A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.
Today, I can breathe again.
Today, we confirmed our choice of school for Joseph for Year 7.
Today, I realised that I am no longer fearful of the future and accepting that next year Joseph will be educated within a specialist provision.
And that’s actually fine.
I’ve spent many years wondering where Joseph will be educated and terrified of him moving away from mainstream. Something I opened my heart about last in When The Mainstream Runs Dry – Autism and Schools
Why? Because it confirmed that Joseph had additional needs that couldn’t be met within a mainstream provision. Because it confirmed that Joseph had a disability and finally, because it brought back memories from my own childhood where there was a stigma attached to the children who were picked up by the bus.
Some people further down the line than me may laugh and wonder why after all these years I had not realised that Joseph does in fact have a disability. Of course I know that he does but you spend years convincing yourself everything can be normal when actually, life as you know it is very much normal.
The other part to this is that many autistic people are educated successfully within a mainstream provision. For most of those, it’s likely that they don’t have a learning difficulty too. You see, that’s the other thing I’ve also come to terms with. Being autistic means Joseph struggles with comprehending the world around him but an associated learning difficulty means he has a reduced intellectual ability, it takes him longer to learn and he may have trouble coping independently.
All of those things made it hard to digest that by yet another label, Joseph’s future seems to have a negative slant, simply by the mention of these words.
Very early on I saw specialist as a failure on our part. I didn’t see it for what it was, a provision that has expertise in getting the best from a child with a moderate learning difficulty. An educational establishment that have enhanced skills to teach a child who may ordinarily struggle within another setting.
I didn’t wake up one morning and embrace this lightbulb moment, it’s been a steady burner and I’m pleased that Joseph will see out his time with his peers and move at the end of Year 6.
We earned that right
Visiting a high number of schools in a couple of authorities hasn’t been the best of experiences. I’ve visited ones that have given me warm feeling inside, knowing that Joseph would feel happy and settled there and I have visited ones where I wouldn’t leave our cats (that incidentally I don’t like). Don’t worry, the local authority have received my feedback around those.
I’ve felt a huge amount of pressure to make the right decision, despite other people being part of the decision-making process. And even when those who have visited with me have given their opinion and their own preference, I didn’t feel like it was the right decision.
So after more visits and more discussions, we finally did it today. A decision that collectively we have made and we’re more than happy with. There are no guarantees that the school we’ve selected, he will even be placed in. We do know that if it goes tits up, we made the right decision based on the information we’ve had. We know that we can’t predict the future and we can’t second-guess how Joseph will react to his new learning environment but we’ll stick with it and we’ll give it a bloody good go.
From here on in, we’ll be looking at how Joseph transitions to that new school as he’ll have visits to get him used to a new school and new people. We’ll start discussing with him what happens when he gets to a certain age and he’s ‘too big’ for his current school. Everything within our power, will be done to make it work and with a school that has a tag line of “we are a ‘can do’ school”, I have every confidence it will indeed work.
Today, I am relieved and today I am looking forward to the next steps in Joseph’s bright future. Because, those negative sounding words don’t count for much in our home.
We’ll write our own future which won’t be based on assumptions.