Tyger’s first week of school is over.
It was only a four day week but that’s plenty for a start and Tyger was certainly ready for the weekend come Friday evening.
I didn’t cry on Tyger’s first day. I don’t really understand the whole crying when your kids go to school thing but I spend most of my time in the outside world worried I look like a twat without the embarrassment of un-British public tears added. I did, however, spend that whole first day feeling sick and anxious like in those dreams when you suddenly realise you have an exam you haven’t studied for and you’re late and the exam paper is written in hieroglyphics and your answers need to be submitted through the medium of interpretive dance and you’re missing most items of clothing.
I wanted to have a long talk with the teacher at the beginning of the day. I wanted to explain to her in great detail every way in which Tyger struggles, everything that makes him anxious, all the signs that point to him to him being uncomfortable, all the sensory issues he has. I wanted to reiterate every piece of information that had been passed on to her.
I wanted to test her on her knowledge of autism. I know that sounds bad but I promise I wouldn’t have included any hieroglyphs, interpretive dance or nudity. Not even any essays questions! Perhaps just a sheet of 50 or so multiple choice questions…which is…totally reasonable…right?
At pick up I wanted to tell all the other parents milling around the classroom door to frack off so I could have a sit-down talk with the teacher for half an hour or so.
Of course, I didn’t do any of those things. I said goodbye to my tiny, bewildered child. I gave the teacher a breezy ‘hi’. I went home, barely ate, drank my body weight in tea, fidgeted, stared at the time and left with Bear to collect Tyger about half an hour before we actually needed to be out of the front door. I accepted the teacher’s couple of sentences stating Tyger had been fine and, walking home, I restrained myself from interrogating Tyger on his day.
I want to be clear: I have a lot of respect for teachers.
I did half a teaching post-grad (not for primary teaching, I should point out; I can barely handle looking after my own small children, let alone a load of other people’s) so I have an idea of what teaching entails.
It’s a hard job, it’s draining, the hours are longer than people think. The last thing I want to do is make some poor teacher’s life difficult.
Actually, that’s not true. See, the last thing I want to do is fail my son by not fighting for him. I just need to learn when to fight, when to talk and when to stay quiet.
I don’t want to be ‘that’ parent: the one who makes the teacher groan every time she comes into view, the one all other parents raise their eyebrows at behind her back, the one the head teacher and all school office staff know by name.
I don’t want to pester Tyger’s teacher…but I have searched the school website to see if I can find an email address for her ‘just in case’.
It’s hard when you have a child with SEN to know what to do for the best. On the one hand: Tyger hasn’t really had any serious issues yet so I don’t want to rock the boat unnecessarily. On the other hand: I think ongoing communication with Tyger’s teacher could prevent serious issues from arising in the first place.
And communication with Tyger’s teacher has proven difficult thus far. I am used to preschool and nursery where parents were encouraged to have a quick chat with a staff member at drop off and/or collection if they felt there was anything that needed to be said. At school, however, with so many parents crowded round the classroom door the teacher only has chance to exchange a sentence or two – if that – with each one of them.
I’d like to trust Tyger’s teacher knows what she’s doing, understands autism enough to cater to his needs and will contact me if anything comes up.
I should be able to. She’s had training. She has experience. She clearly likes children (which might seem like a job requirement but I had a couple of teachers as a child who made me question that). I have seen no evidence to suggest she is not a capable, compassionate professional. Theoretically, I should feel comfortable leaving my son in her care five days a week.
But, I don’t. Not yet, anyway.
The problem is, so very many professionals who should know all about autism in children because their job involves working with autistic kids/referring potentially autistic children for assessment/helping parents cope with autism in their families just don’t know anything past the bare minimum cliched and outdated information. I’ve come across ignorance in health visitors, GPs, childcare providers, and teachers. This makes it hard to trust anyone.
The fact Tyger masks excellently in public (as I so often reiterate on here) doesn’t help. It’s easy for anyone who doesn’t spend all day, every day with him to assume he’s fine when he’s not – to overlook the ways in which he’s struggling because of his autism.
I don’t want to be ‘that’ parent.
I’m trying my hardest not to be.
But, if I have to, I will.