April 4th. Autism awareness month continues …
James has been on reduced attendance at school since Year 1. His high level of anxiety, his inattention and the effort that it takes for him to keep it together all day means that an early pick up works well for everybody. When he’s happy and relaxed, we are all happy and relaxed – school and home! It requires a lot of effort for him to sit still, to process instructions, to write, and to cope with the sensory assault of smells, noise and movement of the average classroom and school yard. Generally, the morning session is quite good, the middle session gets progressively difficult and the afternoon session he’s unable to settle to anything. Medication has helped to a degree but generally I just feel that 8:30-1:30 is about the best he can manage and that’s OK. Better to have 5 successful and engaged hours at school and end on a high note, than have a full day and leave everyone feeling jaded.
This does have an impact on the way we operate though. I work 25 hours per week. Without lots of help from both sets of Grandparents, I simply wouldn’t be able to manage as well as I do. Chris’ folks pick up one afternoon, and my folks do one afternoon. This allows me to work longer on those days so I can do the early pick ups on the other days. On all levels, I don’t know how my family would manage without the degree of love and support that we receive from our families. It makes such a huge difference physically and emotionally.
So in the last few weeks of term, we attempted to extend James’ school hours out to 2:30pm as Thomas finishes Prep at 2:50pm. This proved to be a nightmare for everyone. He has spent fro 1:30-2:30pm in the classroom stressed and worried about when he’s getting picked up – pacing around the classroom and generally agitated and being high maintenance. Then when I have been collecting him at 2:30pm he has been impossible when going to collect Tom. He lost his mind because I walked to the Prep building ‘the wrong way’ and he cannot accept that the pick up area for the Preps has changed from when he was in Prep. He used to be picked up from the classroom. Tom gets picked up outside. This has resulted in all screaming, all crying meltdowns in front of about 56 other Prep families whilst we’re all waiting under the trees for the children.
This is where things get tricky. Do you practise the routine over and over, and try and overcome the difficulties? Or do you just accept it’s never going to work and make alternative arrangements? I persevered for weeks and it just kept going pear shaped, and we’d all end up going home in the car cross and upset which set a very poor tone for the remainder of the afternoon. In James’ IEP (Individual Education Plan) meeting at the end of term I brought this up with his classroom teacher (a beautiful girl) and his Learning Support Teacher (an honest, practical, lovely woman). The Learning Support Teacher’s response – “Oh for goodness sake! Pick them both up at 2:30pm and collect Tom from his classroom. It’s not worth it!” I so appreciated this. Being given permission to just give up on trying to change things was a relief! We followed this routine for the last week or so of school and it made such a difference. Tom was a little reluctant about it to begin with, but now we’re in the routine he’s OK. Phew! Such an operatic production about something so simple that average families do every day without a second thought! Please remember this next time you see another mum (like me) trying to coax her child down from the roof of the car!!!