And what I’m managing (or at least, attempting to), is my youngest son’s education. Because the ‘system’ appears incapable of doing so without help (and the occasional very sharp boot to the arse).
I really envy people with kids who sail through school. Really, really envy them, to the point of sometimes wanting to get right up in their face and shriek LOOK AT YOU WITH YOUR NORMAL CHILD YOU ARE SO LUCKY YOU SHOULD PROBABLY FRAME THEM AND HANG THEM ON THE MOTHERFUCKING WALL YOU LUCKY BASTARD.
It’s not that simple, of course – no one ‘chooses’ to have a neuro-typical child, in the same way that no one chooses to have a child with special needs. And in the scheme of things, Smallest isn’t even that ‘special’ – he’s almost certainly autistic (everyone agrees this, but no one has yet given me the magic piece of paper that confirms it and apparently opens the door to fucking Narnia or something) and he is definitely ‘difficult’, but compared to what others deal with on a daily basis, his situation is easy.
So why is it SO FUCKING HARD? Smallest has had definite issues (mostly shown in the rigid environment of the education system) for years – at the age of 9 he was excluded from school twice in less than a fortnight, and even now at nearly 11 he regularly punches everything within reach (not other people, luckily – just the table, the walls, his own bloody face) when he gets frustrated. And he gets frustrated a lot.
And yet we’re still clambering through the treacle that is the state education system with no formal diagnosis and no external help other than the goodwill of friends who have been there already and have the battle scars to prove it. He’s currently in a shared educational placement which involves ‘normal’ school in the morning and an assessment unit in the afternoon – he loves it there and they’ve worked wonders with him.
But it differentiates him from his peers even more – because he gets brought home in a taxi he no longer has the opportunity to bring friends home for tea on a casual basis and I can see his social circle shrinking before my eyes. Typical of a supposedly ASD child (I keep using ‘supposedly’ because I’m fairly convinced that the Education Police will arrest me for making assumptions about my child if I use any official terminology before he gets an actual diagnosis), Smallest struggles with social gatherings – after school and holiday clubs are out, as are things like Cubs and youth club. He just can’t deal with having to interact with more than one or two people at a time (mostly because he likes to CONTROL PEOPLE WITH THE POWER OF HIS MIND and gets confused when they don’t do what he wants).
When he first started really kicking off, his school put it down to that lovely vague term, ‘behavioural issues’. As far as they were concerned, it was basically all his fault – he could ‘choose’ when to misbehave. Hence endless mornings traipsing back into school to collect him, sometimes less than an hour after he’d been dropped into the classroom.
It’s too boring to go into all the details, and I am so very fucking tired of having to think about it all the time. What it boils down to is months and months of chasing and ringing and emailing and crying on my part, all just to get my lovely boy the education and support that he deserves. Sometimes individual people have been utterly wonderful, sometimes they have been so (possibly unintentionally) rude and patronising and arrogant that it has been all I can manage not to scream in their faces and throw things at them. But I cannot let them see that, because then I would be marked down as an overanxious meddler who doesn’t understand the System.
Smallest is due to start senior school this coming September – as things stand at the moment I have no idea how he will cope, or even where he will end up going. Both the assessment centre and myself are concerned that he is not capable of managing mainstream education, certainly not without massive support. Yet he has no formal diagnosis and no official SEN statement (the statementing system actually no longer exists – it is being replaced by a thing called an EHCP – but I use the term generically because that’s what most people know it as), and therefore is dangerously close to just being left to muddle through.
I can only hope that those people who have helped so far (and there are several of them, don’t get me wrong – in particular Smallest has his own personal TA who I happen to think is quite possibly the most wonderfully tolerant and lovely person to ever walk this planet and OH GOD SHE NEEDS TO BE BECAUSE HE REALLY MAKES HER EARN HER KEEP URGH) continue to do so. And that those who have been obstructive and self-interested trip over their own egos and knock some sense into themselves.
Oh, and to those who have told me kindly, ‘Just keep plodding, he’ll grow out of it’ – NO. NO HE FUCKING WON’T. But thanks for the thought. I’ll bear that in mind next time I’m weeping over his daily school report book that tells me he’s been screaming and punching himself and scaring the younger kids, all because he was asked to write something down and he didn’t quite feel like it at that particular moment.
In the meantime, I’ll just keep fighting.