As is the case for children with additional needs, meetings at school should take place fairly regularly and we had one scheduled in to discuss the transfer of Joseph’s Statement of Special Educational Needs to that of an Educational Health Care Plan. Another hoop that the government expect you to jump through in order to secure the right support for your child.
The meeting started well and we were shown a video of Joseph with some narrative about the things he likes and his strengths. There was even some script from Joseph with music in the background playing. I’m not one to be so openly emotional but the video got me. I had tears rolling down my face, overjoyed at what lengths they had gone to showcase Joseph’s achievements and incredibly proud of this small voice being projected on the wall.
I suppose his dad and I were still reeling from the video when the direction of the meeting totally passed us by. All of a sudden the conversation was centred around whilst Joseph had made good progress, the gap was widening between him and his cohort. The professionals involved with Joseph have continually focused on his emotional, social and communication needs and there is a balance to maintain in terms of supporting him with all of this whilst still trying to educate him in line with the curriculum. There was concern that as his peers mature and move into the final year, Joseph would be left behind in all areas.
I’ve always believed in an inclusive environment but the reality is, other than his spellings, Joseph is nowhere near on the same level as his classmates. There is an increasing amount of time where he is being taught by his 1:1, which is not what I had in mind when I stood firm for a mainstream education.
To be frank, I was annoyed. Annoyed that not for the first time in this type of situation, I had been caught off guard (enemies please take note, the best way to catch me is completely off guard). I felt saddened that I had gone into a meeting not expecting to have this conversation when all of the school reports had shown so much praise and positivity about Joseph’s progress and development.
The tears absolutely flooded me. I was floored and I didn’t know how to come back from it. It was a difficult conversation all round and I was not the only one with tears, which made it so much more difficult to handle. The people around that table were trying to separate their personal and professional feelings for a boy that they had all grown to love and feel proud of and I respected that.
We were all there for a common goal and that was for Joseph and all wanted what was right for him. His dad and I agreed that we would take on board what had been said and we would make the necessary enquiries to potentially bring forward Joseph’s transition to a new school.
I asked to take Joseph home with me at that point and he was brought to the meeting room. Joseph was incredibly embarrassed that we were all there and almost certainly wondering why we would all be there together, yet it was something he would never be able to comprehend. His teacher asked if he wanted to see the video and we all watched it again, much to the disgust of my tear ducts.
I don’t know how I got home that night. I felt like the carpet had been well and truly pulled from under my feet. I was sobbing all of the way home and Joseph kept trying to wipe my tears away which made me cry even more.
I messaged a couple of people to briefly say what had happened but I didn’t have the words to go any further with the conversation. When I’m at that point, I need to retreat and regroup and at the stage I wasn’t ready for opening up.
I broke my own rule of never running alone in the dark. I needed to run, needed to think. Needed to not to have to think. Needed someone to take that large weight from my shoulders and make everything right. I didn’t think it was possible to cry and run but that night I learned that it was.
I came home and sobbed some more and couldn’t even talk about it. It seemed so ridiculous, given I had already resigned myself to the change of provision. All this meant was we needed to consider it sooner than we first anticipated. Whether it’s because the long term plan has now become a shorter term plan or whether it’s because I feel that in my mind the natural progression would be for Joseph to part ways at the end of Year 6, I don’t know. The irony in that I never wanted Joseph to go that school and now I can’t bear to say goodbye to it. I know I would find it hard in Year 6 to close the door on that chapter but everyone would be leaving then. I don’t want it any earlier, I just want things to continue as they are.
Each time an event is due to take place, Christmas party or nativity I wonder whether it will be the last one he has there and I feel a huge sadness in the pit of my stomach but try to push it to the back of my mind.
The school have made it very clear that Joseph will have a place there until we find the best option for him and will support us through the process. The only way I can describe this is if your partner was to tell you he didn’t think it was working anymore. He still cared for you but thinks you should move out. No rush but if something comes up then take it. You’re trying to hold onto those great times but you know that staying once those words have been said, makes it harder now the words are out in the open.
Maybe Joseph and I share some common traits and starting a new relationship with another school is the last thing either of us want. I don’t want to have to learn the new routines and for people to get to know both Joseph and I.
It took me 24 hours to be able to think clearly and focus. It took half a dozen telephone calls, countless emails and a committee meeting with myself to get back on track. Once the tears had subsided and I had taken practical action, I felt more in control of the situation. Nothing had changed, Joseph was still happy in his school and the people there still cared for him.
I am still coming to terms with the new route we need to take, but I’ve realised it’s not the end of the world. It may mean more work on my part and difficult conversations with Joseph when the time comes but we’ve come through worse.
I may have momentarily been lost but I will never lose the determination I need to be able to fight Joseph’s corner and be the best advocate he needs. The next step will be to ensure that Joseph secures a place at the right school for him and not just one that has spaces. When that happens we’ll make the necessary plans to ensure the transition takes place at a pace that is comfortable for him.
I know Joseph moving from mainstream to specialist is ultimately the right move for him and I know that by doing so doesn’t mean we have failed. Failing will be putting my own needs before Joseph’s.
And failure - will simply never be an option.
Tina is mum to a 9 year old boy Joseph who has autism. She likes to give an honest (often sweary) account of their lives dealing with autism. You can follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or directly through her blog.