One of the most incredible parts of being an autism parent is having to make life-changing decisions before 10am, and then spend the rest of the day pretending it never happened.
I left Sawyer’s EHCP meeting in a baffled haze at around 10.30am and made my way in to work for Christmas lunch.
Mainstream school isn’t working anymore.
The words floated around my brain, but never settled anywhere. Not that I didn’t believe in them – I did – it was just that they hadn’t yet been considered or discussed. They belonged only to me. The thoughts, the words, the decision. I couldn’t ignore the fact that they suddenly existed, in a place they hadn’t existed before.
On the approach to lunch I banished autism, and the sense of impending battle(!), to the deepest corner of my mind. And in order to keep them there for a while, I did the first things that came to mind that might help. I put on a brave face, I greeted my colleagues with a smile, and I got drunk.
It probably wasn’t until 3 or 4 days later that I sat down with my thoughts and allowed them to find a home. I replayed the meeting in my mind, plucking out the moment when the course of our future had been irreversibly changed. As I had looked around the room that day, I realised for the first time that the people there already felt as though they had tried everything. It wasn’t that they weren’t willing to try, and it wasn’t that they hadn’t taken any steps to help. It was a look of defeat that sank in to me. A look that told me the options they felt were open to them had already expired. As the conversation ran on around me, I zoned out in attempt to find my own solution among the voices.
can sometimes be difficult is usually impossible to find your own parental thoughts and words when you are surrounded by education and health professionals. It doesn’t mean that your thoughts and words are any less important – it simply means you have to try harder to find them. And harder still, to pull them out and voice them.
In my own head for a few moments (possibly even with my eyes closed?!) I had attempted to strip away the white noise and think about what exactly Sawyer would need in order to cope with mainstream school. The answers found me easily, then.
1. A safe space.
Impossible. There are 30 children in his class, and 30 children in every other class. There simply is not SPACE for that type of set-up, no matter what funding we’ve secured, and no matter how hard we try to find a quiet space for him.
2. A far more calm and quiet environment. Basically, far fewer children around him.
Impossible. For many obvious reasons.
And that had been that. That was the moment everything changed. The moment I realised we would be finding a new school. The moment I knew I needed to get drunk later that same day.
After replaying the meeting in my head, and finding the moments I’d been searching for, I took a deep breath, and voiced them to my husband for the first time. He, as always, listened to my reasoning and trusted my instincts implicitly. He’s a pain in the arse if you want him to clean the bathroom, but he’s pretty awesome when it comes to understanding Sawyer’s needs. It’s the way round I’d prefer on the whole, although the bathroom simply doesn’t clean itself.
Later that day I sent an email to the school, detailing the decision. I knew they would agree, and moreso, I felt they would be relieved, which is a bittersweet feeling that I’m sure most SEN parents can understand. I subsequently sent emails to several specialist schools (local and otherwise), asking for further information, prospectuses, and how to arrange visits.
And then, for what seemed like the millionth time since autism entered our lives, we waited.