The specialist health visitor came for a home visit on Tuesday.
“You seem a bit wobbly today,” she said.
And so I burst into tears and cried at her for the best part of an hour.
It wasn’t meant to be that way. Her visit was to observe and record a play strategy with SP to share as part of the Earlybird parenting course I’m on. The previous session we’d learnt the importance of planning play so that our kids learn how to interact socially through games (as opposed to a neuro-typical child who’ll use social interaction to learn games). I’d planned various options.
I hadn’t planned on crying.
But I also hadn’t planned on SP attaching himself to a) the sofa and b) his iPad and refusing to participate. Actually, I had, which is why I had an alphabet jigsaw staged in his wigwam upstairs, thinking if I could lure him out of the living room he’d play. It’s why I had his favourite book to hand in case he refused to leave the sofa. But Plan A was to play a pairs game and he was having none of it. But neither was he having Plan B. Nor Plan C. I hadn’t planned on him refusing all of my plans.
I became very aware that I was coming across as a psycho pushy mum, à la The A Word, desperate to prove that my son could be normal despite his autism.
Yes, I wobbled.
But the lack of cooperation was the tip of the iceberg. The same day I’d had the confirmation email from the local authority with regards to him starting school in September. There it had been, in black and white, SP was to leave the security of nursery to start mainstream school.
I felt very wobbly.
At the time of the application for a place autism was only a suggestion. We were amid the process, but the behavioural issues and development delays were only coming to light. I felt I couldn’t tick the SEN box and that mainstream education was a reasonable choice.
Months down the line, with a definite diagnosis and an increased realisation of SP’s differences, I wasn’t so sure. Still in nappies, with no interest in holding a pencil or befriending other children, SP seems miles away from being ready. How will he possibly cope with all the transitions that make up a school day? What will happen when he refuses to change his shoes for PE? How will he feel having to adjust to a new setting with new kids and new teachers? Who will look out for him when Mrs H isn’t there?
Maybe I should have requested a place at a special needs school, where they’d teach him to do his buttons up and have resources in place to accommodate his differences. A place where he wouldn’t be different. Where he wouldn’t be the odd kid.
Maybe I should just hire Mrs H to teach him forever! If only that was an option!
But it’s not, so instead I wobbled and dissolved into a pool of tears at the thought.(And, if I’m honest, that shouldn’t have been written in the past tense and I still can’t help but well up at the thought as I type.)
I also felt like a berk for crying so much. For making her think that everything else is a mask. For revealing myself to be a psycho mum.
And I feel guilty that I feel sad for SP being different. I shouldn’t feel sad because I love him so much, despite and because of his differences. But I don’t feel sad because of the autism itself, I feel sad for the additional struggles he’ll face because of those differences.
And I feel increased pressure to get things right for him because the ramifications of messing up are increased. But I’m only used to whinging it, I’m unprepared and don’t know how to not mess it up.
It took until Friday to find some stability. Waiting for Amy in the school playground the reception teacher called me over. “I hear we’ve got SP in September,” she said brightly.
“Yeah, good luck with that!”
It took the conversation that followed to remind me of the reasons for selecting the school in the first place. Mrs D is an amazing teacher, an ideal introduction to primary education. Yes, there will be some big challenges that SP will have to face, but she is an ideal guide. The special needs coordinator is also warm and caring, experienced and on the ball when it comes to dealing with kids who are different (and their parents!). Even if I’ve made the wrong choice SP will still be in good hands in September.
It gives me five months to grow a backbone too, so that I can convincingly assure him that everything will be ok. I can’t say I’ll be able to hold back the tears, but I plan on being less wobbly. Let’s hope this plan works!