It was twenty past three. I put on my shoes and coat and set off to school to get my child. The school was only down the road so I would be in time to wait a couple of minutes in the playground.
I waited, those minutes seeming like an hour. My heart was in my stomach as usual, and I didnt know what to expect. Was he going to run to me crying, run as fast as he could away, or would this be one of the rare days he came out calmly?
I prepared myself for the inevitable teacher marching him across the playground, or marching crossly after him. I prepared myself for the looks from other parents, the sympathetic looks, slightly comforting, amongst the disapproving ones.
The distant bell rang and doors started opening into the playground. Happy children filed out to their eagerly waiting parents, showing them nice things they had made and chatted about their day. I looked in the direction of my child’s classroom. The door opened and then it happened.
My heart sank as my little one came out, tears streaming down his face, crying loudly as he ran. His lunchbox flew in one direction, his bag in another and his teacher marched after him, beelining for me. She had already started talking as my son ran past as fast as he could. I heard clips of what she said, “behaved quite badly today” “refused to go in the classroom” “crying in the corridor” “wouldn’t do as he was told” ” banging his head on the wall” “old enough to know better”. But I wasn’t listening. Why was she not concerned that my son was so upset that he was running, as fast as he could, away from where we stood towards the playground gate.
Well I was concerned. My son had no sense of what he was doing, no sense of danger and there was a road outside. I had to go so I too ran away from his teacher, leaving her stood staring after me. With hers and every other parent and child’s eyes on my back I ran out of the playground too.
I couldn’t see my son anywhere. Panic set in more, my heart was pounding. I tried to think. Where would he go, what would he do? Just then my phone rang.
It was my daughter. “Mum, come quick, he is outside attacking the lamp post and throwing stones at the house!”. The relief! I knew where he was, he had run home! My 11 year old daughter had been on her way home from school and turned into our street to see him. She did the right thing ringing me, thank goodness I gave her a phone! I ran as fast as I could, not noticing the tears from my eyes. Tears of fear, tears of relief, tears of pain for my baby, tears that no one cared. I would deal with them later.
As I turned into my road my daughter met me, looking terrified. She told me she had not gone near him because he was throwing stones and out of control. She had done the right thing. She had in the past tried to calm him and succeeded, she has also thrown herself between him and others to try and help, but this time he was more upset than even I had seen him before.
I managed to get the large stone from my sons hands and somehow got him inside the house where he carried on screaming “mummy” as loud as he could. It was as if he wanted me, but he didn’t know I was there. I knew he had no awareness of what was going on around him and he was in full on meltdown mode. His arms and legs were working by themselves to lash out at everything they could and he dropped to the floor, starting to bang his head again and again.
He had a sensory room, my daughter ran to open the door and I carried him in. It was safer in there because there was a thick mat on the floor and soft toys. I sat with him for what seemed like an hour, talking softly and telling him over and over again he was safe now. Slowly, the screams turned to sobs and the kicks and punches turned to hugs. I held him as he cried saying over and over “I hate school, I want to die”.
I knew not to ask him questions right then, no matter what had happened, it could wait. He wouldn’t be able to tell me at that moment. I let him cry until he fell asleep.
He slept for three hours, exhausted, shut down.
I comforted my daughter, talked through what she had seen and let her help me make the evening meal. I was proud of how grown up she had been that day even though she was scared.
Later, at bed time, I spoke to my son using his toy turtle. He would normally tell his teddies things that were bothering him so I used them as a way of getting him to talk. I managed to find out a little of what had happened that day at school. The rest I pieced together from asking other children and the inevitable “meeting” at school about that day.
He had gone into the classroom after lunch and the tables had moved around. He wasn’t sat where he was normally. His “pack” of pens etc had been moved to his tray instead of in the middle of the table where it lived. His feelings thermometer was stuck on the wall at the front of the room instead of in his pack.
My son doesn’t like change, he couldn’t deal with that much changing at once. He also did not like other children looking at him or thinking he was different, so to go to the front of the room and turn his feelings thermometer to red in front of his classmates was too big an ask, especially when he had no clue of his own feelings or anything in between “fine” and “really not fine”. He literally couldn’t stay in the room. He had escaped out into the corridor, which hadn’t changed, and stayed there instead.
However the teacher had assumed he was being naughty and told him off for not wanting to go into the classroom. He was unable to tell her why, and shouting hurts his ears because of his hyperacusis. This all caused him to have a melt down and he ended up repeatedly banging his head off the corridor wall, which he was told off for.
He had ended up being marched to the head teachers office, where she blanked him for an hour because he hadn’t behaved. By home time all he had in his head was to get away from school as fast as he could and the results of his afternoon came out in the way I described above.
I went to bed that night wondering why that day couldn’t have been different. Was it really that hard to use a little bit of understanding when a child was so visibly upset about something. Was it that difficult to warn a child that can’t deal with change before rearranging the classroom and moving his things? Was it really that hard to understand and see that an autistic child just couldn’t cope?
They had no idea what we went through at home after school each day. They had no idea of the results of their not thinking. I’m not even sure they cared. They certainly didn’t understand and I was, as usual, left to piece my broken children back together.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. I also have a closed Facebook group for sharing days out and holiday ideas and tips. You can find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour.