I went to a meeting last night. It was to talk about the prep to 12 high school proposal in Ferntree Gully for autistic kids. It’s where my heart tells me that Bethie should go. We are planning to send her to the local high school because we had been told that she would not be able to go there. Originally when I went to see the principal of the current primary school for kids with autism, it was thought that the high school would begin to open in 2012. The primary school would be moving in to the site and year 7 would begin either that year or the year after. They would then stagger each year level, going up to year 8 in 2013 etc. I was rapt as I thought we’d just make it. But no, Beth would be considered to be a year above in the special school system as they have to finish their schooling before they turn 18 and their funding ran out. I’ve always kept in my mind that if it was going ahead then I’d battle. I’d rather send her til year 11 to a special school and home school for a year that go to a mainstream high school with her and I was willing to argue the point.
Unfortunately I now don’t get a choice at all. The battle to get this off the ground has taken 4 years. It was decided to take over an unused school building/block that has been vacant since 2005. It has sat all these years untouched. I know there is a lot to organise and clearly they didn’t get the go ahead til yesterday but we’ve built a whole new building at our school in less time. Anyway, this means that the school wont be opening as a high school until 2013 or even 2014. I still held out hope that, if they were to open then as a full school – prep – 12 – that it was still an option if high school went belly up in say year 9. But no, the staggered start is going to be every year.
I’m gutted. In the back of my mind I still held out hope. I had a psychologist on the phone talking about all the testing for our high school aide funding, basically telling me that perhaps I should look at the special school system. It’s not like I haven’t tried. That is what I want for Beth. She suggested another school which is an hours drive. I told her it would be impossible, at one point I would have Bridie at primary school, Bill at high school and Beth goodness knows where. She made a point that there is a bus. I said that I don’t want Beth on the bus for at least 2 hours a day, she needs her downtime just like other kids.
One of the things mentioned at the meeting last night was how hard it would be for the high school if they started all at once, what with all the kids going through puberty. That’s what got me going. I thought of my Beth running into the toilet, pulling her pants down as she goes. At least if she was with others like her she wouldn’t be laughed at as much.
Anyway, not to take away from the fantastic result that these ladies got last night. Good on them! They are just parents like me who saw a need in the community and after 4 years made it happen. One has a son who also will not benefit, the other has a son who will. I’m so pleased for those who now will not have to go through the gut wrenching task of going from high school to high school wondering where the hell to send their kids. 2 of my friends have kids who go to the existing primary school, how wonderful for them to know that their kids educational future is secure, I’m so happy for them.
I know that by the time Bethie reaches adulthood there will be much more around for autistic people. I’m sure there are people with much older kids who think the same thing about kids like Beth. Autism hasn’t been recognised for that long and it’s just now, as it’s nearing epidemic proportions (1 in 90 now) that the government are starting to sit up and take notice. My job is to make my daughter’s life as safe and happy as possible. I hope against hope that high school will be a good experience for both of us. The only other choice now is home schooling. I just feel so sad that I can’t choose a school, not based on trends or courses or sports or music, but on safety. Surely that’s every parents right?