On the School Bus

Oscar starts school in three short weeks. But whether or not I’m ready for it is not what I want to talk about today (by the way, I’m not).

I knew the school we’d chosen was the right one from the first visit. I just knew. But there was a problem. The school is three miles away and I don’t drive. This wouldn’t have been an issue had there been a decent public transport link, but there just isn’t. However, I knew this school was perfect for Oscar, so I put all thoughts of actually getting him there to the back of my mind. After all where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?

And I’m thrilled to say we found that way. Because we live more than two miles away from the school (3.1 to be exact) and because I don’t drive due to my epilepsy and because of Oscar’s Autism, the council have agreed to provide him with transport to and from school. I’m so happy about this. The logistics otherwise just don’t bare thinking about. It means the mini bus will pick him up from our house and drop him at school (and vice versa) every day. It’s such a relief.

I love that it means I can concentrate on just getting one of us ready in the morning. I mean I probably wont hand him over in my pyjamas, but if I really had to I could! I can make sure he’s as prepped for the day and as calm as possible without having to worry about getting myself ready to leave the house and struggling to getting him there. No more mile long walks along busy roads to preschool every day for me!

And I think he’s going to enjoy getting the bus with other children from his school. He’s a surprisingly sociable little guy, so I think he’s going to get a lot out of riding in the ‘Frog Bus’ (the bus has a frog on the side) with the kids. He will of course have an adult escort on the bus, but I’m hoping he’ll enjoy the social interaction that it brings and who knows, he may even make some friends!

And that got me thinking. One of the main things I felt we missed out on when Oscar was starting late and finishing early at preschool (apart from actual time at preschool) was the social interaction with the children and their parents. It was really hard for me to develop any kind of friendships through the preschool because I just didn’t see, and therefore get to know, any of the other mums. And the fact that I’m not going to be dropping off or picking up Oscar from school, kind of leaves me in the same situation. When children are older and start making their own friends I don’t suppose it matters so much. But at this young age, I remember from my own childhood, that much of the socialising they do outside of school comes as a result of the friendships their parents make at the gates. Not to mention the friendships that I could be missing out on. It’s something of a conundrum.

But hang on just a minute. Schools in the States use buses to transport their pupils as standard don’t they? Unless TV and films have lied to me, even from the earliest age our Stateside friends put their kids on a bus to school and have them dropped off in the same fashion and have been doing so for years. So what do American parents do? How do they connect with their child’s school? How do they meet each other? How do they form friendships? Do they have another way or is it something that wouldn’t occur to them to do at all? I obviously need to chat to some American moms and find out what I need to be doing. Any advice gratefully accepted!

ICCE_First_Student_Wallkill_School_Bus

Of course the school gates aren’t the only way to meet other parents at your child’s school. Its the easiest way sure, but what about things like PTA meetings and committees? School fetes and fundraising dos? I can do those. I can help out and make friends at the same time. And I hear Oscar’s school’s version of PTA meetings have wine!

See. I knew it was the right school for us 😉

Parenting from a special perspective with Lisa from mrssavageangel

A few weeks ago I was asked if I would like to be interviewed for the Parenting from a Special Perspective over on Diary of an Imperfect Mum. The series looks at SEND parents and the differences we find in our parenting journey. It was a great interview to do. I loved answering the questions and I’m incredibly proud of the post. Therefore I’m reblogging it here. Enjoy!

Parenting from a special perspective with Lisa from mrssavageangel

The Application – applying for schools from an SEN perspective

Last Friday was, if you have children starting school in the UK this September, the deadline for getting your school application in. Did you get yours in? I did, just! I applied to three (I could have applied to four but there wasn’t a fourth I particularly wanted) local schools, online, same as everyone else. Only my application wasn’t the same as everyone else’s.

I have written before about schooling for those children with an SEND diagnosis and the weight of responsibility I felt to ‘get it right’. And I still do to some extent. I visited mainstream schools and a specialist unit. I saw what was on offer locally. And not once did I look at an Ofsted report. Call me crazy, but Oscar’s needs are going to be just that little different and what grades he’ll get an English and Maths, at least to begin with, don’t bother me in the slightest. I need a school, that’s going to, minimum, understand him and include him. How good the facilities are, or what grades other pupils are getting really aren’t that interesting to me.

So yeah I visited a bunch of schools. I didn’t get a bad impression from any of them other than the specialist unit. Call it a mothers hunch, but the woman running the unit was so uninterested in the children and more interested in herself that I couldn’t get out of there quick enough. The school is so oversubscribed that she didn’t need to ask me my son’s name or anything about him. She would fill her places whether we chose to go there or not, twenty times over. It just gave rise to an impression of complete ambivalence to the children and that made me want to cry.

Anyway back to the application process. We received a letter to confirm Oscar would be considered for an Educational Health Care Plan (the system that has replaced the old ‘Statement’), back in November and he’s had extra Educational Psychology and Speech and Language reports done to that effect, but we have still yet to hear whether he has one or not yet. It’ll be discussed at a forum some time this month is all I’ve been told. Which is great, but not particularly helpful for the application process, the deadline for which was 15th January. It means I had to apply like all other parents, but then fashion some form of evidence to back up that the ECHP was (possibly) in the pipe line. The reason for needing to do this at all is that having an EHCP would put him in a different place in the admittance list (even though where in the list seems to vary from school to school). As we live in a really weird corner of three counties and various catchment areas, we have applied to two schools we are technically out of catchment for. However, if the county take into account his SEN, this might not matter.

Do you see? I’m living in a world of “ifs” and “buts” right now. But (hahaha see what I did there), what is done is done. The application is in, the evidence written, the EHCP decision in the hands of someone else. So we wait. Same as every parent. And hope we’ve made the right decision, hope we get the place we would like, hope the forum agrees to support him in the way I believe he needs.

Not worry. Hope.

Not to mention the fact that this all means my baby will be starting school in September. School! Arrrggghhhhh!

No let’s not think about that at all. Let’s just go back to focussing on the process. Yes. That’s much less frightening! ?

 

 

 

True to Yourself

We first saw the paediatrician in September 2014, so although we didn’t get Oscar’s diagnosis until February this year, it’s been just over a year since the word and the possibility of Autism entered our lives.

I say Oscar’s diagnosis, and of course it is his, but in many ways it’s also ours. Ours as a family, mine as a mother.

I’ve been thinking about identity a lot lately. Being “who you are” or “who you want to be” and being “true to yourself” seem to be buzz words I see everywhere I go at the moment. And the idea is a nice one. Not pretending for the sake of others, living the life you were meant to or that you dreamt of. It’s all very noble. But what happens if the life you want and the one you’ve been thrust in to are two separate things?

Last year I was finally starting to feel happy in my own skin. I felt I was living the life I was meant to. Gradually the future had started to excite me and my confidence soared. I was the mother I wanted to be and I had visions of where we would go and what we would do, together and apart. And then the A bomb dropped into our lives and things haven’t been quite the same since.

I haven’t been that happy for a while now. First of all I thought it was shock, coming to terms and dealing with my ‘grief’ while carrying on. Then things started to happen. People and agencies came into our lives and support and paperwork and appointments and thoughts I never thought I’d need to have became everyday and it was a whirlwind. Yes, Autism was now part of our world, but we could learn and we could deal with that. Right? And then things just carried on, not quite as before but as everyday as they could be. But I didn’t start to feel any better. And eventually I realised in fact I had started to feel worse. Different, less devastated, but more all encompassing.

I spend so much energy getting through the day, some days I feel like a shell. Empty and drained. And then some days I’m feel like I’m getting it. Like I’m winning, like everything is OK again. And the next day it’s everything I have to get us out the door.

And I started to wonder why I feel so sad and I think I might have an idea. I am not the mother I thought I was going to be. And while I’m sure most of us can say the same (who really is living up to the ideal we had before and during pregnancy, really?), it’s proving harder to accept that than maybe I thought it’d would. Is this sadness down to not really knowing who I am?

I want to be true to myself, I just don’t know who that is any more. I am not the mother I thought I was. Because Oscar is not the child I thought he was.

I’m sure I’ll come to terms with it one day. I’ll accept that I am an SEN parent. That I will live my whole life with a disabled child. I’m just not sure when. And right now I don’t know how to.

Or perhaps I just don’t want to? Because that would be like admitting all this is real.

And then my heart just might break for good.

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