Week five of the new school year and I am starting to relax into the thought that Erin is going to be okay at his new school. The first week was horrific. For his dad and I, his step-dad, his teacher and most all Erin.
During that first week and a bit, Erin's home-style autistic traits had translated to school. We had walking around singing while other kid's were doing their work, hiding (for large amounts of time) under the teacher's desk, in the cupboard and in the toilets, going walk-a-bout during Physical Education - leaving the PE teacher scratching her head and asking for an aide during PE.
His anxiety levels were sky -rocketing at home, and as those of you who have experienced this in your own child would know, it manifested in words that no parent ever - and I mean ever, want to hear their child say, "can I have a sharp knife please? I want to stab myself".
His dad and I were understandably freaking out, we were thinking about anti-anxiety medication, it was causing friction at home, his step-brother was agitating him in the mornings which would lead to a bad start to a bad day for Erin, and even though this terrible time only lasted a week or two, every day seemed drawn out, the behaviours and the anxiety seemed like they were here to stay and I felt incredibly worried for my son's future.
I suffered from intense anxiety as a child - though it was never recognised as such and explained away as over-sensitivity. It impacted my ability to learn and to function in the classroom, resulted in a few years of primary school where I didn't have one friend and had convinced myself and those around me that I was stupid. So you can imagine the feeling when Erin tells me that he is less than human, no more than an animal, that he is stupid and that he hates looking in the mirror because he is so ugly - all of which he is far from of course.
The most apparent reading of this behaviour is that it must have been modelled - that it must have come from somewhere, that I have projected this onto him because of my own childhood. But what if it hasn't? What if it is genetic? What if it is because his - and my - brains are wired differently? With autism being such a huge spectrum, it makes me wonder if there aren't multiple neurological differences that are yet to be named and categorised.
All of these thoughts surfaced in that first week and a bit. The school was wonderful however, and it wasn't Erin's reaction to the school, but their reaction to him that has afforded me the comfort that I had made the right decision. We have had a multi-team meeting, with more planned. His teacher tries new techniques with him that she has used in the past - without needing me to suggest them. It is a Catholic school and while we are non-believers, it is a comfort for me that it is offering Erin comfort, after all he was only 3 when he went through his first existential crisis. He has always been worried about the finality of death and so it was wonderful to hear him say that 'no one dies because they all go to heaven', and to hear the relief in his voice (thankfully hell is largely left out of the pedagogy).
So where to from here? Appointments have been made with his psych and pead. Social skills classes have been looked into. The discussion of anti-aniexty medication if needed at a later date has been opened up between me and his dad and soon the psych and the pead.
In all this though I know that changing schools was the right decision and hopefully I will make more right ones as we keep on this journey.