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Updated: Apr 26, 2021

2020 for us as a family started with a bit of relief. A diagnosis at the turn of the year, meant that we could begin our journey to help improve our lives - finally having a label - meant there was a potential structure that we could use to help or sons. It would take a lot of patience, a lot of learning, a lot of additional workshops and courses but the end result would be a happier steadier boy. Autism and ADHD can be diagnosed in partnership more often than not.

COVID 19 had other ideas.

The first lockdown in mid-March, meant schooling from home - or making the best attempt at it, at least. I reduced my hours at work, which allowed me to be school teacher in the mornings. My wife (an essential worker) picked up in the afternoon.

The hand washing was okay. Our lad quickly grasped the importance of washing his hands and didn't (thankfully) develop it into a compulsion. Having a very limited circle of interaction i.e. the family unit for 3 months, was very tough. We were very unsure how he would react at being re-integrated into society (along with everyone else). Of course the schools never re-opened before Summer, so it was another long two months out of school.

Thankfully the Summer saw our local GAA club begin Summer training for the kids. An hour on Saturday, the same on Sunday and again an our midweek. It was a godsend. The coaches were amazing. The work they did with the kids was priceless. Remember they are all volunteers. No teaching unions for them, protesting about the dangers of working with kids. No teaching union officials complaining, going on about providing H&S equipment for them. Just a well structured format for the parents, training pods for the kids and absolute joy on the kids faces. Every last one of them excelled in their care and provision for the kids.

Summer also saw us being able to qualify for having Summer SNA hours. One of our lads SNA's from school was available to be with him for around 20 hours a week, for 4 or 6 weeks in the Summer. This was great. She took him shopping. She took him to the zoo (when it was opened). Took him on nature walks and various other activities. Her plan was really to bring him into more of the social side of life again rather than schoolwork. It went down a treat with our lad.

We managed a week away, down to Kerry. Swimming, splashing and jumping in the sea on a daily basis was just the de-stresser that we all needed.

September saw the schools open up again, with kids in pods, teachers in masks, some kids in masks, hand gels all over the place and everyone singing happy birthday washing their hands. Our lad was excited for going back, catching up with his friends and seeing everyone again that he'd missed over the Summer. He had a new SNA and all was looking bright. Unfortunately his SNA, in some attempt to be jovial with him, took off her mask and stuck her tongue out at him. He thought she was going to lick him, so he punched her. An SNA of 15 years, we learned during the school suspension and reintegration meeting. Talk about not being aware.

Heightened tensions and anxieties of COVID, a damaged SNA relationship, the constant up and down of movement restrictions and levels - we were in the school on a monthly basis for suspension and reintegration meetings. The school had a hard and rigid line and weren't making any accommodations.

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