22. Autism and Mainstream School Socialization 2013

I took my dear son to school the first day. This was a small school more suited to my son and prepared to be innovative in teaching we thought it the best suit. The layout of the school was open and the philosophy was what we liked. I was worried and anxious how he would cope, I can remember saying to him on the Oval ,”I love you. School is an exciting journey, so go run into the field of life!” or something stupidly romantisising the notion of school. I was assured by the principle I had to step back as a parent and let my son develop his own sense of resilience. Within the first couple of days of school he was coming home terrified.

When I picked Zak up in the car he would not talk. He cried allot. When I dropped my sweet boy off one morning he really did not want me to leave him and he was actually petrified and shaking. I could not endure to see him like this. I got my son to point to the kid that was hitting him and pushing my son’s hat (and his identity/transition object) off of his head.

I was angry. I organized a parent/teacher meet to clear this through school policy. I didn’t realize this was the non verbal behaviour of Autism.  We had a meeting with the parents of the other kid, teachers, our kids to get an outcome which was that the other boy could not play in the schoolyard at lunch and recess time. The strategy to address grievances were to  have a buddy supervise him in the yard.

I didn’t even know about Autism per se at the time. I didn’t know that one of the ways Autism presents itself through non-verbal communication. According to us, as his parents, and extended family,  there was no developmental issues for our child. I was busy at home bringing up a new 2nd baby.

I didn’t see the anxious pacing in the classroom. I knew that my son could read very well and was above the reading level of allot of kids his age, called Hyperlexia. But I didn’t know that asking him to describe the book back to me was an issue for comprehension. I wasn’t too bothered about his writing as he was a good verbal storeyteller. I did not see the  blank gazing, that he just did in front of him instead of following task, I didn’t know he was not hearing her instructions. All he heard was a jumbled mismatch of conjunctives because there was a glitch in his processing speed. Things didn’t match up. I couldn’t put this jigsaw puzzle together. I didn’t know that his core functioning was not strong and that this is why he was finding it hard through a weak pen grip.

My son was getting teazed in the school yard because when he spoke he had trouble pronouncing his “L’s”, “R’s” and “W’s”.  So we had to fix that. Although, Autism is a lifelong condition, you can’t fix it but only work towards passing in public. In the school yard other kids teazed “You sound like a baby!” and Zak would say “I’m not a baaby!” I didn’t know that all he was playing in the playground, was one particular game, “cops and robbers” which the other kids found boring. I didn’t know that Zak would get upset that when he told other kids what to do then they were bored and would not do it.

The teacher took me aside in mid 2013 indicating that there are learning difficulties, I stupidly said to her. “Do you think Stephen has Autism!”,  I grew increasingly upset. The teacher seemed to be indicating this. I cried to the principle in the schoolyard. It was the end of the second term and his birthday I had arranged for the next day at a play cafe with most of his school friends from school and a few from kindy. I didn’t want my children to go through the crap of trying to navigate the maze of disability in their young lives. I didn’t want them to be hurt. I cried on the phone to my dad, he told me to stop worrying and do somethng about it.

So I did investigative work to get a quick result. Little did I realize I had to get a quality diagnosis.  How to pay the $1500 or so that it costs to get a diagnosis, a set of three therapists who concluded that Zak didn’t fit the categories yet? This made it hard for relevant organizations to give a definite diagnosis as my son was not yet 7 years. Another load of money, he was diagnosed by a speech pathologist and psychologist, Occupational Therapy was sort. Application was made to the National Disability Insurance Scheme to help pay for therapy. Paper, paper and more paper. All the therapies take simply ages to organize as everyone is booked up 6 months to 1 year ahead. I really went into overdrive to try to help my son.  My son was so demanding of my attention and that I do things for him. I found it difficult to focus on my second son, much to my dismay.