It's just a few days left till the half term holidays. If you are the parent of a reception aged child, like I am, you may be noticing the fatigue. At school pick up time, our daughter Jane is definitely more tired than she was just a few weeks ago. But that's not the only thing I've noticed at pick-up. I've noticed some other things and it's on the days where I have her autistic brothers with us.
I know that mums in the playground can be a bit 'cliquey'. I'm not naturally the parent you'd gravitate towards. I am practical, not fashionable. I'm usually late, not early so I can never chat. I am short, wear zero make-up and am lucky if I have brushed my hair before it is scooped into a pony tail as I turn up at the school gates. However, the reaction to my kids and I can seem a bit extreme when I'm collecting Jane and have to bring her autistic brothers into the playground.
The boys may appear to be naughty or ridiculously molly-cuddled for their size. They may jump about, shout, scream or lie down on the floor. But I want people to know, it's ok, you don't have to be afraid of us.
You see, I've already seen the look when people are afraid of us. I've seen the wide birth with the eyes of horror. I've seen parents pull their kids away from our family. Not when anything serious has been happening, just when David has maybe been squealing or jumping about. Or when Anthony has been skipping a bit erratically.
Their behaviour may look odd but it's not harming. If they do anything that may harm other kids, don't worry, I'm well aware of what they are doing. I'm watching my kids like a hawk... it's another reason I'm not chatting to the other mums.
By school pick up time, the boys have been busy concentrating all day and now they are coping with lots of kids they don't know, people they don't know in a place that's loud and open to the elements (and shock alert - your kids may experience some of this too). They are all doing a good job. But by hushing your children past or pulling them out of the way... what are you saying? What message about difference and acceptance are you portraying? Autism isn't catching you know. It isn't a disease to fear. And neither are my kids.
Autism is part of my beautiful boys. Yes, they can be challenging. Yes, they can appear strange. Yes, David will be seven next year, but still doesn't talk. But they are, as is Jane, wonderful kids. I know few people with a greater sense of injustice than Anthony, and honestly, no-one that finds joy in singular moments like David.
After the half-term break, we are hoping to collect Jane first on the whirlwind of school pick-ups that goes along with having children with different needs at different schools. But on the odd occasions, if we have things like music therapy or appointments to get to, I'll be there with two older autistic boys. And I'd love it if you treated us just the same as when I was there with just Jane. Perhaps with just a touch of understanding if I have to run off again.