Tuesday 11 December 2012

Christmas Nativity/Show/Play and Autism - do they mix??!

Just a little 'Christmassy' update tonight, following on from my post Autism-and-mainstream-schooling-do-they-mix?

Over the last week the Celebration Assembly post by B's Dad (who blogs over at Life With An Autistic Son) struck a chord with me. His writing always cheers me up, because it is honest, reflects quite a few of our own experiences, and is often side-splittingly (*see below) funny - which helps and is a good alternative to alcohol after a long day.....

Today was Sasha's first Christmas Show day. Well, I say first, but obviously they've been learning and rehearsing it constantly over the past few weeks now, so it was only 'first' in the sense that the parents would be coming to watch it.

I've truly loved every time our eldest daughter has had the chance to get on stage, or even just join in with the ensemble of a school show or assembly. Some of my happiest times were performing in plays as a child, so I guess I hope she's having fun too (see below pic, just to drag my old school mate Nickie from http://www.iamtypecast.com/ into this...) 

I do appreciate that not every parent loves a Christmas play, and there are various understandable reasons why not all children love them or excel at them - nerves, forgetfulness, lack of interest maybe? For Sasha it's probably all of those reasons, but add loud music, audience clapping, itchy costume, changes in routine and the fact that someone is making her do something not of her choosing, and you can see why it's never going to be the highlight of her year. 

I've talked to the teachers about whether she should just be allowed to sit them out right from the beginning, but have been persuaded several times to give it a go. I've pointed out my worries that it all just adds to the stresses that Sasha obviously deals with every day, and that I'm not sure what she actually gains from it. I feel guilty that an assistant who has spent lots of time working with all the children in the class, putting lots of effort into this big Christmas production, may then have to sit it out in another room with Sasha. Thankfully, the school is very keen on inclusion and they do their best to work with Sasha and make it OK for her. If I'm totally honest though, there's a tiny part of me that doesn't really want to sit and watch all the other children perform beautifully when I'm never sure if Sasha will actually take part herself.

Today we pulled it off by the skin of our teeth. As I arrived back home after drop-off this morning I answered the phone to school, who were calling because Sasha was refusing to get changed - she didn't have her teddy bear (or in her case, Terry the Turtle) with her. Nobody had told me that it was needed for the play - of course all the other children had automatically known to tell their parents they should bring a teddy, but Sasha is not quite so good with her communication. So I dashed back into school, managed to coax Sasha into a quick change and then she was ready to go out and do the first rehearsal show for the Junior School children, albeit a little reluctantly but knowing I would stay to watch. She performed her song brilliantly with the others, but once off stage soon lost interest and an exaggerated loud whisper of 'I want to go now' could be heard. Thankfully a very switched on assistant realised that sitting at the front 'helping' a teacher would be the motivation Sasha needed to stay in the room, and calm was restored.

As I arrived back at school at lunchtime to help change Sasha for the afternoon performance for parents, I found her lying on a bench in the playground, almost crying and refusing to play with her classmates. It took some clever talking to distract her from the idea of going home immediately, and once again help with changing and gentle encouragement worked wonders. There was maybe a little more head down, feet dragging and nose-picking going on for the second 'show', but hey, she was there, actually in the room... for most of it.

I wish I could post the video to show you my cute dancing teddy bear on stage with her classmates (the Nativity theme was stretched somewhat this year...!) but sadly I can't show it because of the other children. So you'll just have to believe me that it was cute; she did the whole dance and song with actions. Twice. What a star. Here's to hoping that tomorrow's third and final performance (yippeee!) goes just as smoothly.........

*Just wanted to mention, as highlighted by the National Autistic Society, that yesterday was Plain English Day, which recognises the best and worst of written and spoken communications.
Here are a few examples, let me know if you can think of any more!!
 It’s raining cats and dogs
Let’s go out for a run in the car

I was rolling with laughter

That’s smashing!
Sayings like these are used in everyday situations but to some people with autism and Asperger syndrome they are taken literally and can cause confusion and, in some cases, fear and anxiety.