When it comes to school – I do the necessary. I drop The Boy off in the morning and pick him up at home time. Sometimes I go in to calm him down if he’s having a particularly difficult day, though I should add that it’s at my request that they phone me.
Some parents do other stuff like going in to read with the children and going on school trips etc., I don’t. Not because I’m a lazy cow who’d rather be sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle point at chavs – no- it’s because I have social, sensory and anxiety problems.
In every playground you will see the ‘perimeter ‘hoggers’. These are the lone wolf parents who lean against walls and railings looking at their phones trying to be invisible. I am one of those people.
My coats have pockets which disguise the fact that I am constantly fiddling with my keys. If I’m not fiddling with my keys I am looking at my phone – sometimes I am doing both. I look at the parents who socialise with ease and know it will never be me, not unless I have lobotomy anyway.
The thought of being jammed on a school bus with noisy kids is my idea of hell and when I was asked if I could help out I had no choice but to tell the truth.
‘I’m having a panic attack just imagining it. I’m not great with crowds and I have anxiety problems, you see. Sorry!
The school are understanding of this now and don’t ask anymore. I feel sad but accept that I have limitations and to push beyond those would do more harm than good as they would have a hyperventilating lunatic to look after as well as the children.
Thankfully The Boy has his SSA and he probably copes better without me in those situations as he could pick up on my anxieties no matter how much I tried to mask them – especially if a full blown panic attack was to occur.
However, when I heard that our SENCo was setting up a group with the parents of children with special needs, I knew I had to be part of it. I was apprehensive but knew the group would be small and that my friend would be there. She’s very lovely and reassuring, bless ‘er.
Having missed the first two meetings due to being elsewhere and, er, mixing the date up – I finally made the third.
Even something as trivial as this causes me anxiety especially when it’s something I haven’t done before, (fear of the unknown), but my mind was made up. I was going to do it because the school has given us so much support and I wanted to give something back.
So the day came and I ran through my notes.
Have something to eat so tummy doesn’t growl like a bastard.
Take reading specs.
Pen and paper because you know you’ll totally forget everything that’s said.
Wear hearing-aid to avoid saying ‘Eh?’ all the time.
Have massive wee before you go.
Drawing on my years of coping skills I went in earlier than the others. I find it hard to walk into a room with people in it I aim to be first in whenever possible. There were six of us in total – so a nice small group which I can cope with.
Heart clanging away I waited for the others to arrive.
I recognised one of the other mothers as a lady who used to work at The Boy’s nursery, (where he was first suspected of being autistic), so there was only one parent there who I didn’t know, at least by sight.
First job – tea and cake.
After years of practice I can now drink in front of strangers but food is still iffy. So the flapjacks were a no-go area for me. Better safe than choking to death having breathed in whilst trying to swallow, eh?
I may not have felt entirely comfortable but I was there.
Most people will consider this an insignificant thing. ‘It’s only a little meeting yer silly mare!’ but I know there will be others who will nod like mad. ‘Oh yes! That’s me too!’
It felt good to be in the presence of people who understand what it’s like to have a child with conditions like autism. They understand the daily challenges and judgement by ignorant gits. I’m used to the feeling of not belonging because I’ve never fitted in anywhere, (hence the misfit reference), but for the hour and a half I was there I didn’t feel quite the “misfit missy”as I usually do.
The school supports our son but they also support me. If I go into school to comfort him and the hall is full of kids catapulting themselves over the vaulting equipment the receptionist takes me around another way to avoid my anxiety levels going orbital. It’s a small thing but means that I am better mentally equipped to deal with my son’s meltdown.
I’m passionate about autism awareness so I really need to be as proactive as I can. My next goal is to attend the autism show. Don’t get me wrong I have been to crowded venues in my time – sometimes it’s required a nip of the hard stuff and sometimes I’ve gone in cold but it’s always been a struggle which is why I tend not to bother now.
It will be crowded and my anxiety will be off the scale both before, during and after but I figure that even if I was to lose the plot – it wouldn’t really matter because most people there will have seen much worse.
My drive comes from years of being ignored or misunderstood at school. Without doubt I have a learning disability and struggled every day of the ten years I was there. Nobody saw my distress and as a result I left school with nothing to show for it. Going through the SEN process makes me realise that, with support, I’d have been capable of much more. As it is all I have are a bunch of ‘if onlys’.
If only I’d have been allowed to stay in at play-times my anxiety might have lessened to a degree where I could take in information in order to learn.
If only I could have entered the class early and left after everybody else then I would have been spared the anxiety of being pushed and shoved in crowded corridors.
If only I could have worked in small groups – I might have learned something except fear.
If only I’d have had somewhere to escape to when it became too much instead of having to endure the stress, the stimulus and the bullying.
If only somebody would have seen beyond ‘shyness’ and recognised that I needed help.
How different my life might have been..
I point blank refuse for my son to go through that.
But thanks to an amazing school with teachers who care.. he hasn’t.