Updated: Jun 23, 2021
I had a conversation with our lad's teacher, a teacher who is well aware of our lads diagnosis of ASD and ADHD, who had been supported by ourselves with as much autism and ADHD information we could find.
"I'm working on keeping him happy and steady in class but I think I'm at a loss regarding his academics".
This was around 6 weeks after starting back after COVID (Sept 20) a hugely upsetting period of time for most, never mind children with ASD.
"I'm very happy for him to be happy in school and given the opportunity to learn, lets give him sometime to settle in and then see his interest in learning get sparked", I replied.
His teacher is very good. Our lad respects him, tries to win his approval with his homework and tries to keep his behaviour on an even keel to impress him (monthly at the minute he has big wobbles).
It got me thinking on what I could do as a parent to inspire his teacher, not to give up, as our lad didn't 'fit' with the rest of his students.
We had weekly phone calls to discuss managing him. I sent through all the notes, presentations and videos that I could find on aspects of ASD within main stream schooling. This seemed to catch the interest of the teacher, he learned a lot "learned more in 6 weeks than in 6 years".
The whole experience left me wondering why there are so many issues within the schooling system. Currently in Ireland there are schools being forced to incorporate ASD children and classes into the facilities. The affect on parents and the children seems to be one of frustration. It's like we are being used as pawns. The schools are fighting with the education department, screaming for more staff, more training and more facilities. The education department seem to be pushing more and more onto the schools.
I'm not quite sure which side I'm coming down on. Inclusion without training would be stressful for anyone. It replicates the feeling parents have when their children are diagnosed and left wondering, what happens now. A different scale but I can see the point of view. The education department have the government applying pressure, pressure from the parents wanting their children to be included and remain in mainstream education - I know because that's certainly what I would like.
It's a chicken and egg situation. Without training and staffing, the school staff won't feel knowledgeable or supported. The children will feel lost, anxious and incidents, wobbles and meltdowns will occur more frequently. The parents will dread communication from the school, not knowing what to expect.
As a parent we expect the best from our education professionals. They have to know more than us surely. Yet, why is it that we spend more time providing information for the schools and to the teachers. We spend more time coaching them in how to work with our children instead of the knowing how to work with our kids.
For many schools it's a case of 'You child doesn't fit in'. It's 'conform to the norm' or go to another school. The entire system needs to look at itself and most importantly, principals and teachers need to stop fighting with ASD children and their families and start looking at what works for the children. ASD families are fighting for support, guidance and assistance with almost all agencies, they don't need to fight the school that they had chosen for their child - most likely chosen before there was any sort of diagnosis.