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Back to School Blues

September 2, 2009

And so, the day has almost arrived.  Tomorrow, the Chipmunk will go back to school to begin a new year.  For most children, this time is unsettling and exciting in equal measure – a thrilling journey of adventure undertaken along with their friends.  For the Chipmunk, however, it is much more than that.  On the very last day of the last school year, he finally received the diagnosis we had been waiting for:   High-Functioning Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  Asperger’s.  This was not a surprise – in fact, to finally have a medical report stating what we had already known was a relief!  To say that I have had to push for this is an understatement.  It feels like it has been a constant battle, right from when I first suspected that the Chipmunk was ‘different’.  It was me that contacted the school nurse, me that pushed for a referral, me that was insisting to his teacher that he wasn’t just going through a ‘phase’.  Now, finally, I thought we had reached an understanding.  So what happened next?

The school has put the Chipmunk in a class full of children he hardly knows.  Yes, they say, we are aware he has problems socially.  He has an IEP to that effect, for crying out loud!  He is identified as needing older children to befriend him in the playground.  They acknowledge that making friends is one of the hardest things about school for him.  But still they separate him from most of those he knows.  Now, please don’t think I am simply indulging in a knee-jerk reaction to the situation – believe me, I have thought it through.  I understand that the class he is going into has a teacher who will probably be very good for him.  They have two teaching assistants instead of one, so he will benefit from the extra support that they can bring.  They have made a real effort to introduce him to his new surroundings and familiarise him with the new classroom.  For all of this, I am grateful – and I am fully aware that many children with particular needs do not get even this much special attention.  Still, I cannot help feeling sad that out of a class of 30 children, he is with only two that he knows well and feels comfortable with.

For his part, the Chipmunk is doing very well.  He insists that he is absolutely fine about going back to school, and not nervous in the slightest.  I would believe him, except that I know him too well.  And the Chipmunk, bless his heart, has never been a good fibber!  When he went downstairs for breakfast this morning, he was accompanied by one of his favourite cuddly toys.  This afternoon, he had a bad stomach ache that refused to go away.  For the whole day, he has been jabbering away more than usual!  I think it is fairly safe to assume that he is nervous – and who can blame him?  It has been made as easy as possible for him to go back, but it is still a huge deal both emotionally and physically for him – one which will no doubt take its toll on behaviour over the weekend!

For my part, I am nervous too.  The new school year heralds a new round of meetings with the class teacher and TAs, trying to get hold of the SENCO to make him aware of the new medical report and the new educational and support requirements this will require, and ensuring that we are all on the same page when it comes to giving the Chipmunk the best possible educational experience he can have.  One minute I feel fine about things – I know what I have to do and I just want to get in there and make it happen.  The next I feel defeated, like it’s all too much and I just want it to be over with.  And I feel terrible for the Chipmunk.  I know how he’s feeling – I felt the same thing during my own schooldays.  I wish I could do it for him, make it better somehow – and the frustration of knowing I can’t makes the whole situation a hundred times worse.

The weather seems to echo my mood:  One minute the sun shines brightly and everything is right with the world…the next the storm clouds gather, thunder roars overhead and the downpour begins.  If I am completely honest, I don’t know whether my apprehension is on behalf of the Chipmunk going into this new situation or for myself having to face yet another round of discussions, meetings and trying to make my voice heard on his behalf.  Probably it is a mixture of the two!  I do know, however, that I will do my utmost to make school not just bearable for him, but a joyous experience.  Schooldays are supposed to be the best days of your life.  They certainly weren’t for me.  I hope the Chipmunk’s story will have a different ending.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. tndaisy1960 permalink
    September 2, 2009 21:31

    I wish I’d had someone like you when I was going to school. I was mainstreamed because they didn’t know what else to do with me. What a mistake that was, on so many levels!

    He’s lucky to have you in his corner. And when you’re feeling tired and defeated and just want to throw up your hands…you have a whole network of Plurktopians who will give you the energy and strength you need to “git ‘er done”, as we say in Redneck Land 🙂

  2. September 2, 2009 22:07

    Just know in your heart that he couldn’t have a more ardent supporter than you and trust that you will do the right things. Also, please rely on us in Plurkdom to listen when you need to vent.

    {{hugs}}

  3. September 2, 2009 22:20

    My 10 yr old grandson, M, is autistic. He was diagnosed shortly after he turned 2 and received excellent intervention programs in California (thanks to my daughter who can be a “squeaky wheel” when necessary) until the recent budget crisis. The family moved to Pennsylvania last year after researching school districts and found a home in a good one. M just started in Middle School in a mainstream class – hopefully he’ll do as well as he did last year’s mainstreaming, but it’s always a worry. Having a Mom who will stick up for him is a huge advantage as you’ve learned in your own experience. Keep up the good work!!

    p.s. Have you tried a gluten free diet? M is on one and the difference is amazing.

  4. Lona permalink
    September 2, 2009 22:52

    The most difficult “job” in the world is being a mother; the most fulfilling “job” in the world is being a mother. Chipmunk senses your ambivalence (if I can call it that) and is responding in the only ways he knows. He wants you to be happy and joyful for his first day of school. If you can give him that gift he’ll feel so much better…and so will you. Take each day as it comes. Take from each day what is good and uplifting. You will undoubtedly face distressing situations, but enjoy Chipmunk’s first day of school for him, and for you.

  5. Mum permalink
    September 2, 2009 22:55

    Oh Han, your blog made me cry. You are so, so good with Chipmunk. He is very blessed to have a super mum like you.

    He IS secure in the “loves” he has – he knows you love him, dad and me, his dad in his own way, nanny Do, aunts and uncles – all this helps him feel safe. And he KNOWS God loves him very much and in his own sweet way he trusts Him.

    You have done/are doing all you can possibly do to make his life the best possible and are succeeding – he is a happy little boy.

    I so wish I had known how you really felt about school; I am so sad and sorry that you didn’t feel you could tell me at the time so I could have fought your corner for you. I wasn’t happy at school either until the 6th form so actually would have known how you felt.

    When you are feeling tired and defeated, remember the One Who knows exactly how you are feeling. Remember He is there right beside you, understanding every single feeling you have and loving both you and the chipmunk. Remember Isaiah 43 v 1-3.

    Remember I love you and would love to open my arms and give you a cuddle – but don’t often because I know you are not always at ease with that. But I love you SO much, you are a very, very special girl, a daughter I am so proud to be the mum of.

    YOU ARE DOING SO WELL – so be encouraged!

    With all my love

    Your proud mum
    xx

  6. Lizziefrog permalink
    September 2, 2009 23:00

    Although I think it’s a shame he’s not with more people that he knows, I think once he gets in there he’ll be great. The Chipmunk seems to me to be one of those people who other just love and I am sure his new classmates will soon win his confidence!

  7. September 2, 2009 23:45

    Hannah, you make me proud to be a human being. (hugs) I hope things go better than anticipated! Tell the Chipmunk everyone online sends our very best to him 🙂

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