So this week kiddo’s journey through our mainstream education system came to an end. A rather abrupt end that none of us were expecting, but a very positive one all the same. Whilst he was only at the school for ten months or so, in that short period of time I learnt so much about how disabilities and additional needs are accepted and treated by all involved. From the cleaning lady, right up to the Department for Education, there are a lot of people to work with and all have their own agenda. And quite frankly it’s exhausting. In fact at one point I did seriously consider contacting the Jeremy Kyle show and asking him to sort out the arguments for me. And since I think he is a vile specimen of a human being, you will understand how desperate I was.
Our experience of mainstream though, bucked the trend completely from the average special needs family. I have sat over this past year and listened to other parents tell their tales of woe, and some have even reduced me to tears. The actions, the damage done to the child, the blame on the parents. It’s beyond shocking. In fact, some of those stories really do belong on the Jeremy Kyle show. Hearing these stories from others about how their children were isolated, punished for behaviour they could not control, made to feel as though they were a failure for “breaking the rules” (who sets the rules anyway?), you can imagine that I was nervous with kiddo starting pre-school. But I needn’t have worried. To give you an idea, here’s a short account of kiddo’s first and last day at mainstream pre-school.
I walked kiddo to school, that was my first mistake. He had used up all his energy on surviving the walk. The sights, the sounds, the smells, little did we know they had invisibly warn him down. He was starting school on an empty sensory tank.
Apprehensive did not come close to describing my nerves that day. And I wasn’t even leaving the kiddo on his own. The school and I had agreed a handover period where I taught his 1:1 (the incredible Mrs S) about his communication and quirks. I remember some of her first words very clearly, “Lesson number one – where trainers to work!” as kiddo clumsily weaved his way in between tables and fled into the next classroom. A big shout out to the Reception teacher here, whom kiddo visited on many an occasion. Her understanding of his needs was amazing, as he frequently flew across her classroom with absolutely no grace and all the consideration of a badly shot canon ball. She did not scold him, but accepted him for who he was. Thank you. The first day didn’t last long. In fact it felt like seconds before the meltdown commenced and everyone witnessed kiddo in his full autism glory. I was helped to the gate by Mrs S, reassuring me that tomorrow would be different. I silently nodded trying to contain my tears, my worst fears realised in an inescapable reality right there and then. We walked home, kiddo screaming with all the effort of a world class soprano, and I let the tears drop off the end of my chin. Because I knew that tomorrow I would have to do it all again.
Over the next half term my skin grew thicker. Kiddo’s behaviour stayed the same, but my trust in those watching over him grew. I have to be honest when he started I didn’t think there was even the tiniest possibility that I would trust anyone. That was surprise number one. And as he started to settle, the meetings began. Oh the meetings. I still to this day have no idea how the SENCO managed to attend all meetings, teach and complete his paperwork in a timely fashion. I came to the conclusion that she secretly has a time turner, just like the one in Harry Potter. That’s how she does it. That’s how she’s always at every meeting. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.
It soon became apparent that kiddo required a specialist education. Where I thought that the fight would lie in making the school adapt to kiddo’s needs, it actually lay in a trail of paperwork. And my god was it long. Bottomless actually. I refused to be intimated by repetitive questionnaires and reports, by providing “evidence”. I hit it head on. I was going to beat this system.
I won’t repeat my words from a previous blog, but as you know kiddo was eventually offered a place at a local SEN school. Which meant one thing. Finishing at his current placement. Here’s how the last day went…
I got out of the car. We now knew that kiddo needed to be driven to and from school to regulate his sensory system and prevent him from using up his resilience before entering the classroom. As I walked passed the playground I saw the children playing at lunch time. I was suddenly awash with feelings, thinking what might have been. As I looked through the running figures I saw a familiar face. Kiddo was running with a group of children. He had clearly inherited my bossiness and was currently explaining (shouting) why another boy had broken the rules. He looked across at me and screamed “Mum!”. I waved and carried on walking, pushing a buggy. As I entered the school gates on his last day, that vision melted away. I try not to imagine what life would be like if things were different, because it discredits the life we have, which is actually very fulfilling. Just not expected. As I collected kiddo there were emotional moments with a few staff. All of them had invested time into kiddo’s happiness. You are a beautiful team of people and we as a family are very privileged to have known you all. But walking away from Mrs S was the hardest. She was a member of our family. She felt our tiredness, shared our moments of joy and most importantly, laughed with us when we needed to. Thankfully, she is continuing to work with us as an enabler. So we saw her two days later… but nevertheless people, it was really emotional!
As I took William home that day I felt an immense sadness and guilt. He had no idea he wasn’t going back. He had invested so much of his own energy to learn how to enjoy that environment, but it still wasn’t enough. I couldn’t explain that we were moving on to pastures new. I was ripping him from the life he had known for almost a year. I shed a few tears and it gave me some closure on just how far we had come.
Adventures await people, I hope you’re ready to come with us on our journey…
Thanks for reading,