Today’s post is just by little old me, Stephanie, about one of my biggest struggles having an autistic child in a mainstream school.
Since Jack started school, we have had the annual Christmas performance, World Book Day (3 times), Explorer Day, International Day, Christmas Jumper Day, and now on October 18th, the year group are being asked to participate in Stone Age Day.
What do all these days have in common? Non-fucking-uniform. When I was at school, I used to LOVE non-uniform day. Any chance to dress up right? But with a child with autism, this becomes a minefield.
Firstly, finding a costume that isn’t too rough, too itchy, too weird, too tickly, doesn’t smell weird, doesn’t feel weird…. well that is a problem all it’s own. Jack was lucky to have a costume for Explorer day, as someone randomly bought him a NASA spacesuit for Christmas prior to the event. World Book Day last year was also fairly chill – we had a Policeman costume already so he went as ‘Cops and Robbers’. But International day saw me looking for Mexican attire, or red/white/green clothing that Jack would actually wear. I settled for some red shorts, a white tee, and glued a Mexico flag to the front that Alada very kindly printed. Initially he was raging, but when he saw it was just regular clothes but decorated, he agreed to go to school.
The next stressful thing is actually getting them INTO the costume. Jack’s routine is to get up, eat, brush his teeth and wash his face, and dress into his uniform in order of underpants, socks, trousers, shirt, tie, sweater, shoes. But when it’s non-uniform, he gets confused about a) actually putting the right clothes on and b) which order to do them in. And so I usually have to physically dress him.
Once he is in school, I believe he is fine. The next challenge actually begins the next day. You see, I changed the routine when I gave him different clothes to wear for school, and so now he wants to wear those clothes for school ALL THE TIME. Autistic children generally, from what I hear from other parents too, struggle massively with having to go back to normal after something like this.
School also have issues the next day – they’ve been off the normal curriculum, and so Jack struggles to reintegrate with his regular timetable.
Personally I think schools across the board could do a better job when it comes to preparing autistic children for scheduled changes. I’ve tried directing them to courses, I’ve even SEEN one of the support assistants on the Social Stories course….but they only do them for changes like new school year transition. I know it’s a lot of work but if they saw the anxiety and meltdowns and ‘low level disruptive arseholeism’, as I call it, they wouldn’t do it any other way.
“Low Level Disruptive Arseholeism” is a term I use to describe when Jack is heightened. He’s not angry, or lashing out, or melting down, he’s just being awkward, disagreeable, ranty, repetitive and stubborn. It can sometimes last days, as he just can’t let things go. Emotionally it’s exhausting.
It’s not a massive issue – certainly not one that would make me change Jack’s school, but it really is a pet peeve of mine!