7-year-old Matthew is deaf. Although he has some partial hearing, he needs to look at people as they are talking to understand them fully.
Matthew's teachers knew about this when he started school, but they became worried that something other than his disability was holding him back. As he went into Year 2, Matthew seemed to be retreating. He did this by looking away when he was being spoken to in class. At break time, he stood alone in the playground and would turn away when other children approached.
Staff referred Matthew to Place2Be and the School Project Manager discovered that as well as his hearing difficulty he also had complex family problems. His father, who had a history of violence, committed suicide when Matthew was 2 and his mother was now struggling to cope as a single parent.
Place2Be decided that Matthew might benefit from group work with 5 other boys, all of whom had fathers who were no longer living in the family home or had died.
The boys worked with a male counsellor who encouraged them to paint and draw during sessions. The breakthrough for Matthew came when he drew a battle scene with scattered dead bodies. When asked to explain what was going on in his picture, Matthew said: "All of those dads should have listened to their mums."
This has helped the other boys see Matthew with fresh understanding. They picked up not on the word "dads" but "listened" and began looking directly at Matthew when speaking to him and running around to face him when he turned away.
Matthew has since had some one-to-one counselling at Place2Be to talk about his family problems. In class, he is making eye contact and in the playground, he hangs out with the friends he made in the group. He says he now looks forward to coming to school.