Duncan didn’t go to school today or yesterday.
The half-term break has ended and yesterday morning I brought him his school uniform to help him get dressed. When he saw it, he became distressed and said ‘NO school, I don’t want school. I don’t like it’. I asked him what he wanted and he told me he wanted ‘home’. He was very clear about this. Gordon was with me and I told him there was no way I was going to be able OR willing to force Duncan out to school that morning. So I called the school and said he had a cold, well he does have a bit of a cough.
So now what. I have always intend to home educate Duncan some time, I was just waiting for the imaginary ‘right time’. This might well be it. I have heard of very few autistic children who are thriving in school; any school. However I’ve heard countless reports from parents about the terrible difficulties their children are having, the lack of understanding for their differences and the constant battles with the education authorities to provide the appropriate support. The reports I’ve read by autistic adults of their school days, are dire; a litany of bullying and intolerance.
Duncan was spending almost an hour every morning on a school bus. He was arriving at school full of energy and recently, he’s been allowed to run around for a bit before being expected to settle down. According to his home-school diary, he has enjoyed many activities at school. But he has also been expected to participate in assemblies. To him this is a meaningless activity. The teacher told me last month that he won’t settle in assembly though he used to ‘sit nicely’ before ‘when he wasn’t used to it and was a bit overawed by the big room’. Is that supposed to be good? One of his IEP (individual education plan) targets was to be better at standing in line! In this month’s IEP, a target is ‘to participate in PE with less support’. The strategies they have used include ‘praise for appropriate responses’ and ‘use of time out when he refuses to co-operate’. They have also been using a reward system of gold stars and Cheerios, you know, the dog-training approach.
I want to get him out before they squash him.
In terms of learning; Duncan is a very clever boy in spite of his developmental delays. His language and processing difficulties mean that it’s difficult to explain concepts to him in the usual way. But he is linking concepts in his own way, like setting up his tracks to emulate what he’s watching on a Thomas video. He gets other props, when he’s watching other videos and acts out the scenarios. He’s also starting to recognise lots of words when I read to him. (It’s no surprise that he can read Fat Controller and the names of all the engines!) The computer is a very important tool and his use of it was very limited at school. The teachers were shocked at his mouse control and ability to use bookmarks and flick through pages. We take that for granted here, where he uses the computer as much as he wants.
I have read the legal requirements for de-registering a child from a special school and although the Education Board might try to be a bit awkward, I’m not phased by them.
Gordon isn’t sure about doing this right now. He thinks we should keep him at the school until the summer and then see how I get on with them all over the holidays. He’s worried if it would be wrong for Duncan to spend so much time with me and thinks that having him used to other adults is important. He’s also worried about how I would cope. That’s my concern. I want to do what’s best for all the children. One thing is certain, I’m going to have to become more organised. It is easy enough to drag Thomas and Lady round the supermarket to do the shopping, but taking Duncan is a whole different story. All those sweets!