This week, I thought I’d invite my wife to share her experiences of that most dreaded part of the day- the school run. Over to you, B’s mum:
B’s older brother used to attend the wrap around care at school and this was the plan for B. That is, until we became fully aware of B’s autism, and although I don’t think legally the school could refuse to have him at the wrap around care, it would probably take lots of meetings, planning and careful negotiation on our part with the school. And in all honesty, it probably wouldn’t be accessible for B; I’m sure it would upset him greatly. So, since September I have changed my hours at work. I do the school run 4 days a week, and my mom does the school run for us one day a week.
The morning is generally stressful, what with getting myself ready for work, two boys fed, washed and dressed and out of the door by 8.30am. B doesn’t do eating, so breakfast usually involves me following him round, trying to force feed him toast, and trying to minimise the amount of CD’s he gets out. I then try and persuade B to come upstairs to get dressed. B usually prefers lying and rolling on his bed to getting dressed, and once I have persuaded him to stand up, I then have to stop him from grabbing books, toys, creams etc and try to get him to concentrate on the task in hand. B is unable to dress himself, so I change his nappy, fully dress him, wash his hands and face, brush his teeth, apply his excema cream, and brush his hair. If I do this too early I can guarantee that the next time I look at B he will be barefoot again, and I will have to find his socks from under the sofa. Then at some point I try to negotiate coats, hats and gloves, book bags, water bottles, squash beakers, lunch boxes and anything else required for that day, and then try and get the boys into the car.
Once B knows we are on our way out of the door, he will usually grab at least 3 CD’s, and insist on bringing them into the car. I dread the mornings when once in the car he changes his mind about his CD choice, and is upset and demands another. Our drive to school literally takes 2 minutes, but I can guarantee that B will be shouting commands to me about his CD’s the whole journey. I try and park as close to the school as possible, as B will let me know if he feels I have parked too far away, and B doesn’t walk any distance. B is usually OK walking in through the gate, and this is where my problems begin.
Some children bring their Nintendo DS’s into the playground, and this is a cause of huge stress. B has to see the DS, he will stand next to the children and happily watch them, but then the school bell rings and the DSs get put away and B is inconsolable. I have tried using a card to warn B that the DSs will be going soon, but he is still distraught. Or worse, if we are late and the DSs have already gone, he will be inconsolable again, crying and asking for the DSs. B will then cry and scream and refuse to go in, and I feel everyone watching us as I try and convince B to go in with his TA. I have been known to help B in through the door, by unpeeling his fingers from the door frame, and giving him a shove as his TA pulls him from the other side. And then on another day there will be no DSs, and B will accept this, and he will line up when the bell rings and happily go in with his TA, but this is not very often. B has tried refusal, crying, walking slyly away with a group of moms heading towards the gate and generally running around the playground and refusing to go in.
All of this is very hard to deal with. I have driven to work in tears some mornings, as I hate leaving him when he is distressed and I feel guilty. But when I collect him at the end of the day he is happy, and his face lights up when he sees me. B does not allow me to talk to his TA or teacher at the end of the day, B will not allow this and we have to leave immediately or he will scream. I see the other children come out and tell their parents about their day, or what the picture is in their hand. B can’t do these things. I ask B if he has had a good day, ‘uh huh’ is his stock response. I ask B to tell me one thing he has done at school. “Painting” is the answer I get every day. I can usually guess if this is correct by the state of his uniform.
My mom finds the school run very stressful, and B has had many of his ‘worst’ days for her. This is stressful for all of us. I don’t know if this is because she is not as experienced in handling B as we are, or if B knows he can get away with more with her than with us, or his routine is different, or a combination of all of these. I always dread calling her from work to see how the school run has been. Recently, B was collected by mom on a rainy day, and as she helped B and his brother into the car, B’s trousers were wet (a particular dislike of his) and he asked if he could take his trousers off as they were wet. Mom said “yes of course”, thinking he meant once they had got home. She turned round to find B standing on the pavement with his trousers around his ankles.
We are only 4 months into the school run, and it will be a learning curve for us all. Hopefully it will get easier in time and we will all learn how to do it, including B.