Going back to school when you have additional needs

This September has been different for all students and every single one of them will have had their own worries and fears after so long away and with so many changes involved. Worries including whether they will know where to go, will their friends still like them, will they even be allowed to play with their friends.

But if you have a child with additional needs then those usual fears may have morphed into something else. A tiny mouse of worry transforms into an enormous dragon of stomach-churning anxiety. 

My eldest son has Asperger’s syndrome. For him, the start of term this year was terrifying. Not only was he entering his GCSE year and would have to deal with the hoards of other students, but there were new fears to add to the old ones. The school had implemented a new one-way system, masks were now needed in public areas, he was unable to hide away at break and lunchtime in the additional needs facility due to issues with social distancing, he had a new taxi driver and a whole extra hour had been added to his timetable 3 days a week in an effort to help year 11 students catch up.

The school had been amazing at keeping us as updated as possible. We had a booklet sent at the end of July which was fantastic as it meant he could keep going back and looking at it every time he was worried, there were regular emails with updates about any changes and they even made sure to send out his timetable early so he could get used to which new teachers he had, which new classrooms there were and which days he had extra lessons. 

But still, that first morning was terrifying. Bags were checked and rechecked, the clock was watched and about a million excuses were made as to why he shouldn’t go out of the door. It took some gentle persuasion, but he went. The second day was easier and by the third day, he was ready and out of the door almost before I had a chance to say goodbye.

In the evening of his third day, my phone went. I always panic slightly when I see the schools number, worrying whether he’s had a meltdown. 

“We are just calling to let you know how the first few days have gone,” they said. I started panicking slightly more. “We are so incredibly proud of him. He’s had changes thrown at him left, right and centre but he’s taken it all in his stride and just got on with it” I let go of the breath I didn’t realise I’d been holding and I smile.

Why am I sharing this with you? Because being the parent of a child with additional needs is tough. We worry just as much as they do. 

But they’ve got this! 

Maybe I should learn a lesson from my son about how to deal with change. Anyway, I’m off to give my 15-year-old an extra big squeeze now; although that’s probably really uncool 😉

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