Tuesday 23 October 2018

Special School and Halloween

There's a lot going on for us here this week, including a Halloween event at Sasha's school this evening. As she's such a fan of Halloween, Sasha wrote a letter to the Head Teacher to request something to mark the occasion at school. For the last few years we have tried a bit of trick-or-treating with both girls, with some limited success, but this house we moved to last year is sadly not on a 'circuit' and we are unlikely to get any callers here. After reading her comments the school have brilliantly come up trumps and organised a little something which, fingers crossed, will meet with Sasha's approval. 
Halloween cupcakes
Just a little something to hopefully put a smile on the children's scary faces tonight...!
This is definitely one of the advantages of a smaller, special school; the ability to be flexible and meet the needs of their children. Another huge advantage was talked about in a blog post by Diary of a Not So Ordinary Boy this week - children at special school are learning from other disabled children. I particularly loved her comment about her boy 'learning to accept his own difference, by accepting it (i.e. difference) in others'. Maybe everyone could do with spending time in a special school in order to learn this kind of acceptance? 
This morning, Sasha didn't want to go to school. To be honest, most mornings she doesn't want to go to school. Some days though, her anxiety is so high that I need to pull every single PDA strategy out of the bag in order to help it happen. The build up of excitement and nerves (nervous-cited is how Sasha would describe herself) is reaching fever pitch, but not in a good way. It's different to how it might affect neurotypical children, like our older daughter. It's stress, with a capital S. Today was a planned 'curriculum enrichment' day at school for Sasha, which at her school means the children rotate into six different classrooms with six different teachers over the course of the day. A nice bit of variety for some, but for an autistic girl who relies heavily on a good trust relationship which she has built up with one class teacher, a bit of a challenge. It's times like this though, which strengthen my conviction that we made the right move for Sasha into this special school ahead of her starting secondary age schooling. It's highly unlikely that she could have coped with the demands of a traditional timetable at mainstream secondary school - our eldest girl, along with all her peers, copes with around 16 different teaching personalities every day, and that's just for her subject lessons, never mind the extras such as clubs or heads of year.

Progress though, in that this would have been a day I'm sure Sasha would have refused if it wasn't for the thought of the Halloween event later. There were traffic issues this morning too, which meant that although we left the house in good time, we ended up arriving at school two minutes after Sasha likes to be there in the morning. Her anxiety levels were sky high in the car and she worried as she watched the minutes tick by. I had to carefully talk her through what would happen if we were late to school. Not late by school standards, just by Sasha's. She's developed a fear of walking into her classroom if there are more than a couple of the children already there - she is petrified of being stared at, it causes her great embarrassment. So much so that she actually wouldn't go in if the numbers of children were too high. And yet, at times I'm sure she is skipping round the school as if she is super confident and doesn't have a care in the world. 

A challenge then I'm sure, for others to understand what is happening at home and on our car journey to school. I just have to hold onto the knowledge that I'm not making any of this up and I'm not going crazy. Sasha is also not making it up, or using excuses, or avoiding demands because she is stubborn or lazy; you can see and hear her anxiety (driven by the Pathological Demand Avoidance) very clearly. Going back to school for the Halloween event at tea time is also an out-of-routine kind of thing, so today will go down as a pretty eventful one for us overall. 

Over the weekend, I posted about how difficult it has become for us to leave the house with Sasha. My parents barely saw her over the few days they just stayed with us. As we left for school this morning I asked Sasha if she would go and say goodbye to them, because they'd be gone when she returned from school. Her response was 'on the inside, I do love them, I just can't show it on the outside'. Of course it hurts me that we can't do 'typical' family things with our extended family, but I understand that it's all too difficult for her right now. I wrote in a Facebook post about the knock-on effect of Sasha attending school every day, in terms of what she's able to achieve (or not) outside of school. Recently I came across some old photos from the month of October two years ago and there were several of us doing exciting events outside of the house, which made me long for those easier times. Which of course didn't seem easy at the time. One of the photos was this one, of my girls dressing up. 
stephs two girls in halloween outfits

I love this photo because the costume idea was all Sasha's (and made by her Dad, at a time when I just didn't feel I could pull this out of the bag last minute with everything else I was juggling!). Sasha has always had a bit of a love-hate relationship with dressing up; she's definitely never been a fan of itchy, scratchy costumes and she's generally been scared of others wearing any kind of masks or make-up covering their face. However, she's decided she is going to give the face make-up a go herself tonight... this could all go horribly wrong. Watch this space!

To find out more about our experiences, please check out our 'About Us' page. If you are looking or more information on Pathological Demand Avoidance, why not try some of these, my most popular posts?

What is PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)?

Ten things you need to know about Pathological Demand Avoidance

Does my child have Pathological Demand Avoidance?

The difference between PDA and ODD

Strategies for PDA (Pathological Demand Avoidance)

Pathological Demand Avoidance: Strategies for Schools

Challenging Behaviour and PDA

Is Pathological Demand Avoidance real?

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  1. What a fantastic memory and I am absolutely delighted the school put on a Halloween event for Sasha. Huge well done to them and you and Sasha for making it to school. The enrichment day thing would have both my children in tears...huge deal for any child!

    1. Thanks Miriam, it was very good of them to do the Halloween thing - am relieved it all went OK!


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