Monday, July 15, 2013

Starting School

Erik loves school.  He loves it!  I knew he would.  He loves riding the bus each morning and afternoon, and he is loving the stimulation that school provides.  He loves the routine and opportunity to play outdoors and on the play equipment.  He loves the music sessions and OT sessions.  It really has been the best thing for him.

On the first day of school, hubby and I decided to drive him in ourselves, and bring all the girls too.  This way, although they would go late to school, they would get to share the experience of their brothers' first day.  Unfortunately, the Autism-specific school is quite separate to the mainstream one the girls go to.  So they have missed out on all those exciting and proud times when a younger sibling starts school with them.  Bringing them along on his first day was a way to compensate for that in some small way, and they loved it.

Four kids in the back of the van.

Wondering where we are going.

In the schoolroom.  Girls will smile for the camera, Erik has more important things on his mind :)

Hubby has been the one to get up early and get Erik ready for school.  I cannot begin to tell you how much that means to me.  I am not a morning person - never have been.  Four children and ten years of managing babies has not made me a morning person!  If that hasn't done it... it ain't gunna happen!  But further to this, and perhaps more importantly;  Erik is a growing boy.  He is now up to my shoulder in height, and weighs almost half of my own weight.  He is becoming more difficult for me to handle, simply due to his size.  Most of the time, I am ok;  ie. When he complies with all activities and attends to the task.  But when decides to be difficult, or when he is simply not attending, I am really starting to struggle.  Brushing his teeth has become all but impossible for me.  This is where daddys strength comes in.  We simply need him to take on part of Erik's personal care just because the boy is getting too big for me.  (This entire issue deserves a post of its own.  But I will try to stick to the topic at hand).

Having three children at two different schools presents a logistical challenge for us, particularly because they are all of primary school age.  It's not as though we can send off our teens to get to school on their own while we tend to the younger ones.  Because they are all still young, they need to be supervised on their way in.  However, Eriks' school has a private bus service at no cost to the parents.  How lucky are we!  You don't have to take up on it, but of course, we did.  It means that all we have to do is get him to the pick up/drop off point, which is a lot closer to home than the school is.  The only problem is, we have been allocated one of the earliest pick up times and latest drop off times.  Erik needs to be at that bus stop by 7:18am.  And I don't get to pick him up until 4:42pm.  That is a very long day for him - (though he doesn't seem to mind).  So with the girls finishing at 3:30pm, this creates a major time gap for me in the afternoons.  I lose about one hour everyday just in time wasted because I can't really do anything substantial in between collecting the big girls from school and waiting for him.  It has turned out to be a bit of a pain really.  But in the end, we are grateful for the service as a whole, and I decided to try and make the best of the 'lost' time by leaving earlier than necessary to collect the girls and having a coffee with my mum while waiting.  It's good, because I get to see her a little bit everyday.

The bus.

Putting Erik on the bus each morning always leaves a little flitter in my heart.  Oh, I know.... letting your little one toddle off to school like a big kid is always a bit sad for mum, but this boy here... he is my baby.  He is so much more vulnerable than most other kids.  And to put him on a bus and wave goodbye...?  Eh.  It is hard.  I didn't do that with the girls!  And they aren't autistic!  But, we put our reservations aside, and let him take the bus anyway.  After all, they have been doing this for 30 years, so they would understand what it is like to deal with an autistic kid, right?  And Erik really does love it.  I knew he would.  He has always loved car trips, and anything with proprioceptive input.  The bus is a fabulous way to get a daily dose of that.  Twice!  

The school has a really good curriculum.  It is totally different to the sort of thing you would learn at a mainstream school, yet they still manage to do things related to numeracy and literacy and all the basic general topics that primary schools need to do.  Just not in the conventional way.  They fit them in around learning basic skills that normal kids can just pick up along the way.  Erik is learning how to communicate with PECs again.  He is learning how to actually sit for a group session - (believe me, this is a big deal for us!)  He has learnt how to get his own lunch box out of his bag and open it.  He is learning how to engage better, and, from the first week I could see such a difference! 

I love it when a toy manages to capture his interest!

From that first week, he came home so bright, so much more 'with it'.  He would stop me and look into my face, making eye contact and smiling at me.  He is echoing more, babbling more, repeating more things that he might have heard somewhere at some stage.  The second day of school, he was already wearing his bag!  I tried quite a few times to get him to wear his own bag during the kinder year, but he wouldn't have a bar of it.  These teachers are amazing!

Bag on his back = Win!!

They have taken him (and all the class) on excursions several times already.  To know that someone else has taken my son out and about without me is so far-out for me.  You have to understand;  I NEVER let this boy go with anyone but his father or myself.  For good reasons.  So knowing the teachers do this really makes me nervous!  But we gave our full consent at the beginning of the year, and my oh my, we have seen the benefits!  My beautiful boy is so much more compliant when we go out and about now.  He will hold his fathers or my hand willingly, and walk along with us with very little trouble.  I'm not saying that outings are now completely free of meltdowns and absconding, but those incidents are greatly reduced.  To the point where I have been able to take all four children out to get groceries, by myself, on two occasions these school holidays.  Amazing!

From early on in the school year, Erik and one other child in his class were identified as high priority for OT.  To know that they were able to see this need in my son, without me having to point anything out, was so reassuring.  They really know what they are doing; my heart is at ease.  On the other hand - and this is the bittersweet thing about having a child like Erik - it makes me a little sad to know that my child is one of those who needs intensive and specific attention.  But the point is, they are providing him with what he needs.

More and more I am satisfied that sending my son to this Autism specific school has been the perfect choice for him, and I couldn't be more grateful.  I love those teachers and aides - I really do.  I am grateful for my country, for the way they seek to include, assist and always look to do better.  Oh, yes, we could always do more.  But what we have is already a blessing.



  1. So glad to hear that he's doing so well at school. Gosh so amazing to see these recent picture of him. He's grown into such a handsome little man. Must be a load off your mind to see him so well cared for.

  2. So happy to read this post and hear about the school and the wonderful growth in sweet Erik! I can completely relate to the heart flitters that come with sending him on the bus. I'll never forget putting Rhema, age 3, on the bus to attend an autism school an hour away. Her backpack seemed bigger than she was!
    Your children are so beautiful!