Lots of children are starting school for the first time today, as well as returning.
I received the most beautiful picture of my niece returning to school this morning. In fact, I was privileged to also receive photographs of every first day she’s had at school so far…and they melted my heart. You can see the excitement in her beautiful face, and she looks so smart in her uniform.
I felt so much pride looking at these photographs and then it dawned on me…we won’t experience this with my eldest child, at least not at the same time as everybody else.
We are embarking on home schooling, not through choice, but through having no other option.
We moved house after the school deadline and had to forfeit a school place that was too far away to get to. We were all set to move before the deadline, but our buyer pulled out on us the week of exchange, so we had to start the process all over again.
For those of you who understand what it is like to have a child with autism and sensory processing disorder, getting dressed and ready to leave the house can be a huge effort. Transitions are difficult, and new experiences can trigger all kinds of behaviour and meltdowns. As parents, we know it is likely we will be called into school to support our child, at least while he settles and becomes familiar with the environment. It is therefore imperative that the school is accessible. Travelling to and from school is likely to go well beyond the school run.
He is on the waiting list for two local schools but we have been told that as he is 4, and education is not compulsory until he is 5, we shouldn’t expect a place any time soon. I was even asked if I would be happy for him to wait until September 2020 to begin his school experience, but as he is academically bright, I feel this is not an option.
I have been extremely torn over him not starting school. A part of me feels that maybe it’s for the best. Socially and emotionally he is not like other children his age, so maybe he should stay at home a bit longer. It would give me time to work on some of the skills that hold him back, and I can’t say I’m exactly upset about getting to spend more time with him. However, I also feel it is a huge responsibility, particularly as his 2 year old brother is at home. And quite frankly, at times life can be quite exhausting.
Regardless, our reality is that he is not starting school along with everybody else, and a part of me feels quite heartbroken about that. His experience was never going to be a typical one but there is something sad about his introduction to education.
Starting school in the middle of an academic year is hard for any child, but for him it will be so much harder. He likes other children but plays alongside, rather than with them. Unless it’s a game from his toolkit that he has a script for of course. It hurts to think that he will be joining a class that has already bonded and formed relationships. He comes with his challenges so I believe strongly in getting support in place before he attends school, for his sake as well as his peers and teachers. However, I worry that he will also stand out a lot more, joining a class late.
I mourn for the absence of that first photograph in his school uniform. In returning years, we will have to compare with a photograph from a different time in the year, rather than at the beginning of the first term. That is something we will never have the privilege of experiencing, at least with him.