Well, we survived B’s first week at school. In fact, I’d say it was very successful. I’m very proud to say that my little boy settled in well and has mostly been very positive about his school experience. He didn’t like the sudden change of pace around breakfast time (the summer holidays allowed us the luxury of some very slow starts to the day), and he hasn’t quite got his head around the ‘no DS/Wii/computer’ ban on school days. I think it also came as a surprise to him that he had to keep going. On Thursday morning he announced, “I’ve left school now”. We broke the news that it would be a while until he could say that, but praised him for putting together a good sentence.
Once at school he has been very happy to go into his classroom and wave off his mum. On his first day, a friend who works at the school as a lunchtime supervisor called my wife to say he was tearing around with his brother in the playground having a great time. He even, on the first day, did a poo on the toilet. This has only ever happened once before, when he was at nursery. My first instinct when I heard this was that it made us look like completely useless parents; the school cracked in one day what we have failed to do in four years! However, my guess was that they luckily caught him at exactly the right time. I was right. It was back to usual for the rest of the week.
So a good week overall, although I think a great deal of credit for this goes to Autism Outreach and the 1-2-1 support he has had all week. They have been there, waiting for him at the start of the day and have handed him over at the end of the day, along with a few sides of detailed notes about his day. It sounds like they have not left his side, which makes me wonder when, or if, they’ve taken a break. They did look pretty worn out at the end of Friday!
Their notes make for interesting reading. There are lots of examples of B following instructions and showing understanding of what to do, whether it be lining up or writing his name or not messing with the computer. Visual prompts have been used quite a lot- something we’ve never really used successfully at home. It might be worth pushing these more. It’s also clear from the notes that, on a number of occasions, B has worked separately from the class on a 1-2-1 basis. At registration on the very first day he ‘couldn’t cope’ and was taken to the library. I think he will be spending a fair amount of time in the library. On the one hand it is good that he has a ‘time out’ place to go to, and he does love reading. On the other hand, it’s important that he does not become isolated from his class. He will have no problem developing his reading skills but will need plenty of help developing his social skills and you can’t do that on your own in a room surrounded by books. In fairness, most of his time has been in the class and he has been fine.
It’s particularly pleasing to read how well he has coped with the learning activities. He has been keen to put pen to paper and has participated well in reading high frequency words and identifying objects by their initial sounds. When engaged in these activities he is at his best, both in terms of showing intelligence but also in engaging in 1-2-1 communication (with an adult). Autism Outreach think he is very bright and that one of the main challenges will be keeping him engaged, particularly as he flits from one activity to another so frequently.
Overall, Autism Outreach have been very pleased with B’s first week. I think the school are happier too. AO have been able to give them some very practical and informed advice, for which I think they are grateful. Previous concerns about whether he even belonged in a mainstream school are, for now, less of a concern.
Let’s not forget though, that it is because Autism Outreach have been there that he has had such a good week. We have one more week of them in school and then… well, let’s see. The post of Teaching Assistant has been advertised this week. It was clear from talking to AO that he has had a good week in school, “with support”. This is the honeymoon period of starting school, I think. Pretty soon it will the responsibility of the school to be as good as Autism Outreach in supporting my son.
For now, it’s worth celebrating a good first week. The person who matters most in all this- my wonderful son- has had a great week and we’re very proud of him. Here’s to another good week at school.