For any family or child, new beginnings can be daunting- especially new schools. Autism families know this even more so. Sometimes it can be a trial just getting them there, for smaller or greater reasons.
It’s been a big adjustment year for all of us. Both my children started new schools this year- Miss 5 atprimary school and her big brother Mr12 at Secondary. It’s taken until mid-year for my boy to feel as comfortable as he is now and despite a few social scrapes he is quite happy to go to school. But we do have our moments. Not just with stresses about school itself, but particularly with co-operation with the morning routine.
Despite knowing every single day that he has to:
• be fully dressed (that means jumper, socks and shoes TOO, Mr 12) before the TV can go on, I still find him watching while clad in one sock, undies, a shirt… (close enough, right?)
• Eat his breakfast
• Wash his face and brush his teeth before taking the lunchboxes and bags to the car (where he is then allowed his 3DS or iPad)
• Not even touch technology until all the above are done, YET
he manages to somehow manhandle his pc, 3DS and iPad all while not getting dressed, or eating, or brushing his teeth- Groundhog Day!
There can be hold-ups or meltdowns over small things. He often remembers something REALLY IMPORTANT and runs back inside as we are leaving. Sometimes he’s genuinely anxious and at the start of the year there were so many home days. Firmer at first about Secondary School rules, Mary the Attendance Officer knows us well by now and understands our situation. This helps everyone immensely. Being told “He’s in High School now” at first, is now replaced with “thank you for letting me know.”
Today I saw this tweet from another autism mother- yes!
Do you think it’s acceptable to write on the note to school “reason for absence: autism” ? Because… that was the reason.
— jillsmo (@jillsmo) September 13, 2012
On a better day, Mr12 may decide that ANYTHING is more important than getting to school on time, such as texting a friend. But guess what? He’s now only 2cm shorter than me and rock solid. I can no longer put him over my shoulder and fling him into his seat. When he decides to be obstinate, it’s effective. Trying not to scream out in frustration, all I can do now is repeat, bargain, breathe, step out of the room, come back and try again.
With the Secondary school closer to home, we drop the boy off first and get to his sister’s school by the bell most days. I don’t want to be filling out late slips because I’ve just been wrestling my eldest who won’t go with the flow. I don’t want his sister (or mother) being punished, or assumptions made that we can’t be bothered to make an effort. So at the start of the year I had a quick word to Miss 5’s class teacher and then to the Principal. We understand each other and it’s taken a load off. Especially as I solo parent often, there’s only so much of me to go around. How many people would understand that by the time we get to school, most of my hardest day’s physical and mental work is already done?
At my daughter’s school is another family I’ve noticed. They seem to always arrive on the bell too. The sweet girl with the black ringlets is also in her first year of primary school. Dad, in a suit and running late has that stressed look about him. It’s a look I know. He takes his darling girl inside, hangs up her bag, kisses her on the head and guides her to class as she chews her clothing. He doesn’t know me, but I wonder if he can ever sense my empathic wishes going out their way? I understand.
Do you have morning strategies? A school that understands periodic absences and late arrivals? Any tips to share?