The school trip

‘Letting go’ is hard to do

Sending your child on their first school trip away is an emotional experience, I find.  You can’t help but worry about their safety, whether they will enjoy themselves, whether they will cope.  It almost seems an unnatural thing to let them go; I mean as parents our instinct is to nurture our children, to love them and protect them.  But we know that it is also our role to encourage our children to become independent so that they can eventually navigate their own way in the world. 

For some children such as my elder daughter, her progress to increasing independence has been largely straightforward.  Eager for adventure away from home she has embraced the opportunities to do sleepovers, school trips and weekends away with Scouts.  I have hardly had to worry about her ability to cope though, of course, I have had the usual ‘safety’ worries and have missed her greatly when she has been away.
 In contrast, my two younger children have presented me with greater worries.  Their readiness and ability to cope with school trips has been made more challenging due to their developmental difficulties.  Yet it is as important for them to develop their independence as it is any other child for one day they too will have to navigate the world without me and their dad by their side. 
With this in mind, I recently agreed to my younger daughter going on her first big trip away with school.  And it was a big trip; a 5 day residential to the South Coast of England (nearly 200 miles away) with class mates she barely gets on with and teachers who I don’t think have a sufficient understanding of her aspergers.  I was worried, really worried, not just about the usual things such as safety but the more mundane things that everybody takes for granted.  The noise, the crowds, the change in routine, the social interaction with others and the anxiety she gets as a result of these things.  Nevertheless she said she wanted to go and so putting on a positive front we prepared her as well as we could –  showing her pictures of the places she would visit, discussing what would happen and preparing an itinerary.  We even took time helping her to pack her suitcase making sure that we followed the kit list exactly.  You see any deviation from what is right is unsettling for my daughter; if its states warm jumpers it means warm jumpers, not sweatshirts.  You get the gist.

And so, prepared, packed and ready to go we waved goodbye to our daughter and the rest of her year group.  The following five days dragged by and I missed her, we all missed her, but we were able to follow the school trip via the school blog which ironically helped my autistic son cope with the temporary change in our family dynamics.  But it was whilst looking at the blog one day that I had my greatest pang of concern for my daughter when I saw a picture  of all the children playing on the beach.  There sitting on the shingle on her own was my daughter, detached from everybody else, head down, shoulders slumped as she played with the pebbles.   She may have been happy to sit on her own of course but nevertheless the picture painfully reminded me of the silent nature of her aspergers, silent because she doesn’t run away and rarely hits out.  Still I hadn’t heard from the school and I guessed things must have been OK though something about the picture unsettled me.  A sense of loneliness and awkwardness.

A day or two later, it was time to collect her and we found ourselves once again outside the school gates along with all the other parents waiting for our children to come off the school bus.  And as each child became reunited with their family, we watched the family hugs, kisses and excited chatter knowing full well this wasn’t something that we would experience.  Indeed, when it was our turn, our daughter refused to look at us or talk to us and we walked in silence back to our waiting car.  The contrast was painful.  In the comfort and safety of our home later on, our daughter opened up and started to talk about some of the things that she did but mostly about how awful her bedroom was and how there were five spiders in it.  I was pleased; it didn’t seem so bad after all even if there were five spiders in her room.  So I asked her whether she would go on another trip.  She replied “No, never again.” 

I am at loss as to what to think at the moment.  It seems that the trip was difficult for her and one she didn’t enjoy but she is unable to tell us why.  It upsets me to think that this was not a positive experience for her and it is obviously something that I’m going to have to mention to the school.  Perhaps with more support the trip would have been a better experience or perhaps, quite simply, trips in a large group are just not something she can do. 

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5 Responses to The school trip

  1. Looking for Blue Sky says:

    >I hope she does tell you what it was that bothered her so much, because at least that would help you know how to deal with other situations in the future. My son's class was given the choice of going to Alton Towers (by plane) or Clara Lara – an outdoor adventure park near Dublin. Can you imagine going by plane for a school trip when you are 10? For any other child you'd be over the moon, but I just knew it would be a bad idea. With a heavy heart I talked to aspie boy about it and reminded him that I wouldn't be able to come and get him if he wasn't comfortable with the day or the flight and so the class are going on the Irish trip :(

  2. Deb @ Aspie in the family says:

    >Hi Lizbeth – its a hard one isnt it, because my daughter either can't tell me or doesn't know herself. I'm hoping the school can shred some light. For now I'm looking forward to our early summer break from school so my daughter can relax and recover. Thanks for commenting.

    Hi Lucewoman – thanks for commenting. I don't like large events either, particularly if I don't know anyone, so it gives me a bit of an insight into my daughters anxieties. As you say, it must be so much worse for her, particularly with the sensory sensititives and the processing problems – I can see its affecting her.

    Hi CJ – thats interesting; we get a similar thing with our son who will tell us about things that happened ages ago. The classic one was when he was telling me about some of his bad times at primary school when he was no longer in primary school. So you could be right, her experiences may come out at a later date. Glad to hear Amy's residential trip went well even though it was emotionally hard for you – I think having SEN children magnifies our emotional workload.

  3. Crystal Jigsaw says:

    >It's so damn hard. We parents of special needs children can't get excited about our kids going on a residential, something they should find incredible and fulfilling, because we're worried sick about how they will "fit in" and how they will cope. We do have to step back and give them independence but that's the hardest thing a parent will ever do. Of any child.

    Perhaps something happened on that trip that your daughter will one day tell you about. Sometimes it takes them weeks to spill the beans. Amy sometimes takes months before she tells me of something bad that happened "once". She often tells me stories about things that happened in her last year at school and I get all confused!!

    When she went on a residential last November, I was worried sick. Her support worker went too, but I was scared something would go wrong and she'd miss me. As it happened, nothing went wrong and she had a great time but it just made me all the more relieved when she came home.

    CJ xx

  4. LUCEWOMAN says:

    >My brother (who has serious social interaction issues) had experiences like this. He longed to go on the trips, so's not to 'miss out' but hated every minute of being there. It was almost a lose-lose situation. Eventually, he found a friend who seemed to overlook his his social awkwardness. My brother still shies away from large groups, pubs, team events etc, but has learned to control his nerves a little. Now that he's a father, a different side of him has emerged, he's a confident dad and almost uses his son as a 'prop' (in a good way) to initiate conversation. I hate 'organised' fun/big events myself, and I'm already panicking about a July wedding I'm attending where I won't know anyone. Aspergers must be like that only 100 times worse, I really feel for your daughter (and you!). It's really positive that a) she wanted to go b) she actually went and c) the school didn't need to ring you while she was there. I went on many a school/girl guide trip where parents had to come and collect their children early from camp.

  5. Lizbeth says:

    >Sigh. I don't know what to say here. It's the hardest when you know something went off kilter but you just don't know what. And it could be anything…I hope the school has some insight.

    Hugs.

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