25% of this project is planning it, 25% is actually taking it, and 50% of it will be a journey with autism. Yes that is a big chunk of the trip, given over to working with a different way of being and thinking. However, this is our life, and it doesn’t feel like 50%, and certainly not 50% of posts are going to be about it. However, because it is such a big part of the journey, it can’t be ignored either.
One of the major deciders for doing this challenge, was because it seems to be a perfect time to do something like this with Sofia. Along with this was a special needs education review, where myself and the school agreed that we could now ease Sofia into the mainstream and she could spend her final junior year in a local school, before going to high school.
The process of easing Sofia into the mainstream had already started, however, this term it ratcheted up so that almost her entire day was in the mainstream, receiving the same level of support that she might expect next year. I don’t believe any of us expected the result of this.
I have had reports of her being bullied, of her ‘bullying’, of Sofia having meltdowns, and worst of all, biting another child, something that has never happened before. Last week, I let the school know that I wanted to discuss rolling Sofia back into the special unit at parents evening, which happened today.
I don’t know what I really expected when I sat down with the group of special needs teachers and learning assistants. I don’t even know what I was thinking about in the long term. I had given them time to think about it anyway, and they had taken that time to discuss and be clear on their perspective. They responded in total agreement, that it wasn’t working out as we had hoped or expected. That her placement continues with the special unit until we set off to Africa. That I will have a preparation issue on my hands, because their recommendation is that she has a placement in special needs school for high school.
Hearing this was like a bucket of cold water without getting wet – I so wanted it to work out for her and to see her carve out something for herself in mainstream. On the other hand relief (hence not wet) because after the last 2 months the idea of her being in mainstream for high school is terrifying. Academically she is just about keeping up, but what we have learnt without a shadow of a doubt is that her social comprehension will not develop at a rate that will make it possible to integrate into mainstream.
And this is the story of autism, never giving up, always reaching for the best, and being sensitive enough to know when to pull back and to set new goals. The new goal here is that she gets the placement that is right for her to come back to in 2016. It is a goal I am happy about because I know that achieving it will be a happier child more successful child than the alternative.