Thinking about starting a new school is an anxious time for any young person.
Add in the fact you are not moving on with your peers and because you find some things harder than others you are going to be educated in a different town, in a different building and with different experiences to all your friends and it’s easy to understand why my autistic daughter is anxious.
Like all other children about to move on to secondary school she’s worried about new teachers, new subjects, greater expectations and all the transitions from one class to another.
She’s worried about school lunches, changes to routine, not knowing anyone else and how she will even get there and back.
But her greatest fear of all is will they understand her?
The usual safety guards of extended transition, lots of meetings and the handover of reports have been heavily interrupted by a pandemic and school closures.
Meeting staff and seeing the new building are mostly being done virtually which doesn’t help her get a feel for what the place will be like, grasp the atmosphere and acclimatise to the smells and noise that will face her every day.
Faces and voices are different onscreen to real life and virtual transition doesn’t allow for her to meet her classmates.
Will staff understand that and make allowances?
Will they be able to read her facial expressions and respond accordingly when she is unable to speak due to being selective mute?
Will they understand how hard she finds it to raise a hand and communicate to strangers, converse with children she’s never met and understand unwritten rules?
Will they give her the tools needed to enable her to communicate using a white board and pen like her primary or communication cards or will they assume because she is verbal at home that speaking in school should be fine?
Will they understand when she freezes in fear because she can’t cope with the demands placed upon her or she cries because she was asked to put something in her bag and it doesn’t fit?
Will they understand how painful being asked to put a tie on is or how hard wearing uncomfortable school shoes is?
She longs to be accepted, included and understood.
It’s what everyone of us wants really but when you are able to communicate, understand social clues and respond as expected, when you can ask for help easily and when you are not overwhelmed by sensory stimuli all around you these things are so much easier.
She knows she’s different to others her age. She knows she needs more help to navigate and understand the world. She knows she’s autistic and anxious.
She knows some people don’t even try to understand her and that hurts.
Will her high school be a place she fits and is welcome or will she once again feel misunderstood and on her own?
All I can do is do my best to prepare her and them and hope for the best.