There is one week left until the end of school or 8 get ups. I keep reading similar statements on teacher friends status updates. It is the ultimate countdown to freedom, six weeks of fun, lying around in your PJs for as long as you like and if you are lucky a sunny, holiday thrown in too. Most non teachers will make a tongue in cheek comment about wishing they had a job like ours. (You're never there, must be really hard having six weeks a year free etc) But then again not many people would swap, especially not in todays ever changing, stressful, badly paid, poorly valued, world of teaching.
The end of the school year can be a nightmare for autistic children. We can sense the beginning of the unease in the big lad. Tuesday was the school trip and on Wednesday everyone was free to enjoy the horse market. Change to the normal routine. The trip was great fun (the best day ever) and the horse market too but he will admit that he prefers to be at school. This week has been too different. There is a degree of safety for him in the routine of the school day, in the normality, in being with his friends.
From the first group (reception in UK) the big lad knew the routine. When he went into class on the morning he would check the visual timetable and tell the teacher if she had got something wrong. He knew exactly what happened on each day. If you asked; What did you do at school today? He would answer, talking in the ring, read books, played outside, work, story then home. Any changes had to be carefully explained beforehand to avoid meltdown. He still needs this security and his amazing support assistant spends time every morning going through what will happen during the day but also what he will be expected to do. The day is completely structured so there are no surprises and that way the stress is taken away. He can relax and enjoy school.
At the end of the year this becomes harder. There are more differences, changes in routine and schedule. There are new experiences, you are expected to do things with other people, classes, teachers, mum helpers etc The social expectations are huge! It is summer, it is warm, you are wearing new clothes so you feel different too. Then your class has a meet and greet with their new teacher, an opportunity to get to know each other a bit and see your new class. The new teacher seems nice but different, the class room is different. Where will you sit, who with, will you know where things are, how do the chairs feel, how does his/her voice sound, does he get cross easily?
Too much change!
When faced with change the big lad begins to withdraw, he begins to pace and mumbles under his breath, he day dreams a lot, he finds it difficult to sleep. His behaviour is worse as he is more irritable (especially with his brother) or he gets upset easily. He experiences stomach pains. In short he gets extremely stressed. Big lad withdraws into his computer world where it is safe, he feels good.
- The big lad mets his new teacher
- He visits the class with his support assistant to familiarise himself with his new surroundings
- He sits in on a lesson or two (with his assistant)
- His assistant talks through the school day with him
Hubby and I are remaining positive that we have learned lessons from previous years and that this time will be better but we know that the end (and the beginning) of the school year will always be a challenge. Most parents are relaxing bed times and allowing children to play out longer, to enjoy the summer weather. Not us! If anything we are tightening control.
It is heartbreaking to see your child struggle! If your child does not have the ability to understand or explain their feelings then you have no real way of helping them. A lot of your support is based on previous experience and guess work. That is why advocating for your child is so difficult. You never really know if you are getting it right.
Let the countdown begin. Bring it on end of term, we are ready, I hope!
Post revised June 2016