Monday, September 26, 2011

eSpecially Parents September Edition: Meg's Story

We've had a bit of a bumpy start, education-wise, but things are good now.  Actually my son was just honored at his mainstream school assembly as the 'Star of the Week' for his class, as he knew all his letters and letter sounds.  This is something I was not expecting.  Of course I know my son is super clever, but 2 weeks into the school year I anticipated tantrums and being called to come and bring him home, not awards!  But I feel this is proof that he is in the right place.  His needs are being met and he is content.  That's all I have been praying for and that's what we've got!

Let me take you back.  You see, because my son has trouble with new people, places, routines, and the like I carefully planned our cross country house move 18 months before he was to start school.  My intention was to settle him in our new house, and a new pre-school with children who would be attending the local (very sweet, just 80 students total) school to prepare him for the smoothest transition possible into primary school (elementary school to those of you Stateside). 

By October of 2010 everything was coming along, my son had settled at home and into the pre-school, visited the primary school on a number of occasions and was comfortable with the children and their parents....score!  I submitted school preferences at the end of October and in November my son was diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.  I was told not to worry about my school choice, and to proceed as normal, so that's what I did.  Never did it enter my mind that the local school, the school we moved to prepare him for, the school where all the children he knew would be going...would not be our allocated school. 

In May I was informed of the school my children (I have twins) would be attending in the fall.  I was beyond shocked.  The kids had been allocated to a larger school about 5 miles away in a village that we never go to, and where we knew no one.  Nightmare!  Immediately I was on the phone, tears in my eyes asking if anything could be done, that my son was a special case and that we had been working for over a year to prepare him for the local school.  I was told to appeal.  I did so and I included masses of evidence and reports from all the professionals who had been working with my son and knew about his anxiety.  It didn't matter.  Nothing I said made any difference.  There was a protocol and that was that, no exceptions.  I went through emotions associated with a loss - anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

Then a thick brown envelope arrived in the post.  It was the draft copy of my son's Statement of Special Educational Needs!  Although a huge relief for me to know that my son would definitely get the help he needs at school, no matter what school he attended, it put pressure on us, as it's finalization was time sensitive.  I had to name the school I wanted him to attend within 10 working days.  I contacted the Appeals team once again and asked them to make a decision, any decision, just let me know where my daughter would be going to school so I can put the same school on my son's Statement.  No help whatsoever.  I then contacted the school we were appealing to, and made an appointment with Head Teacher and the Special Needs Co-ordinator.  I planned to ask them if the school could support my son's needs and whether there was any chance my daughter could win the appeal to be included in the Reception (Kindergarten) class.  I figured I would leave the meeting knowing one way or another where the kids would be going to school.

At the meeting the Head Teacher apologized for the stress and strain of the appeal and offered us the places we needed!  What a relief!  It was now the end of July and the kids were due to start school at the beginning of September, but it was settled and we got what we had been fighting for.

So both my children ended up at the school we planned for them to attend and they love it.  They are together with all of their friends from pre-school and loving this new chapter in their young lives.  I am so happy that I refused to give up and persevered through months of difficulty.  It was all worth it, every minute of the stress is worth the smiles on my children's faces and knowing they are where they belong.

p.s.
One thing I was able to do, which was a huge help was to meet up with the support worker assigned to help my son. I invited her to come to our house over the school holidays for a cup of tea and a cake once a week.  This gave us an opportunity to get to know her as well and gave her the chance to get to know my son a bit before school began.  It was a win-win situation. 


Need to read more from the eSpecially Parents Series - start here.

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