That one golden carrot…

How do you prepare for your children’s return to school? Buy fresh uniforms? Polish their shoes? Make sure the fridge is full of healthy lunchbox options that will give you the necessary credits as an acceptable Mother from the school?
In our house it couldn’t be more different. In our house the build up to school is all and nothing. Why? Because whilst the impending doom of the upcoming term start date consumes me as a mother, kiddo has no idea whatsoever that soon we will be travelling that familiar path again, up to the school gates and into the pre-school play area, where he will demonstrate his feelings almost immediately. Will it be dismay at being left and abandoned by his caregiver? Or excitement and joy as he sees a doorway into a world of games, music and fun. Maybe a little learning if his autism allows him that day. Who knows. The unknown awaits us.
But there are steps families who navigate the world of autism are able to take. Some small, seemingly insignificant, preparations that perhaps could make all the difference. Or make none at all. Today we attempted our first preparation for the major shift in routine that was coming our way, no power whatsoever to stop it. The start of the school term (and the start of the holidays for that matter) are a hurdle we cannot avoid, especially in the brutal world of mainstream education. They are not full of the joys and excitement that so many children feel. I wish they were, I truly do.
Today we met with kiddo’s one to one support assistant for the first time since term ended back in July. We decided together that a quiet cuppa at our home so that kiddo could get used to her presence, her voice, even her perfume, was what was needed to kick off the back to school process.
Having spoken to her (for we have a fabulous relationship – as a family we are truly blessed to have been matched with such a patient, understanding and caring lady), I knew that we both were feeling tense. Neither of us had any inclination how kiddo would respond. Would she be met with open arms? Or rejected at first sight, her face bringing memories to the surface of sensory overload in school. Of an environment where noise, light and movement were just too unpredictable to bare. In the past these first time meets following a break have gone either way. But today was different. Today I had a plan.
Since the hour of 4am kiddo had been immersing himself in the comical musings of Bugs Bunny. Or in our house known as “rabbit and carrot!”. Imitation is commonly displayed by kiddo, but the move into role play is rare. Earlier in the year kiddo realised that our fridge was a potential source of carrots and oh the joy! The elation! “Carrot!!” he would cry. And this morning was no exception. There was only one problem. We had no carrots.
Cursing my irresponsible behaviour in letting us run out of sodding carrots, I attempted to soothe our fractious child with an extremely ripe banana. But who was I kidding? This would not do. And then the lightbulb above my head began to glow.
Now as mentioned before we have a fabulous relationship with kiddo’s one to one, and when I text her this morning begging for her to bring a carrot as a gift for him she did not bat an eyelid. No questions, no need to understand. In fact, she understood that there was no way she could understand. My shoulders eased and I awaited her arrival, trying to keep kiddo concentrated on anything except the bunny that is bugs.
When his one to one arrived (we will call her Mrs S) she peered so cautiously round the door. I imagine this was for two reasons. One, she is used to kiddo making a run for it, and two she was unsure of his reaction, for these visits are always a gamble. Thankfully he was in his room, wistfully wasting the day away in a world of electronics. I approached his room and tried to think of a phrase that would encourage him down the stairs with no anxiety. Names of visitors are often of no use, this sends him into turmoil and then the game is lost before it has even begun. So I used our good old friend, the carrot. The carrot was today’s object which had the power to make anything happen (yesterday it was a Spiderman umbrella). At the sound of my words “carrot downstairs” kiddo leapt from his bed and launched himself to the top of the stairs, I had barely enough time to prevent his obligatory jump. But down we came, and to our joy, the handing over of the carrot let to a blissful hour of eye contact, smiles and even some intelligible chatter. We’ve made the first move, the idea of school has been planted.
So if you see me out and about shopping as the start of term draws nearer, don’t be surprised if while your children have their shoes fitted I head towards the vegetable aisle, as confusing as this may seem. For in the world of kiddo’s autism, it is that one golden carrot that just might see us through.
Thanks for reading,

2 thoughts on “That one golden carrot…

  1. Really interesting reading Danielle.
    We’ve noticed the mornings getting earlier and earlier as our ASD girlie braces herself for Year 4.
    She’s no longer the youngest in the Juniors and that in itself brings a whole load of new responsibility in her mind. She’s distracting herself by researching different types of fungi and learning the capital cities of the world. I’m expecting a lot of unsettled nights of worry over the next couple of weeks.
    Love from one auti mum to another

    Liked by 1 person

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