Before you read this blog, please bear in mind that this is about me and my family and our particular journey through education. I see other parents on Facebook beaming with justified pride in their child’s achievements as we come to the end of term. And I don’t want to take anything away from them, just explain where I’m at.
If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ll realise that I’m often not very sentimental about things. But this Monday I had Middlest’s year 7 Family Assembly. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but it soon became clear that it was, among other things, an awards ceremony. More than that, it soon became clear that every student was getting at least one certificate.
Because of the way the classes are named, I knew that Middlest’s class would be last so I had to wait for five whole classes get called up. This gave me a lot of time alone with my thoughts. I actually felt a bit, not exactly sad, maybe thoughtful is a better word.
Fate, or whatever you believe in, dealt us this hand. Our children are autistic. Middlest won’t win the award for Positive Attitude to Learning. I initially though that this a make-weight award but the Head of Year explained that they asked every teacher to grade every student on their attitude, from 1 to 4 with 1 being the best. If any pupil got more than 13 1s overall, then they got the award. I’d guess Middlest sees about 16 or so teachers, and I know from what he says, that some of them just don’t get him. They don’t understand that his mind, while it is incredible, works differently to the way the education system thinks it should. If he’s allowed to work on his own terms then he is brilliant – forced into a mould he can just freeze or refuse to participate. Add in super-sensitivity and you can see the problems he faces every day at school.
I guess this was one of the first times I actually felt the loss. The feeling of what could have been. In another life, I’d have been sitting there wondering which of his subjects Middlest might have got Student of the Year or Most Improved student. (He’s not really a joiner so those all-round awards were out of the window too.) As it was I wondered if he’d get the real make-weight award, Valued Member of the Year Group.
I just want to make it clear that I am so proud of him. His autism gives him a unique insight on the world and he constantly astounds us with his wisdom. But it also means that for him, every day is a struggle. As best we can understand, it’s like he’s spending his whole life in a foreign country, never quite sure of what words mean, or what behaviour is expected or required. On top of this, everything is too loud, too bright, too itchy and overwhelming. Once you bear that in mind, the fact that he’s completed an entire year in mainstream without dropping out or going to special school is a miracle. I think he deserves a medal for that alone.
Anyway, after all that introspection, he got a Bronze Attendance Award. (And he didn’t want to shake the head-teacher’s hand which was a bit awkward.) Not entirely sure how I feel about that, as he had little input into the decision whether or not to go to school every morning. He was lucky not to be too ill. But, on the other hand, if he’d had slightly more trouble fitting in, he might have been denied that award and I’m not sure that would be fair either.
So, yeah, it’s been an interesting end to the term. If I’m really honest, I was more interested that the ALNCo is taking him seriously, that he’s got an appointment with the Educational Psychologist and he’s now on track to a diagnosis. But that’s not the sort of thing that they hand out certificates for.