When school isn’t right for your child

From the day she started she said she hated it. I thought it was first day nerves. It was the big change. She’d get used to it soon and settle. 

A few months went by and she started to change. Mood swings, behaviour changes, tearfulness. I put it down to tiredness, hormones, missing her old friends. 

Then it started: Complaining of a sore tummy, headaches, refusing to get dressed, feeling sick. I spurred her on thinking I was doing the right thing. 

She’d come home telling me things that didn’t seem right.

I’d email and they’d promise to sort it. Then something else would happen and I’d email again. And again. And again. Emails became meetings. Still she was so unhappy. By now she was refusing to even go, making herself ill, crying all weekend. 

Maybe it wasn’t the right school for her?

The problem with having a child with additional needs though is that it’s not as simple as just choosing another school. I hadn’t even chosen her school to begin with! So much was out of my control and all other placements for those with additional needs were already taken with a long waiting list too. 

We tried to make it work, probably far longer than I should have, but in the end it was obvious that school wasn’t the right place for my autistic child. 

It only took a matter of weeks to get formal permission to remove her. Her placement was in demand and for another child it may well be exactly the right place for them. For my child though her mental health had to come first. 

School trauma is very real and much more common than many realise, especially for autistic young people like my daughter. Her story is far from unique because the school system is often so inflexible and limited.

Children are lumped together often based solely on diagnosis or location and places often decided by people who have never even met the child. For some children this works out well but for many others it continues to be a struggle and their mental health suffers as a result. 

School isn’t always the right setting for a child to learn.

We need better options to accommodate wide needs and to suit each individual child. It’s not about ‘pandering to a spoiled child’ as some seem to think, but responding to your child’s communication and truly listening to their needs. 

There was a time when school was very much the right setting for my child but things change and the transition to secondary was more than she could cope with. 

It’s not been easy to go against the grain and realise that school isn’t the right place for my child but it’s definitely been the best decision I have made. My child is very much still learning…it just happens in a different place now because that is what she needs. 

The one and only school photo she had from her time there should have told me that months ago. If only I had listened earlier. 

About Miriam Gwynne

Full time mum and carer for two truly wonderful autistic twins. I love reading, writing, walking, swimming and encouraging others. Don’t struggle alone and always remember someone cares.