As parents of an autistic kid the struggle to find a place in schools apt and catering to the special needs is equally hard as accepting the fact that autism is going to be a part of their lives. I can say this with utmost conviction because I am a parent to an autistic kid.
Life never remains same once parents learn that their kids differ from others or let’s put it this way : their kids have different needs which are labelled as “Special Needs”. And I am among many such parents whose purpose of life after the diagnosis is to make constant efforts in a bid to make this world a better place for their kid, acceptable to and fro (world to kid, kid to world).
The first worry that struck me instantly was to find a place in school with a staff efficient enough to handle, in fact handle with care my little bub with his diagnosis attached. The previous school gently informed me that they won’t be able to take care of a non social, non-verbal kid once they had the knowledge of the reason behind his behaviour. It was a real tough time for us as well as for him as he was forced to spend more time at home (no place even in summer activity schools) and he despised it for he wanted to be set free and discover more and we simply couldn’t let him. I don’t and can’t blame them as they had their limitations.
After prolonged chain of meetings with the doctors and social services, a year or so being spent in a day care hospital (routine was just like any other school, going in the morning and coming back in the evening) finally we were able to register a place in a new school specifically commenced for children with autism. Here within Brussels such schools and organisations are limited hence that adds to the woes of parents like us. Waiting lists are like blows on already sore thumb. But on this occasion we were lucky enough as recommendation from the hospital and social services worked in our favour. Moreover his trainers thought that he was ready for the school and that prompted them take the next leap.
We were ready for a new routine now and equally apprehensive as the kid was supposed to spent more hours in school/ transportation as his day usually begins at 7:00 AM (pick up time) and ends at 4:30 PM when his school bus drops him back. Given the long hours and new environment I was more concerned about “What would he eat?”, “How he would cope with the new environment and his hunger?”, “Would he able to demand for his needs?” Basically all I could think about was his hunger to begin with 😉 which is I guess is normal for any mother.
At the end of the first day when I received him at home I saw a smile on his face which did send a signal of relief to my heart. But I was not sure if it’s just one day wonder or not. Gradually with every passing day my son proved me wrong as till this day I haven’t faced any tantrum (except for few rough days when he had his melt downs right after getting off the bed) while dressing up for the school. In fact he eagerly waits for the bus to arrive every day. That’s a blessing I have been longing for!
At school he is kept engaged in various activities that help him to work individually, in groups, communicate better (he is still non-verbal and utilizes pictures for communication at school), concentrate, learn day-to-day activities that would make him autonomous. To be precise he is being prepared every day to better himself for the next day.
But still there is a void especially during weekends and school holidays. Now that he is used to a routine of going out everyday he wants a continuity in that regime. People with autism can be very rigid with the schedules and it can be an uphill task to explain the reason for change. Rigid adherence to the schedule is their way of confirming security (they have different prism to look at the world). That made us look for other options of engaging him when he is not going to the school. And we ourselves wanted it more than him because that could help him to build his confidence and social skills when amidst new people. And more importantly keep him engaged with new activities and away from YouTube 😉.
Thanks to the registration with a social services organisation that works for children we have been able to book places (so far) for our son in different institutions during different vacations (there are so many school holidays in Belgium) as well as Saturdays are also occupied with swimming sessions. It seems he has taken a liking for swimming instantly. His excitement is there to see every Saturday. He has started filling the bathtub with water up to his neck and practicing his swimming lessons there. The way he moved his body in the water surprised me.
Along with swimming he has a peculiar interest in cooking for he is having a cooking activity every Friday in school. He likes to observe, stir after spices are added and add water in every recipe (his idea of cooking 😁). I occasionally instruct him to add the requisite ingredients in the pan so that he gets a sense of involvement in the process.
Over a period of time after he has begun his school changes are quite noticeable in him. His receptiveness to things and people is evident, no matter how trivial but nevertheless it is there. And it’s a matter of rejoice for us. Now we are aware of his interests, probably skills too. Talking about skills I must say that he sings really well 😁. He is little bit more independent everyday.
I understand we have a long way to go. From understanding to controlling his melt downs; from a place in an organisation to a better future, we have a daunting task at hand. But these petty changes do give us a glimpse of hope towards life.
We Are Hopeful 😊.