Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

It’s four o’clock in the afternoon as I write this.  I have just returned home with my son feeling refreshed and re-energised as a result of the afternoon’s events.  The feeling is not too dissimilar to how I feel after a winter’s walk except this feeling of mine has its roots in emotional exhilaration rather than physical exercise.  You see, today has been a pretty big day for us.  After a year of school refusing, I have finally got my son into school.

For some of you reading this you may wonder what is so special about this. I mean going to school is a routine thing for many children who hardly batter an eyelid about walking into school and siting in a classroom.  For my son however it has been an immense challenge.  Ever since last September, when his anxiety rocketed out of control he has struggled to go anywhere outside the comfort of his home including school.  In fact school caused so much fear in him that for  while we couldn’t even discuss it.  It was clear to us that we had to focus our energies on helping him to feel better first before even contemplating school.

My view is that unless a child is well, school is simply not possible sometimes and in these circumstances I have learnt it is much better to focus on the things that will help him to access education in the long term.  I do not want to force my son to be educated because the system says so because to force him to do so when he is unwell or not ready to learn simply risks him relapsing again.  Saying that though we did agree to home education becoming involved as we didn’t want our son to think that he could opt out altogether.  However this wasn’t easy.  My son  struggled to engage with his tutors so much so that at times I even struggled to get  him out of bed for his lessons.  Nevertheless we persisted in creating a routine in which he could see that education was part of his life and through which he could gain confidence working with other adults.

It took many months but slowly things impoved and my son moved from being an anxious and sleep-deprived child to one who is now able to sit in the car and be taken to school without any panic attacks.  However it hasn’t been easy.  It has been a very long slog, an uphill struggle, that has seen many moments of doubt and despair, arguments and tears.   I have found myself questioning professionals and demanding more from them that they can give.  I’ve found myself arguing with my husband and envying his timely escapes to work.  I have even doubted my own ability to parent.

However I’ve never lost my determination to do all I can for my son and I’ve never lost hope that his life can get better.  I’ve learnt to listen to my son more, to follow my instinct more and to run with things when  opportunities have arisen.  What I mean by this is when my son’s anxiety is low I challenge him out of his comfort zone, when it is high I back off.  This ebb and flow of challenging him, not challenging him is hard at times; it makes you feel as though its one step forwards two steps back.  Often it makes you feel as if you’re making no progress at all and it is not until you’re several months down the road that you can see the progress you and your child have made.

So it was that in September, a year after he first became unwell, I could finally see some improvements in my son. He was sleeping better, he was starting to go out and enjoy going out and he was starting to engage better with one of his tutors.  I felt that now was the time to discuss his education so one day when he was at his most calm, I brought the subject up.  I told him that he had to have an education and that he had a choice; to continue with the home tutoring or to go back to school.  I also told him what the authority had told us; that if he didn’t make an attempt to return to school, the council would withdraw his place (which is at a special school for ASD children).  I was worried about this and whether this threat would cause him a lot of pressure but I realised I had to be honest with him.  So I explained it to him  and reassured him that he wasn’t expected to return to full time schooling but that he could start off very slowly.  I left him to think about it and after a while he agreed to give it a try.

Amazed by this turn-around, we said our goodbyes to his home tutor and started to focus on helping him back to school.  It wasn’t easy; he was still axious but his anxiety was of more manageable levels and he was able to progress from looking around school to doing two lessons a week in an IT class.   The idea is to start engaging him with subjects he is interested in whilst we work out how best to support him in the more academic subjects.  We are hoping that the authority will fund a TA to support him; it is something that the educational psychologist has recommended so we will just have to wait and see  what transpires over the next few months.

But for now we have much to enjoy.

PS I’ve also linked this post with Kiddycharts Gold Star Linky which encourages us to share those proud mum moments. I’m sure you can agree this is definitely one of those moments for me:))

Gold Star Linky from KiddyCharts Reward Charts

February Update: my son has now found enough confidence to ‘ask’ to do more lessons and after half term he will be spending half a day in school including lunch.  He is very excited about this prospect as are we.  We are so proud of him but equally pleased that we found a way of helping him to get back into school.

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This entry was posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Mental Health, School, School Refusal, Special Educational Needs and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Is there light at the end of the tunnel?

  1. Helen Neale says:

    How wonderful, and patient you have been; an amazing and difficult journey for you and your son. You have every right to feel proud of yourself and him in overcoming some of those struggles to get him to where he is now. You have helped him to get to a place where he can continue to improve. Good luck with the next few months. xx (P.S. thanks for linking)

  2. Karen says:

    So encouraging to read, and pleased that your boy is slowly managing to reintegrate into school. Been there myself with my son, and I know first-hand the heartache of watching a child in torment. Hoping that he continues to cope, and learn, and shine at the things he is good at.

  3. Just wanted to say ‘Yay!’, glad to hear things are looking up – all down to your hard work of course x

  4. This will give hope to so many people and is a template for others to follow. So happy for you, hopefully this will now be the best Christmas ever xx

  5. JuliesMum says:

    That’s fantastic news – I’m so pleased to hear this. And it sounds as if it comes from his own growing understanding of what he needs and wants which makes it much more likely to succeed.

    Don’t despair if you seem to slip back again in future. If a new challenge arises and you become immersed in that it will be easy to forget again how far you’ve come. Now you’ve written this post you can come back to it and remind yourself how it felt when it worked.

  6. Latoya Jordan says:

    Amazing. You’ve just described what it’s been like for me for 4yrs. But my sons anxiety has been based on being bullied and lack of teachers understanding at 2 different schools and his lack of understanding on a social level. You’ve done an amazing job and it’s a wonder where we find our fight from. I too am constantly questioning my ability as a parent. We have a meeting with our school Monday which will determine whether we move him or continue where we are (with hesitation but hope). He’s only 8 and it’s been exhausting. But myself and his father see things very very differently. So not only do I find myself fighting with the school network etc Im also in constant battle at home. It feels never ending. Not only am I trying to get my sons voice heard I’m struggling to get people to hear me!!! I’m hoping our paediatric apptment in two weeks will help us too. I can’t go on like this and I’m determined to make the new year the best fresh start. For all our sakes. Thanks for sharing your story. If it want for people like yourself I’d still be very very lonely.
    Much love and best wishes for the future xx

  7. Ann Beck says:

    That’s great news and a sign of your dedication and understanding. I too have had a breakthrough and my boy is just into his 2nd week at a new school (complete with sen statement) – he’s only done 3 mornings a week but he’s still smiling :) There must be something in the air!

    I hope it continues to improve for you and your family and I really think the only way is slowly, slowly, one day at a time – in the meantime make sure you use those hours of freedom just for you :) xx

  8. It’s a step in the right direction and your tenacity and persistence has certainly paid off. Once he gets back into a routine of going to school it will probably become evident that its a good place to be, socially as well as academically.

    CJ x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      That is what I’m hoping CJ. I don’t think it will be an easy journey though but at least the professionals understand that he needs more support. Fingers crossed, he’ll get it. Deb x

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