When my son got a place at a school that specialised in teaching autistic children, I really thought we had made it. It may seem like a ridiculous thing to say but it felt like an absolutely massive achievement to get our son through his mental health difficulties, statemented and back into school after an absence of 18 months. It wasn’t easy though. He found the transport to school difficult, he found relationships at school difficult, he found learning difficult but gradually his behaviour improved and meltdowns got less. He started to enjoy his school and we started to relax a bit more and feel hopeful that he would now get an education in a supportive environment. I even dared to think about what I could do now that he was at school – go to work, return to study? The future seemed brighter.
But then the summer holidays happened and the return to school this autumn proved such a traumatic transition for him that his anxiety spiralled out of control and he was unable to cope with school. He withdrew into a world of fear and anxiety. So, just as we had done years before, we sought help from his psychiatrist who prescribed medication which eventually eased his anxiety enough to enable me to find a way in to his world. Very gradually I was able to expose him to his school until I eventually got him into the building for some short lessons, whilst I waited in the reception. We were all hopeful that this was the start of his eventual return but after a week he relapsed again, so much so that he is unable to look at the school or even talk about it. In fact the slightest mention of anything school related causes him to cover his ears with his hands such is his resistance. We are firmly back at square one.
After working so hard to help him get as far as he did, to see him relapse is upsetting as well as demoralising for me. It is hard to explain just how hard work it is to emotionally support an autistic child who is also experiencing school refusal or phobia. For my son, though he is verbal most of the time, he is virtually unable to communicate his feelings so it is incredibly hard for us to work out what troubles him. What I do know, from reading his physical cues and the little of what he does say, is that he wants to go back to school but can’t. We are not sure what he means by can’t but it is clear that it is something to do with school but whether it is the transport, the school environment or a particular child at school that is the problem, we do not know. What we do know, however, is that he cannot cope with travelling very far from home and unfortunately his school is quite a distance away so we are wondering whether this is an issue.
The school have tried their best and have been wonderfully flexible with him but it hasn’t been enough so the school have asked other services to become involved. I have agreed and have also put in my own request for the provision of home tuition for my son whilst we seek other forms of support/therapies for him.
So that is where we are at the moment, in limbo, waiting for further action.
This post is day 29 of the nablopomo challenge where I have to submit a blogpost every day in the month of November.