(Warning: emotional rant)
Today is the last day of my daughter’s time at primary school. It should be a day where I join all the other parents at the end-of-year assembly and clap and cheer our children as they receive their certificates and awards. I should be there wiping away the odd tear and smiling as we celebrate our children’s time at primary school. But I won’t be there and nor will my daughter. She hasn’t been at school since spring, as many of you know. It’s not her fault. It is the school’s for not recognising her difficulties and supporting her, something that I have written about here, here and here.
What is particularly painful about our absence is that my daughter has been at this school since she started nursery as a bright eyed three year old. That makes nearly 8 years at that school. That’s more than half of her life and what has the school done to recognise her time there. Nothing. There will be no end of year certificates or awards for her and nothing to recognise her artistic achievements or how hard she has tried in other subjects. She may not be one of their academic superstars or sporting heroes and she may not be a budding musician but she has done her best and considering she has a ‘hidden disability’ her best is quite extraordinary. They could have recognised this; they could have recognised her courage in dealing with her aspergers because she has been courageous. She never once complained or cried when things became too much. She would rarely tell the teachers how she was feeling or what she was struggling with, she couldn’t and sometimes she would become mute and no-one realised why; they thought she was stupid or “rude” in the words of one teacher. Instead she found a way of silently coping until it became too much and she simply could not carry on any longer.
It makes me sad that the school could be so uncaring to a young girl who through no fault of her own was born with aspergers syndrome. These people are supposed to be teachers, they are supposed to care, they are supposed to be professionals but, in my opinion, they are anything but. It feels that from the day she gave up, the school washed their hands of us, no doubt relieved that I am no longer on the end of the phone expressing my concerns and pressing them to do something for my daughter.
We have in many ways washed our own hands of the school. Too tired to face any more acrimonious meetings with them, we felt it more important to focus our energies on helping our daughter to feel well. That has been our goal over the last few months and slowly we are seeing our daughter start to smile again. The home tuition has helped. Having cookery lessons with her tutor in the comfort of our little kitchen has helped my daughter to develop her skills with someone else besides me. As a result she has grown in confidence as she has baked all sorts of dishes and even found the courage to try new foods that up to now she would never have eaten due to her ‘insistence’ on the same foods.
But it is not just the home tutor that has been key to this because if I am honest not all of her lessons have gone well but the fact that she has time to rest. At home we try and place minimal social and sensory demands on her and because of that she is starting to manage her aspergers better (and we are too). She can rest when she needs rest which is so important for her well-being because it is clear to us that aspergers syndrome makes life very exhausting for her. It is still early days though and I think we have to continue with our ‘programme’ for a while longer until she is strong enough (and willing enough) to have a go at schooling. It seems pointless to expose her to a school environment too soon as I feel she will end up regressing again.
Even so it doesn’t mean that it is easy to forget that low rise building behind those thick evergreen bushes, the place that is school and where I have spent many a time ferrying my children to and fro. Thirteen years I have spent with that school so it is incredibly sad that this chapter of my life has ended in the way that it has. I never wanted to ‘battle’ in the way that I have been forced to and I never wanted to loose faith with the school in the way that I have.
When I entrusted my children into the care of the school I had hoped that their time there would be a happy one but as my younger children advanced through their primary education that dream started to fall apart. School started to become a place of emotional and social torture for them and gradually my children started to become more and more marginalised. Overlooked in lessons, cast aside in sporting events and unable to cope with parties and discos, they had few opportunities to be part of school life and neither did I. Seen with suspicion because I dared to ask questions of the school, it became harder and harder to become involved so that in the end I didn’t bother. I ended up feeling as marginalised as my children.
And so it is that today is the last ever assembly for my daughter’s year group and while all the parents, grandparents and carers gather together in the school hall that I know so well I shall be at home shedding a quiet tear or two as I say my own goodbyes. But as sad as it is, this also marks a moment when I can let go of that school and concentrate on creating a better future for my daughter.