yesterday the girls went back to school. Leila into year 1, Lucy into year 3. In my day it would have Junior school!!.
The night before Lucy was anxious, refusing to go to school, refusing to go to sleep and generally being miserable and moody. yesterday morning, however, she was really excited and looking forward to going back. Dad got up and came with us so the girls got to ride their scooters to school.
Leila had to have two kisses and a cuddle before she left me but she was ok, not upset or anything. Lucy gave me a quick kiss on request and was a little tentative entering the school, but not too bad at all. I missed them all day and couldn't wait to pick them up, It was lovely to see them come out of school bubbly, happy and chatty...even Lucy!
Then after a couple of hours at home Lucy got moody again. Still she was very tired so we put it down to that and took them to bed. She wouldn't go to sleep again, insisting that she had to read first, then asking for the night light off when she has always had it on. Eventually she fell asleep but was up again at 5am.
She was moody again this morning and totally un co-operative. She wouldn't get washed or dressed for me, I ended up having to help her. She then had a tantrum because she wanted to take her scooter again, but I can't manage them on my own as I have the pushchair. (Dad was too tired to get up today)
On the way to school she finally told me what was bothering her. when they do p.e they have a timer with a buzzer that goes off at 5 mins. Anyone not ready in that time has to miss p.e. Lucy cannot get changed in 5 minutes, it's more like 15-20 minutes. She has poor co-ordination and concentration, getting dressed is a real trial for her, even though she is capable. It took us a long time to teach her to undress and dress so to us it's an achievement that she can actually do it. We don't try to make her do it quicker.
I've told her I will have a word with her teacher. I know that up until now she's been given a little longer than the others to get dressed. I've also told her that we will practice changing at home to see if we can get her to do it any quicker. She wasn't too pleased with that :/
Then it got me thinking. She's 7 years old now and it's starting to be more noticeable that she's not quite like the other children at school. It won't be long before the other children pick that up, if they haven't already. She does need to be treated differently, the more this happens the more she will be singled out as different. So now I'm thinking, is it possible for a child on the autistic spectrum to be happy in a mainstream school?
Going back to when my eldest son was Lucy's age. The school had told me they thought he had problems and had given me a number to ring to get him assessed. I buried my head in the sand, said the school didn't know what they were talking about. He was top of the class in most of his work, maybe he was just too clever and bored? Things gradually got worse but still I wouldn't accept that anything was wrong, although I knew in my heart that there was something not right.
Fast forward a few years to secondary school, he was bullied mercilessly, he refused to listen to any of the teachers and was always in trouble, he would run away on a daily basis from school and home, he was uncontrollable, he never completed any of the work he was given at school. I was called in for an urgent meeting, he was taken to see a psychologist and the outcome was a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome. The school's response to this was to start assessing him for a Special Needs Statement and sticking him in the special needs class. This was all too much for my bright son and he ended up getting worse.
I took him out of school and refused to send him back. I said I would teach him myself but even after a ton of research I knew I wouldn't be able to cope with him. He was then given a home tutor and that worked nicely. He was co-operative and completed all work given to him. Sadly, it was not a long term option. Eventually he was given a place at a Special School, in a class with other children with high functioning autism. He never made a single friend there, and we still had episodes of unresponsiveness and running away, but overall he got on much better. He left with 5 GCSE's and went on to a Special College. Now he's doing a degree in accountancy. He's had a couple of work experience jobs but not a proper job yet. At 24 I'm happy with the way things have turned out. But, I don't want to go through all that again.
Another factor to take into consideration is Lucy's dad. With my son I was a single parent, so that meant I had to deal with it all by myself, but on the other hand I didn't have anyone to oppose me.
Lucy's dad has already expressed that he wants Lucy to stay in mainstream, and he won't even consider home schooling. (By the way, I did successfully homeschool my older NT daughter for 3 years)
So a sad little girl this morning has set me on a rollercoaster of emotions and now I'm completely stressed just thinking about the future.
I'd love some responses, here or on Twitter or #Specialsaturday #Special awareness.
Do you think that children with autism can thrive in a mainstream school, at primary or secondary level?
Do you think that it's best to treat children with high functioning autism the same as other children, or should they be treated differently?