To help motivate my daughter back to school, the school agreed for a teaching assistant to visit us at home. We all felt that having someone familiar from school would bridge the gap between home and school and help ease my daughter’s worries. Originally I had intended to sit with my daughter but in the end I decided it was better that I kept my distance to encourage my daughter to talk to the TA.
Initially though my daughter refused to leave the computer game she was playing on. The TA however was very good and started to communicate with her through her special interest and eventually my daughter started to respond. Unfortunately the TA spoke too much which is a real problem for my daughter as she cannot cope with excessive talking and will often switch off. To many people this may appear as if she is not listening or is being rude but the fact is my daughter has real problems with understanding spoken language. This is what happened yesterday. She was zoning out and the TA kept asking her if she was listening. It was frustrating; I just wanted to go into the room and tell the TA to give her time to process what she was saying. However I held back; this was a conversation between the TA and my daughter and whereever I can I want these people to try and see my daughter’s difficulties though I have now come to realise I am facing huge obstacles.
The school have insufficient understanding of the autism spectrum, particularly those who are high functioning and mask their symptoms. They also have zilch idea about how girls with high functioning autism or asperger syndrome present, absolutely no idea at all. Not surprisingly I have faced incredibly ignorant comments such as “Well she smiles” or ”She looks at you” as if to say because she looks at people, because she smiles she can’t be autistic. The point is, she does smile (sometimes), she does look at you (if there is no emotion involved) but she still has asperger syndrome and life is still difficult for her in many ways. I have lost count of the letters I have written and the meetings where I have explained my daughter’s dificulties. I have even copied them a resource or two explaining some of difficulties associated with asperger syndrome.
This has clearly been a waste of time because we’re now entering a phase where we feel our parenting is now being questioned, no doubt fuelled by the ever increasing discourse that parents are to blame for every social ill.
And so it was that I overhead the TA asking my daughter about her sleeping patterns. Yes, her sleeping patterns. What do sleeping patterns have to do with helping my daughter return to school? I’ll tell you why I think the TA asked her this, because she has been told to ask her this, probably by the head teacher or the SENCO (special educational needs coordinator) who have got it in their heads that my daughter’s school refusal is due to our parenting. If you read my previous post, you will remember that I wrote about how the head teacher asked the class teacher to call us and tell us that my daughter’s school absences are now a welfare issue.
It is not parenting that is the issue here but the education of my daughter. If anyone has been neglectful it is the school, overseen by governmental policy that is deeply flawed. The lack of understanding of asperger syndrome in a school that is obsessed with meeting governmental targets is having a negative impact on my daughter’s wellbeing. I’m sure my daughter isn’t the only one to be suffering. You only have to read about the increase in emotional and mental health problems in children and young people to question what our education system is doing to our children. It’s time we opened our eyes to the sad fact that our education system is failing many of our young people.
Anyway returning to yesterday’s visit, the TA did successfully manage to encourage my daughter back to school though credit must also be given to the lunchtime club. The one thing that the school did do well (and I will give credit where credit is due) is that they organised an art club. This has really engaged my daughter and the thought of resuming her club motivated her back. However, this has all been short lived and this morning my daughter has once again refused to go back into school.
As a parent, this is an incredibly stressful situation to be in. We want our daughter to be educated but we also want her to be supported and cared for. The relentless pressure from the school who show little understanding for our situation creates an additional stress and places us into conflict with the school. We are not neglectful parents, but loving parents who have totally altered our lives to care for our children. Why can’t the school see that?