Talks and High Schools

I’ve had a busy few days since school went back. As you know I couldn’t wait til the kids went back to school so I’m feeling much better while writing this post. Monday was a pretty good day, Bethie had swimming lessons which she seemed to enjoy, she’s doing really well there at the moment, I’m so happy with Caprice as her teacher, she has the right blend of fun and toughness for Beth, they work so well together.

Tuesday was a combination of fun and work. The fun part was in the morning. The girls and I (Bree and Prue) went to Bec’s house to do a belly cast. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it’s when a pregnant woman has a plaster cast made of her very pregnant stomach. Bec is due in a few weeks so we popped over to cast her tummy, then she can decorate it and hang it in the babys room. It’s been a long time coming, this baby, and Bec is so excited about it. Will is over the moon because it’s a boy, he’s been terrific lately so it’ll be interesting to see how he copes with having a baby in the house. I think he’ll be fine as he’s pretty excited too.

Last night was very nerve-racking as Jennie and I did another autism talk, this time at my school. I think it went well. It was for all of the teachers and most of the aides. My side of it was on the impact that autism has on the family as a whole. First I spoke of siblings, how if they had older siblings that often there was some resentment for how the child had changed their life. Also of the younger siblings like ours who don’t necessarily understand why that child in particular seems to get, what is in their eyes, favouritism at times. I then went on to talk about the impact on parents. First the grief at losing the child that you thought you’d have, the impact on a marriage and how high the statistics are of divorce in families dealing with autism. In some cases loss of friends and no support, something that luckily, we haven’t had a problem with. In our case we have in fact made some wonderful new friends. I mentioned the fact that there are sleep problems so there is no couple time at all. And above all the fear that we have when our kids start school. How any child starting school puts fear in our hearts but when it’s our ‘special’ child it’s ten times worse as it’s literally putting their lives in somebody elses hands. I found it a very emotional experience and have worried since that perhaps it was too confronting. I didn’t want to do a ‘poor me’, but I did want to stress how we have to look at the family as a whole, from the sibling embarassment to the parents often on anti depressant medication, the whole family is deeply affected.

Jen then went on to talk about different strategies. She grouped everybody up and got them to discuss amongst themselves strategies already used. There was lots of chatter which was terrific, it wasn’t just a boring exercise for them. She then got them to share these and went on to elaborate on some and to suggest some others. I discussed the ‘how does your engine run’ program, something some of the teachers are already practising with various results. One of the suggestions that Jen made I loved. It meant getting the class in groups of 4. You then send one of them out of the room and the remaining 3 have to come up with a social rule that they wont share with the 4th. It may be touching their ear before talking, or holding your finger a certain way. They would then reintroduce the 4th person and do an activity while practising this rule. The 4th person would have to try and figure out what that social rule was. This then shows them the difficulty that our kids have reading social cues. What a fabulous strategy! I know Beth’s teacher and aide were very interested in this concept as their kids are of an age to understand this.

The talk went for 1 1/2 hours and as usual we could have gone on forever. I don’t really enjoy the talking side of things, especially emotional things, but I do enjoy the question time, it’s much more relaxing.

This morning I went back to look at the high school that we’re thinking of sending Beth to. I had called them late last term to discuss sending Beth there when aided and her coming home for the rest of the time. Prue came and had a look with me as she’s looking at sending her kids there too. One of the aides showed us around which was terrific as I got an insight from her perspective. I was so impressed. The school itself is quite big which scared me off at first, but it doesn’t seem that crowded once you’re in there. The one thing that stood out for me was that all the kids seemed happy. I’ve been to high schools where all the kids were sullen and I’ve hated it. This was the 3rd time I had been to this school and each time that has struck me, the kids are friendly and seem to be well respected by the staff.

We had a look around the whole school and then went to the special needs room. There were 2 aides there and 2 kids working, a great setup. When I finally met with the coordinator that I had spoken to on the phone she made me feel totally at ease. I expressed my desire for Beth to be supervised fully at the difficult times such as moving from classroom to classroom, also at recess and lunchtime. She said that if that’s where I thought she’d need help then that’s when she’d get it. She did seem open to my idea of part time schooling but suggested we wait and see if it was necessary. She had worked with a student who had gotten wise to the fact that they would go home if not aided and had expressed concern that they were not wanted at school. I personally don’t think that Beth would have an issue with that but time will tell. There are 2 special needs coordinators and I was told that if Beth didn’t have aide time for a particular class they would take her with them into one of their classes to do extra work or make sure that the common room was supervised and take her there. On the whole I was really happy with their willingness to take on board my suggestions. They suggested that Beth comes once a month to start her transition through grade 6. Her aide from primary school could come with her and sit in on some classes, meet some teachers and get familiar with the school. If I end up having to go down that road of High School, I’m happy with the school that I’ve chosen. And it’s literally a 5 minute walk from where we’re building so it couldn’t be more convenient.

I’m feeling pretty positive at the moment. It’s amazing what a few days to myself will do!

About Sarah

Mother of an autistic child wanting to write about my personal experiences
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