I Don’t Want to Be ‘That’ Parent

Tyger’s first week of school is over.

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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’.

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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.

 

 

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14 Comments


  1. This is a really good post. Providing the school already know about Tyger’s autism then you shouldn’t need to reiterate things unless its needed. Hope all goes well and he settles into school #marvmondays

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  2. It must be a tough time for you – your baby starting school can be a difficult time anyway, without these added worries. I’ll admit I’ve not know anyone with autism, so I don’t know the effects on your day to day life, but I have friends who are primary school teachers and I know they have taught a lot of children and would never think a parent is annoying if they need to ask lots of questions to put their mind at ease. Do what you need to do as a parent, and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks of you #marvmondays

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  3. I’m sure all parents go through similar feelings, all our children have certain things that set them off, certain things they struggle with, and it can be hard to hand over our precious babies into someone else’s care, especially when that someone will have to split her attention between around 30 different kids. I can only imagine the anxiety for a parent whose child has autism must be ten times as high. All you can do right now is monitor the situation, you’ll know yourself if he seems troubled and I’ve found that teachers (especially reception class) are fantastic if you ask if you can have 5 minutes before or after school the next day to discuss a few things (and will very often say ‘why don’t you come inside now’). I hope he settles in ok x
    #MarvMondays #bigpinklink

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  4. I don’t have any experience in this field but I can try and understand how you must be feeling – I’m sure the teachers are more on top of things than we think though! I hope he settles in wonderfully this week. x #MarvMondays

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  5. As a primary teacher and a mum of a child with SEN, I would say – definitely be that parent!! Quite a lot of teachers don’t have a huge amount of knowledge and understanding of autism and they nearly all would like to understand more! They will be delighted (I promise!) if you go in and have a detailed chat with them about what your son needs, what his trigger points are and any strategies you could suggest! As a teacher I would welcome you with open arms! Another great thing to do, so that you can get in much needed information to the teacher, is to ask them to start a Home/School book – you can then write as much as you need each night/morning, and give them a heads up on anything, and the teacher or TA can write back with how he’s got on or any problems they have come up against! Good luck!! #MarvMondays

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  6. #marvMondays be that parent. Who gives a flip flop what anyone else thinks of you. You’re 100% correct you can’t fail him and also you are adjusting too. As a teacher if you aware of being ‘that’ parent, you aren’t because that parents isn’t aware. Best of luck for your little man

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  7. I think everyone struggles with this to some degree. I’m sure that due to the experience the teachers do have they would welcome your input every now and again to ensure Tyger flourishes in the school environment as much as he can. I understand that sending multiple emails in a day may not be idea but don’t shy away from communicating with them for fear of being ‘that parent’. Good luck with finding a balance.
    #BigPinkLink

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  8. I ended up being that parent!
    My son only started school in april this year and I have already switched schools. This may seem very drastic but he had issue after issue and not once would the teacher meet with me. He had 5 bad head injuries in one term!! I couldn’t keep him there any longer, I felt I would be failing as a parent.
    He started his new school today and it already feels 100x better. The teachers let us settle him in and discuss our worries. When he came out of school he ran up to us telling us that he had had the best day ever and it was so much fun. The deputy head even came up to us to tell us how he had got on.
    I never wanted to be that parent, but am proud that I was and have moved my boy.
    It is so hard to know what is the right thing to do but I will always say follow your gut.
    Hope your boy is having a fantastic first week and that you are coping ok #MarvMondays

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  9. Brilliant blog post and I am sure there are many other parents in a similar situation feeling just like you and I hope they read this. It sounds like your little man is doing really well so far but I can totally understand how you feel about the lack of time with his teacher, especially considering your circumstances. Thank you for sharing with #bigpinklink x

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  10. This week must have been so tough for you, but it sounds like you did really well. I can completely understand the urge to speak to tygers teacher, and you know what, I think theres nothing wrong with that. I think its fine for you to open up the lines of communication and let them know what they can speak to you about anything that they need to at any point. It might be good for them to know how anxious youre feeling about everything so that they can put your mind at ease at least 🙂 Thanks for linking up to #MarvMondays, great to see you. Emily

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  11. Really enjoyed reading your post and cast my mind back to 4 years ago when my son started school prior to having a statement. I remember thinking that each day he was in nursery he came home with a book telling me what he had done each day and what he had eaten. And then all of a sudden nothing! He has always struggled with language and communication so I didn’t have a clue what was going on. Over the years we have had our ups and downs through changes and at times I have needed to be someone I didn’t necessarily want to be but I know when to relax a little and when to politely knock on the Head’s door.

    🙂

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  12. Monkey stated school last week too, the first day a few hours and I went and sat in the park and feed Kipper and felt deflated! Bad choice of location we would have normally played in the park. I am sure 120% sure you will not fail your son when it comes to school. I could never be a teacher but I would think they have had this experience before and in sure they would welcome a conversation rather than worry. I hope you feel better about it soon #marvmondays #bigpinklink

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  13. Be whoever you want to be and need to be. It can be difficult sometimes though when that doesn’t seem compatible… I know you will be great however you decide to move forward. xx Thanks for linking on #SpectrumSunday, hope to see you again this weekend

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  14. As an asd parent and a teacher I relate to this so much. Have you read my post ‘An Apology to my autistic students’? – https://someonesmum.co.uk/2016/02/08/an-apology-to-my-autistic-students/ It is my admission that I needed to do much, much more – but I just didn’t realise before. Some have said it might help to show to their child’s teacher.

    If you get a good teacher, they will try to listen.

    I hope you get a cracker. #SpectrumSunday

    Reply

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