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Raising little Westies, and life as parent of a special needs son
This week, our countdown finished: BTB Fan has now started school. He had five brief sessions, four of which were in uniform. Words which seem to bring so many spectrummy parents to pulling their hair out wondering what is causing problems.
But it seems Rebecca and I, and indeed our children, have been blessed: he took to the place like a duck to water. Although, it may help that they start the day with a nice, healthy “secondbreakfast”. It seems pretty popular with not just our son, but his classmates too.
When we arrived on Wednesday (officially his first day – even though he had already attended the previous two days for 30 minutes on Monday, and an hour or so on Tuesday) the teacher hit us that she and the Assistant Principal (who walked in “to reintroduce herself” yeah right) had identified that the “best” course of action would be for him to only attend 9am – 11 am for the first week “or so”. This was due to the other children apparently becoming disruptive due to the heat, having to stay in class instead of play outside.
Our son handled his short days very well. He is “barely”verbal.One of the days, when he got out of the car he ran off to the gates and yelled out (!!! he never does this!!!) “Come on!!” in a really clearly excited tone. Even more impressively, when we said “hey, that’s not “being safe” you have to walk” – he slowed back down to a walk.
The following day, he called out his brothers name when his brother walked off to put some rubbish in the bin, while we were waiting to go into BTB Fan’s class at the start of the day.
While the heat has been terrible – night-time lows have been pretty high – he has handled school really well. So far the plan is for him to be in school 9-12 from Monday, we’d like to see him staying there for lunch sooner rather than later and building toward full days as promptly as the teacher is comfortable.
He did full days, but only 3 days per week, in pre-school for the last 2 years. So we know he can do the full days. But school is a lot more structured than pre-school. And he is in a K-6 special needs class, not a Kindergarten class that has “structured play” between each session of “real work” (reading, counting, whatever).
For his brother and sister, it marked a new start too. New classmates. New teachers. New school. New routine, helping to wrangle an agitated autistic sibling off to do something new, exciting… stressful.
The “brain explosion” has been phenomenal. He has clearly picked up on something, and I’d love to take some credit for spending so much extra time with him since last December. We are getting words – either echolalia, or real, meaningful, if not particularly functional words – we are getting pre-reading, we are getting more thorough attempts at everyday tasks like eating with utensils, getting dressed into a school uniform, having clothes on not pyjamas before going to jump on the trampoline, putting things away when games are over… And while there have been some tantrums, there have been very few starkly, horribly, “autistic moments”. In all fairness, one of those moments may have been on Monday morning – the one morning we took him to school, not in uniform. With his brother and sister in uniform, he was extremely distressed and didn’t want to go anywhere near the school. I sat with him (in the back of Bec’s ute) for over 30 minutes, attempting several times to walk him toward the school. After about half an hour I mentioned there might be a playground, and that got him out of the ute. Into the school-ground, in amongst a whole bunch of kids who had been totally free-range for the last six weeks or so. The autistic moment was passed and there was nothing worse than a bit of screaming and (total!) resistance to going where mum & dad wanted him to go.
Again, today, there was a tantrum-bordering-on autistic moment when Bec left the house without him. Basically, it’s too darn hot to go dragging him around doing grocery-running erands, he was better off at home – it honestly seemed that the whole thing was down to him not being able to say “Stop! Take me too!” This seems more and more to be the root cause behind his “moments”.
All in all, I’m over the moon that I took the time out from work. I’m over the moon that my job gives me that flexibility. I’m over the moon that we still have a house to come back to, unlike so many people afflicted by cyclones, floods, fires or other massive events.
And I’m over the moon to be father to three fantastic kids, one of which is walking his own path in this wild, confusing, world.