As I sit on a train to meet some friends, my thoughts return to another journey that is set to begin – my PDA child will start at a new school.
I woke up this morning and could feel my fingertips pressing into the palms of my hands.
I feel overwhelmed. It’s like overload.
If this is the first of my blogs you ever read, you may wonder what the big deal is about starting a new school. Sure, plenty of kids have to do it, just one of those things.
Well not in our case, not with our history, not when you have a debilitating condition that is PDA.
Firstly, I need to allow my daughter to feel that this is ALL her decision. It takes so much strategic thinking to sow an idea and allow it to permeate enough so that it can be absorbed as hers.
Next, we scroll through the school website to look at uniforms; her compulsive side is now on board, “wow! They have blue baseball bats, can I have one please?”
The hours roll by with excited conversations about school uniforms and how she will look.
“You need to tell the new head that I like dressing as a boy. Well, sometimes,” she says to me.
Her thoughts are running away with eclectic urgency, she is distracted enough to forget her fear of leaving the safety of home.
Inside, I’m fretting. My scars are so, so raw still. And so are hers.
Oh god, will they like her? Can they handle her? How will she make friends?
I need to go back to the words she wrote in her worry book:
I like to go to school if they understand my Autism.
I run away because I need my mummy. Now I don’t get so cross.
I miss my friends so much.
I want my rabbit in school.
I like writing on my homework. I like to see my friends. I like bringing my toys in to school but I’m not allowed to bring my toys in but I wish I can every day.
I read her innocent words and can touch her vulnerability. I feel it too.
I know the tuts, the stares, the beginning foundations need setting once again, for our family to be included.
My armour is creaking, it needs oiling to protect me once again.
It’s just a transition, we can do this.
The adrenaline is wearing off, her panic of a new change is setting in. She pleads that her middle sister can go with her.
I haven’t even addressed how I will be able to get both children on separate school runs.
Im looking out of the train and as we are speeding along our journey the static scenery blurs away into the distance.
I wish all of the negativity we have scratched on our once blank canvas can do the same.
This transition tastes like freedom.
A change I wasn’t fully open to before.
I had allowed myself to be convinced, I had trusted those professionals around me when they said mainstream wasn’t going to work for my child.
The strategies and resources had been exhausted they said. Only, I learnt this was not actually the case.
And when they decided to reinstate her, could I and should I actually send her back?
I had read the words in their emails, “has mum finally realised this school isn’t right for PDA child.”
That rhetoric wouldn’t change over night.
And then someone came along in a mainstream setting, having looked at her EHCP, I’m sure with some reservations, but with the passion to give it a go.
Her 1:1 in the last setting had that feeling: an eagerness to not write someone off.
I’m taking that positivity with me on this journey, regardless whether we succeed.
I simply want two things for my child:
1. For my daughter to finally access an education.
2. That she is accepted for WHO she is.
There is no hard or fast rule as to whether a PDA child is best suited in a specialist or mainstream setting.
I’ve learnt that some succeed and some fail in both.
The only chance these kids have to flourish is by a senior leadership team who really have an inclusive ethos in their school.