Sunday, February 27, 2011

first five weeks of new school

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.


  1. That all sounds so positive and as if his new school really are on the ball and doing everything they can for Erin as an individual and not just what the book says. I know the anxiety that goes with starting a new school, for my eldest who is aspergers we had the same worries when we moved. His previous school was catholic and it was very strict and like you have said about Erin, the strict routine, the lessons, the ethos all suuited Little Man down to the ground and gave him comfort. The catholic school in our new town was full so we are at the local school which draws from a very different catchment area to his last school and this has taken some getting use to for all of us, and I don't mean to be a snob. The school is nowhere near as strict especially on uniform as some of the families simply can;t afford it, but it has taken some time for LM to understand why the girls wear what every they want in their hair, strippy or spotty tights and not strict uniform. However on the special needs front, we are in no doubt he is in the right school, they are so on the ball, and within weeks of him being there were providing more support than we had got after years of fighting in our old town. So pleased that the first 5 weeks have gone so well especially after a rocky first week x

  2. Thanks MWM,

    It does seem to be about individual schools rather than Catholic or State. I have never been the best advocate and so having a school that is willing to meet me half-way is fantastic.

    One point of difference between the two schools that Erin has attended - and which I took advantage of today - is that the kids get taken to their classroom in the mornings by the parents, rather than to a whole-school assembly every morning before going to class. Coupled with the teacher writing the day's schedule on the board, I am able to settle him in and explain what he will be doing throughout the day. Plus the morning routine is the same everyday.

    I'm glad that you and Little Man are getting support from your new school too :) It's such a relief - particularly emotionally - not to have to keep fighting for their rights as students.

    totally get the uniform thing, hehe, Erin hates it when other kid's break the rules, can totally imagine him asking about the girl's stripy tights - in front of them!!

  3. I really relate to your post. A couple of years ago we also had a terrible time with our son and his anxiety levels. He ended up not in education so after a battle with the authorities we got him into a special school for autistic children. Initially it was really hard but he is now getting better and his anxiety levels are decreasing.

  4. Great news that his anxiety levels are decreasing Aspie in the Family.

    With erin it really wavers. We took him to his psych the other day and she has come up with some more ideas on how to help him with his anxiety over school.

    She also pointed out some things in our routine that might be contributing. Unfortunately it is going to be difficult to work out how to change those things. Sometimes it helps to have an objective eye on your life even if it does make you feel like a failure for not seeing it yourself.

    Also she asked me why I didn't tell the school about what he said about his life. All I could say was that I didn't know why, I just really didn't want to... she thinks we should because it will make them listen. I think that I didn't because I would have burst into tears if i did...

    Thanks for reading and for the support, it really means a lot!