Social media has inspired my topic again today as I was struck last night by a mother on the hemi site that I have spoken about before, who was in utter despair and was sharing with the parents that she knew would understand her dilemma. She wrote about her autistic son who has reached a point when his mainstream school can no longer support him and that he was being referred to his nearest Special School. And she was devastated on his behalf because she knew that he could not bear to leave his best friend and that he was desperate to be the same as his peers. Logically she knew that the special school was probably the best place for her son, but she was so disappointed on his behalf. Clearly she reached out to this online support group to share her story and to garner feedback.
No sooner had I read this outpouring of despair that I had contributed my words of support and encouragement based upon our own experience of a transfer from mainstream to special school. I tried to explain, as the first mum to comment, that her son may well finally find all of the support that he needed in small classes with expertise for her son’s condition. Over the course of the evening, the thread of shared words of wisdom fascinated me and she responded by giving more details and explored her tears and reaction. Literally it was as though she was exploring the issues with a group of close friends, yet I imagine the others, like me, had never met her or her son.
Of course, this debate made me reflect on our situation with Joshua too. Similarly we reached a point at which his mainstream primary school could no longer support him adequately. And so we had that same conversation and began that search for the best setting for our precious son. Gut feel is so important when looking around a new special school I found, I had a physical reaction when I found the right setting and similarly, we both knew where we were not prepared to send Joshua under any circumstances. Not able to get our first choice of special school, Joshua spent a couple of years in a school that did not suit him, but I am delighted to say that in 2011 Joshua, after a tribunal to get there, joined his current school and so at ten years old, Joshua was finally where he belonged.
I did not have the complication to deal with that this mother has, Joshua did not have a best friend that he had to leave behind at mainstream – nor does he currently have a best friend, although I have now seen how fondly many of his classmates regard Joshua. Social acceptance to be the same as his peers was not an issue for Joshua either, he has always been happy to go his own way as he seems fairly oblivious to what his peers are doing. So in many ways, the decision was made much easier for us – there is that silver lining again – and there is such comfort in knowing that your non-verbal child has found his ‘educational home’.