Apologies in advance as this is going to turn into an epic post. I need to get it written down though.
It’s been in my mind on and off (more on) in the last few months that I might end up having to home ed M at some point.
When I had the youngest two children I was fairly sure that I would not be putting them through the school system, at least not in primary school. I have no issues with the local primary – in fact the contrary – but I wanted to give myself and the children the chance to take 100% advantage of the life we have in the country and not to be restrained by clocks and timetables. I did however mean to take full advantage of the nursery hours offered as it’s the simplest way for a small child to socialise with local kids and I thought they would both enjoy it.
B immersed himself in nursery life with gusto, and truly looked forward to going every day. M seemed to enjoy it but the telltale signs of anxiety (as I now recognise them) started to show at home. Had I withdrawn her from nursery they may well have stopped, but I still think keeping her there and fighting for someone to listen about her increasingly strange behaviours was the only way she finally got a diagnosis, and honestly at the time the thought of autism hadn’t crossed my mind.
Anyway – by the time it came to put B into school I felt I had no option as I knew by then I would struggle to cope with M at home all day and no chance of respite from her. It sounds awful putting that in print but I was utterly exhausted from the everyday battles to achieve anything without screaming tantrums. I didn’t think I could justify keeping M at home and sending B as he might well have felt “shunted off.” B settled brilliantly into the education system which was a huge relief, but M missed him desperately and turned even more to me.
We had been rudely dismissed as poor parents by the paediatrician who we had begged to be referred to. We got the referral through the health visitor (who I am convinced thought we were making everything up). The paediatrican never spoke to us, arranged a meeting or even wrote, which now of course I would be fighting, but at the time I was also waging a war with the education authority over schooling for my older boy and had no spare energy left. I did call his secretary and beg him to call me even if he didn’t have time for an appointment but to no avail. He did however agree to visit the nursery to observe M. He stayed for an hour and sent this by letter
“…..stop trying to medicalise normal childhood development…….” Basically, because he saw nothing in ONE SINGLE HOUR there was no case and we were over-protective and attention-seeking parents.
Reeling from this, I was unable to launch a counter-attack until some time later. Finally M got her diagnosis in the autumn of 2012, after having been both at school and then at home for a prolonged length of time due to being a bolt risk.
She now attends school full time, with the support of a lovely PSA. She just about copes in a school with a total of thirty pupils, and I mean just about. There are plenty of times and activities that she literally cannot deal with, both in terms of anxiety and of sensory overload. Which leads me to think about secondary school.
The special needs provision in our area is absolutely dire. This is a fact. My highly intelligent older boy has to travel 150 miles every Sunday to an out of area school that can give him the education he deserves in an atmosphere he can cope with. There is a school thirty miles away that has an autism unit attached, but after a visit there a few days ago it is sadly apparent that even though the staff there are both delightful and dedicated, there is no way that M would cope. There is one main room, largish, and in that up to six pupils can be accommodated. There are a couple of tiny side rooms leading off a corridor, one of which has no window, and this is the sum total of the facilities. In one corner of the large room is a kitchen area, where the staff make their coffee. This is also the room where the “cooking lessons” happen. Just from a sensory point of view this would be totally unacceptable for M, and I imagine it must be a big distraction for anyone trying to concentrate on another subject.The “teaching” seems to happen by giving work to them and expecting them to get on with it – but apparently “sometimes” a teacher actually comes to the unit to provide a specific lesson.
Obviously I was only there for an hour and a half but half the children were part time, there was no sign of any teacher, the kids that were there were glued to computer screens (doing work not games I might add) and the whole atmosphere was very much along the lines of “out of sight out of mind”. I have a friend whose child is going to this school in the summer and I asked her about why she was so pleased with it. Turns out her son will be using the unit as his escape at break times as he will be accessing mainstream classes. I can see that working for him, and then the base would be a safe haven for him from the social torment of 1000 children roaming the school, but as for M it’s totally unsuitable.
So, on to another possibility. The flagship special school in the city. To start with, I notice from their website that it takes 90 pupils. That is three times the number that M is currently struggling with. To her that may well prove to be an impossible hurdle. I don’t yet know even if she could access the curriculum there as no-one has called me back. I will wait till next week and call again. I know that when we inquired about it for ds1 we were told he would not get the right education, and at the time we were happy with the answer as it meant the authority had effectively given us the green light to go out of area.
Which leads us to ………….nowhere. There really is nothing else. Nada. Rien.
M’s extremely high levels of anxiety would contra-indicate any school day where she wasn’t home in the evening so out of area is not on the agenda.
Home education it is then. Or right now it would appear to be the only possible outcome. I was planning to debunk a few myths about home education in this post but I think now I will keep them for next time.
If you’ve stuck with me then thank you for reading.