I shouldn’t be too hard on myself about the choice of school, because in fact we had no choice. The statement arrived half way through the holidays but of course his place had been decided way before that. The locality of the school and the fact that his brother was going there made it the obvious choice. And it’s a good school. Their results (like they matter) are always excellent and I would say, as a mainstream school, they are amongst the best in the area. I’m sure our neuro-typical son will do very well there. But the way they responded to B was like an autistic child had never stepped foot in their school before. In hindsight we could have perhaps been looking elsewhere. Perhaps it’s not too late.
Any school taking him on has a big responsibility to provide for him. Today, I read through his statement again. I’ve never seen a statement of educational needs before, but it seems very extensive in its outline of provision. Once it has been finalised, the school has a responsibility to deliver what it says he needs. This includes a “suitably modified and differentiated curriculum”, “structured daily programmes of support”, even things like, “careful arrangement of the classroom”. The school are answerable to a lot. I hope they can deliver.
Today, we finally got round to putting B in his school uniform for the first time. We managed to hold back the tears as I attempted to get him standing still long enough for a photo. He looked so grown up, no longer our baby. I think this is what worries me the most- up until now, B has never had to be anything but our baby. His circumstances have never changed before in his life. Developmental delay and autism have never mattered really because he’s always been at home. Whether he was one, two or three, his life was the same. There were none of the expectations of him that will be there once he starts school. Everything changes now. There will be so much he cannot do, so much of school life that is confusing, upsetting and inaccessible to him. Children will stare at him. His brother will get grief about it, maybe start thinking about him differently. I can’t help but ask myself, ‘how is this going to work?’
I need to look on the bright side. There is support in place. He won’t come to harm. He does not have the autistic tendency to dislike change, so he should be okay. I don’t think he understands what going to school entails at all, but he is quite happy about the idea when you ask him.
Perhaps then, we are the ones that are not ready. Our youngest one is off to school and letting go is really, really difficult. I doubt there is a single parent of a four year old who doesn’t feel that way to a certain extent this week. I have to remind myself sometimes that some problems are not autism problems, they are typical parenting problems. There will be other children who are not ready.
Six months have passed since B was diagnosed as autistic. In that time we have achieved such a lot. He starts school with a full statement and one to one support. He’s got a good team behind him and we will continue to help him through this next stage in his life. What’s more, he needs to go to school. B is a child who loves to be active, to be engaged, to be stimulated. A good school can give him that. He’ll be alright. It’s time to let go.