This blog post is written in response to @AutismMums_Dads post today about her wee Alfie starting “big” school in September.
For some time I have been meaning to blog about D’s mainstream experiences but it had to be pitched correctly. Every child is individual and should be treated as such, after all.
To give a little bit of background, D was in mainstream schooling from nursery (aged 3.5) to 3 months short of her 6th birthday – so a term and a half into year 1.
D was diagnosed with autism at 4.5years and it then took a year to get her statemented, at the second attempt. That year between diagnosis and statement was one of the longest and most stressful of my life. I had the feeling constantly that D was a number, a commodity – not an individual and that the “panel” who would be deciding my child’s education viewed her as a cost, a budget figure.
D struggled in mainstream, a lot. She had 26 hours a week 1:1 support from the moment she started in Reception – so before her statement came through. Her 1:1 TA was a wonderful, empathetic lady and we worked very closely together to try and ensure D enjoyed her days at school.
Unfortunately she didn’t.. D was overwhelmed by the sizes of the classes, the noise, the bustle, the excitement. One of her anxieties is that of having people too close to her. So you can imagine, there were times when she was not in class, but doing separate work with her TA outside the classroom.
Because her TA funding did not cover break times and lunchtimes, D would spend these holding onto a playground assistants hand.
I found it very hard to fathom that my daughter – who could count to 50 by the time she was 3 years old and was recognising letters from 2 years old – was put onto the “slow learners” table on the times that she was able to be in the classroom. Due to her inability to read phonetically and her inability to form letters? Plus delayed social skills?
D was never able to go down to class assemblies or participate in school plays – again her anxieties took over.
As soon as we had her (second attempt at) statement through, I was pushing for a place at the local SN school, we had already viewed it and knew it was the best place for D – but of course, every child is different. A lady who had a downs boy in T’s class kept saying to me “stick with it, it’s D’s right to be there” but I knew it wasn’t for her.
So, I would say – if your child is starting “big” school soon:
*Establish a working relationship with your child’s 1:1, get basic ground rules as to what you expect from them and they from you
*Be prepared for meetings with the school to be emotional – no matter how trivial the subject matter may seem – I cried in every meeting! Which brings me on to:
*Write everything down in advance that you want to say, always have a notebook in your bag so that if you’re in the checkout, for example, you can write it down before you forget.
*Be flexible, the school will want your child to enjoy their day as much as you want them to.
I hope this helps, comments/RTs as ever welcomed Jx