Sawyer sailed through Year 3 with relative ease and for a minute there it looked like his additional support really had been a magic key that had opened the door to a calm and positive education.
As the summer term came to an end both Sawyer and his sister were eager to begin the six weeks of holiday that stretched out in front of them. I remember how that felt. Relieving yet at the same time exhilarating. The buzz of excitement running through your little body as you woke to realise that you could stay in your pyjamas and watch cartoons all day. All day, every day. For what seemed like an eternity.
Sawyer loves being at home. If he was given the choice I believe
What I had failed to see, or perhaps tried to ignore, is that to Sawyer, those feelings of excitement and anticipation bred uncertainty and fear. The long stretch of ‘free time’ came with a lack of routine, which he relies on to outrun his anxieties and navigate his way through each day feeling protected. The result of those basic foundations being moved was catastrophic, and within days of the summer holidays beginning I started to realise that this break from school was not going to be a break at all.
What were once lazy days inside the house now revolved around Sawyer’s anxieties, filled with his need to ensure all the light switches matched, and his insistence on turning a light on and off 4 times before it was allowed to stay on. Time spent out of the house, even if only for an hour to play in the park with friends, became more and more difficult. Meltdowns of a scale we had not seen for many months not only returned, but became more frequent as time went on, going from weekly to daily in a short space of time. There was only one day of respite throughout the entire summer holidays, when as a birthday treat, I took Sawyer to Thomas Land. There, he was happy again. There, his anxieties disappeared. There, he felt safe.
Sawyer has been back at school for several weeks now and settling back in to school life has proven as difficult as settling in to the summer holidays. It feels at the moment as though last year never happened, and like autism has decided to take firm grip of his anxieties all over again. Meltdowns are coming daily and are now harder to deal with because he is bigger, stronger, and more difficult to control. On top of autism he is also battling the hormonal changes of any 8-year-old boy, and trying to differentiate which issues are which is exhausting.
I am trying my hardest to stay positive, but every waking moment fills my brain with thoughts of what we can put in place to help him, and when I sleep at night I dream it too. Because when Sawyer sleeps next door, autism finds me instead. The anxieties become mine to face, to help and to heal.
I suppose what I am realising is the most difficult thing I’ve had to face so far. That this might just keep getting worse.
And that there is nothing I can do about it.