again? Would I be accused of exaggerating again? Would they try, yet again, to force us to send Beth back to mainstream school? Inside, I was willing them to see the true, terrified, young child, hiding inside that suit of armour. I also hoped against hope that Beth's relaxed and happy demeanour would continue. Maybe she'd just got better? But, really, I was waiting for her to become worn down and then the bubble would burst, and we would be back to square one. Then what? We had exhausted every avenue possible. I'd fought so many battles with professionals who purported to know my daughter better than me. I'd burnt so many bridges with heated phone calls and meetings and then by writing complaint letter after complaint letter, with local MPs and NHS England taking up my case, also to no avail.

We literally had nowhere left to turn. I was feeling shattered, broken and so guilty that I'd let my daughter down. Then the inevitable happened. The mask slipped and the anxiety sneaked in. Beth started to refuse to go to the farm that she'd initially loved. Of course, she couldn't keep up the pretence forever. The same old feelings resurfaced in her and in me - the dread. It was happening again. Now what? But that's when I felt a glimmer of hope. Amanda was there and she actually got it. For the first time in 15 years, someone understood. I didn't hear annoyance in her voice, I didn't see the look or hear the sigh that said ‘you've just got to show her that you are in charge.’ Instead, I got understanding and support and so did Beth.

Gentleness and humour were Amanda's weapons. (She quickly understood how our humour helped us - thankfully!) To try to put this into words, without sounding like a cliched emotional mess, is so difficult. To have someone like Amanda on our side and giving us support, as well as our daughter, is like a huge, emotional hug. That is the only way that I can describe it. She engulfs us in warmth, understanding and knowledge. She understands the science and the emotions behind the behaviour, which is important. She is so passionate about this that you can't fail to understand. It feels as though she is right by my side, so non-judgemental and human that I'm able to completely confide in her and relax. If Beth wobbles, Amanda picks her up. If I wobble, Amanda picks me up too. To know that Tuition Extra fully support Amanda and the Thrive Approach is a huge relief. Beth's other tutors are able to understand Beth and support her in a consistent and understanding way; embracing the family as a whole unit. For the first time ever, I feel as though I am working as part of that team around Beth to nurture and support her. There isn't a constant battle of trying to get people to understand her and how she is feeling. I don't have to justify her behaviour anymore. It is understood.

Beth has made huge progress since starting at Tuition Extra. It's not all about academic achievements, it's about looking at the whole child and supporting their strengths as well as their weaknesses, building confidence and self-esteem so that each child can become the best person that they can be. Beth has a huge love for music and singing but struggles with her self-esteem, Sophie, her amazing singing tutor has gradually been able to build Beth's confidence so that she is able to start enjoying singing in front of people again. But even this is adapted to Beth's needs on the day, sometimes this feels too much for her, so they will do art instead. It's always about what Beth can manage and respecting her as a person.

The gratitude I feel for the whole Tuition Extra team and especially for Amanda, in particular, is huge. The impact that this amazing group of people have had on us as a family is immeasurable. It has literally changed our lives. And most importantly, Beth and I have started to trust again.”

Learn more about how Tuition Extra supports students with unique learning profiles at www.tuition-extra.co.uk or get into touch at info@tuition-extra.co.uk. Follow their journey on Facebook at @TuitionExtra and Twitter at @TuitionExtra1.

Has your setting had feedback from parents about the difference the Thrive Approach has made to your young people and their families? We’d love to hear about it! Please email liz.parks@thriveapproach.com with details – you don’t need to include names.

Over to you

Reduced anxiety and behavioural incidents. Calmer classrooms filled with engaged leaners. Improved relationships with parents and carers. These are just some of the outcomes reported by settings embedding Thrive’s whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Are you ready to join them? Click here to get started.

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