It was the school’s Harvest festival yesterday and it has always been my favourite celebration of the year: the entire school walks the half mile to a local church for an hour-long service which is great fun.There are readings and some students even read out their own work and songs to celebrate the harvest. It is always a noisy service as it is exciting for most, but distressing for some , to see their parents or grandparents in a school context or to be in an unusual church setting. i am always in awe that the staff manage to get everyone there and back in one piece, despite the evident stress and planning involved, but for me, it is always well worth the effort and I always endeavour to attend.
This year I thought I saw more parents and grandparents than usual,I sat next to some very proud grandparents who were keen to share their Grandson’s story with me and their struggles with the NHS and their fund raising to get stem cell treatment in the USA.
Joshua was quite aloof when he arrived at church, being aware of me but refusing to smile, but he kept checking over his cheeky shoulder that I was still there. After a dance out of his wheelchair, he sat on a wooden pew and then he tried very hard to have a snooze. I was rewarded with a huge beam as his class filed out into the sunshine, ready for the walk back to school.
I too was in school in the afternoon, for a parents’ session on Sensory Issues with Autism. It was well attended by parents that I did not know, most having younger children than Joshua I think. The speaker clearly had years of experience of working with both children and adults with autism and he explained to us how exhausting processing the everyday world is if you have autism. It has been suggested that Joshua has ‘autistic traits’ so I am trying to learn more about it, so that I can decide if I agree with that diagnosis or not. There were certainly parts of his behaviour that might be described as autistic, but compared to most of the Mums who were present, for whom living with an autistic child is a daily battle, we have a very easy life it has to be said. Joshua is , I believe, too laid back and sociable, to be autistic and although he is calmed by loud music, and has been all his life, this may not be an autistic trait, but could be that he shares his parents’ love of music! It is difficult for me to separate out his personality and his severe learning difficulties and to add autism into the mix too.
As the session ended at home-time, it was cut too short for my liking but we all had to take our children home, or rush back to be at home where Mum was expected to be as some autistic young people cannot tolerate their parents being out of context, on school premises! Joshua on the other hand was thrilled to see me and as i gave him a kiss, I was covered in something very sticky – class had been making flapjacks and he was coated in golden syrup!
It was a privilege to spend such a busy and entertaining day at school.