Today, I'm nervous.
We've had a wonderful half term, filled with autumnal family walks, sibling happiness and harmony (mostly, but let's not get carried away and pretend it's all perfect round here....!), a baking day, play dates, an amazing trip to Moshi HQ, fireworks and swimming - twice. Sasha has been extra happy and on top form all week. We've shared cuddles and giggles (or 'the jokes', as Sasha likes to call them).
Later I have to tell her that tomorrow will be Monday, and that means Back To School.
I'm not sure how she will take this news, if I'm honest. Hence the nerves. I'm genuinely relieved that Sasha doesn't appear to hate school - a place where she is expected to conform and do as she is told constantly. I always thought it was going to be the hardest thing in the world, getting her out of the front door and into the car every morning. I thank my lucky stars daily that it hasn't come to that. Yet.
Last year, there was a boy in Sasha's class with autism. He had the added difficulty of less language/communication and was also diabetic, and so at the end of that school year the decision was taken to move him to 'Special' School. These are also known as MLD schools - that stands for Moderate Learning Difficulty. I did take a look around that school myself before we started Sasha in Reception, but the level of learning is well behind what Sasha needs, and the school was full of boys with maybe one or two girls. Sadly there are no BBNC (Bright But Non-Conforming) schools, which is probably where Sasha would fit in best.
The past half term was 8 weeks long, and it showed for all the children. They were getting tired and grumpy towards the end of it, desperately in need of their break from learning. Sasha is no different in that respect, and I could tell it was time for her teacher to have a break too!
Sasha started her first term in Year 1 off very well, thanks to some careful planning from the school and a lovely teacher who was ready to listen and help. She was given a floor space at the front of class, where she can feel involved and will actually listen better, and a peg at the end of the row, away from all the bumping and jostling that goes on in the morning. Earlier on than I expected, Sasha was happy to enter the classroom independently, once she had been loaded up with all her belongings. All was relatively calm.
Then 'little things' started to creep in. The spelling test was the first stumbling block - Sasha's refusal to write being the main problem. This was dealt with well, and Sasha is taken aside to a quiet space to spell her words to support staff or on the ipad, which works well for her. She can spell, luckily. We're happy with how her reading ability has developed - she will now read road signs out loud to us, although only of her own accord. I've tried asking her to read books or signs to us at home, but she generally refuses.
She can actually write her name perfectly well, but she seems to have developed a fear of trying any other words. The fact they are taught in joined up/cursive writing is probably not so helpful for Sasha - it makes the barrier slightly higher to jump.
Sadly Sasha was poorly and at home on the day I should have been having a consultation with her teacher to see how her learning in class has been going. I'm looking forward to that rearranged meeting sometime in the next couple of weeks. I'm dreading it in equal measure.
Towards the end of the half term, I was getting more and more reports back of general unhappiness and refusal to join in with class activities. As I've offered to help out in the classroom one afternoon a week, I did get to see some of this for myself. I'm not sure whether me being there is actually making things worse though, as Sasha clearly wants to be with me towards the end of the day when she is getting tired. I may have to reconsider this, which is a shame. I do know however, that she has been equally difficult on days when I've not been there. I've often been first in line to collect her at 310pm, but she has refused to leave the classroom and was to be found sitting in a corner sulking or upset about something or other.
I'm worried that a) the teachers don't really know why she's upset, or b) that they cannot, or will not make allowances for her to keep her happy. It's all a downwards spiral from there.
This next half term is probably the worst of the whole school year as far as ASD and I are concerned. The children are straight away thrown into the excitement of looking forward to Christmas, and with that comes 'festive' events and assemblies, and lots of rehearsals for the Nativity/Christmas play. Oh joy.
There is probably nothing I've enjoyed more than watching Tamsin in her school plays, but it's a whole different kettle of fish when it comes to Sasha's turn. I sit and hope that she will join in - if she does (very occasionally), I'm delighted, but I'm still on the edge of my seat waiting to see if it leads to confusion or a meltdown. Generally, I'm reminded in various ways of how different she is, and I have to admit that can be tough.
Tough also, for the teacher who has 29 other children in the class to mould into model students. I don't know how they explain away Sasha's non-participation, or even if the other children question it yet... but they will. Then what? At what point does it become breaking point? I'm scared for the future for Sasha, sitting here in the knowledge that there is no real school alternative for her. We just HAVE to make this work.