M is in full time school. Let me say that again – FULL TIME!!! She has now managed 6 whole days in a row at school.
Yes, I am delighted. But it’s the 3rd of May in her second full year at school i.e only a few weeks before the end of term. So much time was wasted when she barely learned anything due to the high levels of anxiety she was suffering all the time. This was emotional, physical and sensory, every type of stress you can imagine.
She was out of school from the 9th November last year until January when finally we got the approval for full time 1 to 1 support. This was needed as M was considered a high risk for bolting and as the premises could not be secured in such a way to render this impossible, and all other schools in the locale had been inspected and rejected, this was the way forward.
By the time January came I was really worried that even with support it would be a case of too little too late. I reckoned without our very knowledgeable Occupational Therapist. Right from the start, even before M’s diagnosis with autism, she was on-board with constant help and suggestions to help M cope. Sadly, due to constraints on her time with children who were already diagnosed we weren’t able to get her into school until after the magic diagnosis, but when we did she basically (not quite single-handedly but enough for me to credit her hugely) re-wrote the entire timetable, taking no notice at all of M’s class timetable.
All credit to the teacher and the head – they were both fully involved and supportive, and I can’t fault either of them. M started back at school by coming in with me when we dropped her brother off and staying for just 5 minutes to say hello to the head in her office (nowhere near the classroom.) Over a few weeks we built this time up very slowly until she was staying for a whole hour – some of it in the hall or in a quiet corner – looking at a book, doing some sums or drawing a picture, anything to get her in the door and having a positive experience.
M has now been working with her new PSA (pupil support assistant) since the Easter Break, and has been even more engaged with her than the previous one, in fact I would say she has really “clicked” with this lady. She has managed to cope with the lunch time which was a worry for all of us, but as yet we haven’t found a solution to the canteen which M truly hates and this will be interesting if we can work out a solution she can cope with. She is currently allowed to pick another child who has a packed lunch and they can eat together in the classroom before going outside to play. It is much quieter that way, and far less stressful.
The afternoon session, which is an hour and quarter, was the last piece of the jigsaw with regards to the full school day and she started doing this last Friday. M likes Fridays as she has PE and Golden Time (free play to you and me) so we thought it would be a good place to start. As I said she has now completed a full week with no obvious meltdowns or inability to cope. It has all come together just in time for her next review meeting which is next week, at which I am expecting to discuss putting forward the request to continue 1 to 1 support for the next academic year. Hopefully there will be enough autism experts around the table (myself included) to explain that the support needs to continue in order that M continues to remain calm enough to learn. I do hope no-one will be silly enough to think that now she is calm that the job is “done” and the support is no longer needed, though I have heard of this happening to others so I am assuming nothing.
I should also mention the guidance and support of the local Autism Outreach worker, our autism support worker and the speech and language therapist who have all contributed to M’s growing ability to cope in mainstream school. But fundamentally, our OT rocks!
This is a happy M looking as she should at the end of every school week. Long may it continue.