I’d not say Matthew hates school – or even really dislikes it – as once he’s there, he actually likes it, and often enjoys it. But for him, there is the part of it that’s unknown – every day he wants to know what he’s going to be doing, like any autistic child, and he dreads the fact he doesn’t know exactly what’s coming. He’s been like that since nursery. He had separation anxiety when he went to nursery (pre-diagnosis) and Jane had to stay with him for week. But he went. But when the transition to primary one came around, suddenly he didn’t want to get dressed in the morning, would drag his heels getting there and generally made it obvious he didn’t want to be there. It didn’t help that he had job share teachers who were very different people. The teacher he had Monday & Tuesday, he didn’t like and that made matters worse. Fortunately the other teacher was more understanding, and admitted she found it hard to cope with Matthew after he took a real slide after Christmas. But, he made it through the year.
The real dread of being there has diminished over the last 3 years, but he still is wary of going to school. What hasn’t helped the last 2 years has been the turnover in teachers he has had. After P1 (2 teachers), he had 3 in P2 and an astonishing SIX in P3. He had learned to expect his teacher wouldn’t be around long for him, and that made for a difficult year. Come the holidays (which he found difficult thanks to the lack of routine) even though they were difficult, he dreaded going back to school more.
Fortunately, the school admitted the amount of teachers he had was having a negative impact on him. They decided that Matthew’s P4 teacher would be the one he finished off P3 with. He had slowly learned to trust her in P3, and has a lot of respect for her. She admitted during a review meeting that she didn’t know much about pupils with autism, but said she looked upon it as a learning experience, and has made the effort to understand it. She knows how to handle Matthew a lot better now, how far to let him push boundaries, when he needs time out. She is really engaging him.
But last term, Matthew finally saw the SEN teacher at the school. He had sessions with her in P2, and loved it. She is a brilliant teacher, and Matthew really responds to her. He actually looks forward to sessions with her, and today Jane said his class teacher said how he is really progressing. Matthew also got to visit with the special needs room (the rainbow room) which was good, as it was his Thursday/Friday teacher from P1. She is a lovely lady who always takes the time to talk if we bump into her at the school, and I think she has a soft spot for Matthew. He likes her too, and now sees her on a Friday afternoon. He sees the SEN teacher on a Friday too, so its easily his favourite day of the week! He now goes to the rainbow room to have his lunch with the teacher there (Matthew doesn’t eat well at school.) He said today how much he enjoyed having his lunch with her. She is also having a positive impact.
What has enthused Matthew this term though is the class project. They’re looking at space (not literally!), a subject Matthew loves. At the end of our holiday, it transpired he was actually LOOKING FORWARD to going back to school. Yes, looking forward to it! He had a subject he enjoys, his sessions with the SEN teacher, and visits to the rainbow room. He is finally getting the support he really needs, and it is slowly paying off. If he looks forward to school, and can enjoy being there, he will engage and be sure he benefits as much as he can from the educational experience.