Like a lot of other special needs families, my son is schooled out of town. There were no
places for him locally so I was forced to venture further afield. That took us to an adjoining county and a school who agreed to take my son. However, the school is quite a distance away from home and this has caused us some difficulties.
As many of you know, my son suffers from spells of severe anxiety which cause him to become housebound from time to time. This is difficult enough to manage at the best of times so you can imagine how hard it can be to get him to a school that is some distance from home. He finds it very difficult to travel far and particularly to a place that is unfamiliar - no big surprise really considering he is autistic.
Unfortunately our education system is inadequately resourced and many of us cannot find appropriate specialist provision near to home. It is a disgrace that parents like me are forced to look elsewhere but that is the reality that many special needs families face these days. We have to go quite considerable distances to find the right school; either that or move. Well moving house was just not an option for us and so we had to make do with what was available which meant accepting a school place out of town but we liked the school and we felt it was right for our son. We just hoped he would get better and learn to cope with the travelling. For a while he managed but only just.
Journeys we discovered were long and tiresome. My son’s bus used to do a round robin trip, collecting pupils from their individual homes before journeying onto school. It meant that my son was on the bus for over an hour before even starting his school day and a similar amount of time coming back. It is a ridiculous amount of time for any young person but particularly so for those with additional difficulties. Not surprsingly, there were difficulties with behaviours on this bus, not helped by the driver and escort not having a sufficient understanding of the needs of the children. There were numerous occasions when the duo would complain to school about the behaviour of the children (including my son at times) which would then lead to us parents being asked to have words with our children. Hardly a way of dealing with autistic children when the root of the problem is with the bus and the length of time being spent in it. Unfortunately the transport people just didn’t get autism and how difficult travelling was for some of our children. They just expected our children to behave like everyone else.
Nevertheless we tried hard to help our son by providing him with some suitable distractions to make his journey more bearable but it was clear it was too much for him as he would often come home in a very tense state. Coupled with his other difficulties, I am not surprised that his anxiety once more rocketed out of control and he stopped attending school. How much of a factor the travelling was we will never know for sure as my son is unable to explain why he couldn’t attend school but I can’t help but think that if he had gone to a local school things would have been easier.
Now he is back at school, albeit very part time, and the issue of travelling has raised its ugly head again. My son refuses to use the bus and I won’t push it either as I know travelling is hard for him. Even in our family car it is difficult and we often have to give him priority over where he sits; usually the front seat where he can manipulate the radio or the sat nav. More importantly if he sits in the front he has space around him and he is not in close proximity to the others. This makes journeys, even short ones, more bearable for all of us.
So now, I am chief chauffeur, taking my son to and fro school. It is quite pleasant doing this; he is happy and relaxed in our companiable silence but it does eat into my time. School is at least a half hours drive away which means it is not worth me coming back home when my son is only spending short chunks of time in school. In any case my son cannot cope with me going back home; he needs me to sit in reception whilst he is at the far end of school. Knowing I am nearby helps him to feel less anxious and it is something I am prepared to do until such time that he can manage without me.
But for now I am stretched as I try and manage my son, my two daughters (one of whom is also out of school) and family life generally. To say my weekly regime is hectic is an understatement but this is what life is like for us at the moment but still its a good hectic. At least my son is back in school which is good. I was worried that christmas may put him back again as he often struggles with a change in routine but it seems not this time round. He has managed the return back quite well.