Updated: Apr 26, 2021
The school year began well, we thought. A handover in the Summer between Junior Infants teacher to the Senior Infants teacher, the classes had been mixed a little, so another opportunity for new friends. Our eldest had had a reasonable Summer. A few meltdowns but nothing we couldn't handle. a confirmed diagnosis of Autism and ADHD were still a time away.
The Summer had seen him in a few Summer camps outside of creche but he'd spent the Summer with the creche Summer Camp program. All the staff there knew him and knew how to handle him through experience. So we were full of hope for the year ahead.
The run through to near Christmas was quite good, then the phone calls started. There was an incident in the playground, where he had hit another boy. He had broken a teacher's bendy pencil. He wouldn't stop moving in class. He wouldn't pay attention.
When we spoke to the teacher, she had him marked as a disruptive influence in class. She hadn't received any handover regarding his previous teachers concerns or experience. He broke the teachers pencil bending it too far (he had a bendy pencil of his own that he could tie a knot it) but he wouldn't listen to the teacher when she said stop. He had a boy who was being mean and bullying him so he hit him when he was being mean to him. When asked if when the teacher got his attention he could answer her questions we were told that the teacher expected full attention in the class at his stage of learning - very little room for individuality.
From Christmas to Summer, there were a series of 'wettings' were our lad would wet himself in school - only in school - in different situations. One time it was in the PE hall and he had carried on with a PE obstacle course, leaving a trail behind him - when the school phoned and spoke to my wife, she actually offered to go an clean up - she was made feel that bad. He just seemed to get so carried away with 'the moment' or activity that he would ignore or not recognise signals coming from his body. Sometimes he would just be getting so anxious, he'd wet himself as he was starting an activity with the class or as he was nearing the end. We had extra changes of clothes in his bag. We had extra changes of clothes in the school (at the first aid room).
Clothes chewing came to the forefront this year as well. His tie, the cuff of his jumper, the collars of his polo shirts/airtex, his tracksuit top all had to be replaced at least once through the year. Something we thought was just him, something he'd grow out of. Little did we know it was an attempt to 'self soothe'. He continues to this day. We buy extra uniforms to accommodate. We've tried chewable dog tags, chewable wristbands, chewable rubber that he keeps in his pocket all to no avail. Whatever he gets from the sensation of chewing his clothes can't seem to be replicated.
Through the school year, he was invited to 3 or 4 birthday parties - in a class of 30, the children in the class or the parents, were beginning to isolate him. It took him a long time to get dressed each morning. Clothes had to laid out in a certain way and more often that not, his jumper would be on backwards, his shirt buttons were skewed, his shirt the odd time was inside out and buttoned (he found buttons so difficult, that he couldn't tell the difference between the buttons being the right way round or not).
By the end of the year, we were very glad it was over and hoped that a new teacher might make a difference the next year. No end of term work this year, no dialogue and when we tried to get some catch up/refresh work done in the Summer - exactly the same as the year before, some colouring and simple writing it led to a battle - rather than put him off school, we backed off practical work and focused on his friends in the class. We met them at GAA, at the Summer Camps and basically tried to put a positive edge to going to school, learning and being social. By the end of the Summer, it had worked and he was looking forward towards going up into first Class.
Starting 1st class, he was 6 and a half. We still had no idea of anything being amiss, asides from the fact that he seemed to be having issues and struggles coping in certain situations.