What Happened Next

In real life we’re now in the second week of the holidays preceding Term 4, while my story here in this blog is still stuck at lunchtime on the first day of Term 3. Let’s try to catch up a little….

2pm. The phone rang. The school counsellor. Wanting to follow up on our meeting with the special needs specialist that morning.

“Let me begin,” I began, “by making it clear that until I stop being angry, and I might be incredibly angry indeed for at least a month, that woman is banned. I don’t want her in a meeting, I don’t want her spending time with my son, I don’t want her anywhere near the school without being warned about it first.”

I think the school counsellor laughed. I think. It was 11 weeks ago now.

Even if she didn’t laugh she did employ the art of significant silence, and well-judged professional understatement. Were her lines intended to be read between? In any case, after a half hour debrief I was confirmed in my view that we’d all been completely horrified at the things that had been suggested to me and my husband about our son.

Shared emotional response to a stressful situation makes for a strong team, in my experience, and while I’d prefer to be sharing emotions other than horror with the teachers and support staff at the school, I’ll take whatever I can get.

I thought the best thing was to not discuss it openly with the teacher, however. School teachers have it drummed into them that they must be supportive of their colleagues when parents are being critical, and I didn’t want to add to the stress load of my son’s teacher, who had gone to such lengths to integrate him into the classroom.

And Week 1 passed with my son having a fabulous week. Week 2 continued in the same vein. Week 3 commenced with the return of the wonderful acting principal who’d been on long-service leave, and I felt calm enough to organise a debrief with him about that meeting. He was shocked, but he’d already heard about the meeting from staff members, and apparently we’d all had the same response (yay!) that the remarks had been – well, something bad, he didn’t elaborate other than to share a facial expression. We made plans for the term. I felt relieved that the whole team was back in action for the rest of the term. We were making brilliant progress!

The next day I finally met with an autism advisor from the agency that administers government support for children with autism, and the grant for occupational therapy, speech therapy and psychological support services finally kicked in. That same morning my son’s occupational therapist was observing him in his classroom and working with the teachers and support staff in strategies that would facilitate his integration and development. Term 3, Week 3, Day 3 and it seemed as if the support team I’d been piecing together really was working as a team.

Friday of Week 3, the acting principal called me into the office.

“I need to tell you something,” he began, and as so often before I felt a knot in my stomach. Despite the steps forward these past few weeks something dreadful had taken place – had it? My son had lashed out at a classmate- had he? What?

None of the above, nor any of the other dark fears lurking in the rivers of adrenalin that seem to have replaced all my other bodily fluids these past few months.

The wonderful acting principal was being relieved of his position, on short notice, and being returned to his classroom (to the excitement of his students and their parents!) and a new principal we knew nothing about had been assigned to the school and would be taking over as of Monday.

I may have burst into tears.

This would be the third principal the school had had in six months, and I just didn’t think I had the energy to deal with someone new. I was explained out. What if this new principal had no experience with autism? What if she turned out to be just like the special needs specialist from two weeks earlier? What if she was so overloaded coming to terms with a whole new school that the pressing needs of my son would be seen as an irritation more than anything else?

I trudged home in a fog of foreboding.

Change is, of course, an opportunity for things to get better, not just to get worse. But it was very hard, that weekend, to pin my hopes on the chance of things getting better…

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