My Elizabeth has a diagnosis of High Functioning Autism and she’s the reason we began our home eduction journey. She just couldn’t cope in school, the stress was affecting her mental health.
Since my back operation and subsequent pain and mobility issues, Elizabeth’s needs haven’t been being met to my satisfaction. She needs constant emotional support and intervention. She struggles with other people’s noise and her sensory issues are huge. Over the years I have done many things to enable her to deal with these issues however she has been gradually disengaging for the past year.
I didn’t notice at first, it kind of crept up on us. But after my operation I was emotionally absent and she found that hard. After a few weeks I found that I was able to be emotionally present again, but I had a lot of work to do in order to get the children to take me seriously. If I said no, they would carry on doing whatever they were doing. They bickered and argued over toys and I felt like I didn’t have the strength to deal with it so Paul stepped up and he dealt with behaviour stuff…we aren’t heavy handed with discipline but we won’t stand for fighting or mean words etc. But I felt like they looked to him as the parent and ignored me when I asked them to do things (or not do things).
Elizabeth felt this change too of course and since I’d been the one to work with her around her sensory needs, if I told her to go bounce or to play outside or go on the swing (in order to regulate her) she refused.
Even after I had taken back the parenting reins as it were Elizabeth remained difficult.The oppositional behaviour eventually extended to everything. She refused to get dressed, wouldn’t pick up after herself, wouldn’t help in the house, refused to find an activity (we are autonomous so the children are self-motivated and learn what they want to learn) but if I suggested an activity she refused to do it. I was beside myself. If the other children were playing she would scream that their noise was upsetting to her (even to the point that Leon’s crayons on the paper sent her into a frenzy).
I realised something had to change. We started home educating because Elizabeth was unhappy but I realised it was now time to stop for the same reason.
I gave it a lot of thought and discussed the situation with Paul and we came to the conclusion that mainstream secondary education wouldn’t work for Elizabeth, she would be so stressed in that environment. I don’t think she would be able to get herself from one lesson to the next and her lack of social skills and her many sensory issues would just cause her to be in fight or flight from morning until night.
A special school is not an answer either at the moment because despite having a diagnosis, Elizabeth wasn’t statemented before I took her out of school and she hasn’t got an EHCP either…
So we decided on our local Steiner school. It has small classes (Elizabeth makes the class 14) which makes things easier for her on a social level and there is a lot of learning through physical movement which is great for keeping her regulated and calm. They are outside a lot in the day, and the gentle, structured day is suiting her down to the ground.
She has put on a little bit of weight (she was very thin before) and is eating a good breakfast and all her evening meal. She asked me if she could cut her hair and so has had a grown-up make over. She packs her lunch every day and is taking more responsibility for herself, she even had her first sleepover last week!
I’m really pleased with how she’s getting along. Meanwhile at home things have really chilled out. The other kids can play and sing and whistle and play with toys that make noise to their hearts’ content. We miss Elizabeth when she is at school but now when she comes home we are all pleased to see her and she has lots to tell us about her day.
Change is good sometimes eh?