A little boys giggle ripples through the house and I smile.
At one time my son never laughed and rarely smiled.
My sons confidence has come back in abundance since I withdrew him from school and began to home educate him, he was a stammering nervous little boy then.
When he first started mainstream reception I was concerned he would not be watched closely and asked for what was then a statement of special needs. He was refused despite having at that time three diagnosis, Autism, Expressive Language Disorder and Dyspraxia. Despite my continued pleas he was refused and given no 1.1 support which left him vulnerable to bullying by children and a teachers aide. I found out by chance about the bullying as he hadn't known to tell me, he just presumed that I knew and that's how school was meant to be.the day I found out and the extent of it I pulled him out and de registered him the following week.
It's now been two years since he begun his journey of home education. Now he has a glint in his eye and his hobbies now include photography and collecting little Soccer Starz football players. He has an amazing knowledge of football scores and players and he enjoys playing himself every Wednesday with a special needs team.
He attends play therapy, music therapy, speech therapy and animal therapy. We read together, he does online tutorials and lots of sensory play to calm and regulate him.
Once a fortnight he goes to a National Autistic Society Saturday club and enjoys socialising and playing with the other children. Damien also attends a private tutor once a week whom he adores.
We go to museums, the woods, the library and the park. He adores his little sister and older brothers who are also on the spectrum.
My little boy has come a long way from the melting down, upset and angry child he once was.
He sleeps now, occasionally almost through the night!
He says to me he's having time out and goes to the bedroom to play and chill out with his football cards and sensory toys, something he would not have done before as he was pressured to interact constantly. Now he engages on his own terms and knows when he's had enough to walk away.
The benefits I've mainly found for my son in particular are home educated children have the freedom to relax and learn all the time. Playing with small figures and cars is small world play, listening to a play on the radio is drama, baking and cooking is science and maths ie weighing and measuring. Reading stories is literacy drawing is art. Playing with teddies and dolls is role play there's do many things we already do with our children that we don't realise we are already teaching them!
I love the freedom of going for a walk in the woods with the children and watching it turn into an impromptu nature lesson of what certain plants may be or what sort of insect is that? Would I ever send my son back into the schooling system?
With the right support children can thrive in a school setting but more often now then ever I am seeing so many spectrum children finding schools to overwhelming and the endless interaction exhausting. The parents feeling alienated as they tell the teachers of the explosive meltdowns their child surfers at home only to be told nonchalantly
“well he's fine here! We see non of that here!”. Children with Autism and sensory problems with hold their feelings until they feel safe to let them out, often erupting at home after being jostled in the dinner queue earlier in the day.
As I hear him laugh heartily again from the front room I suddenly think would I change anything for my son?
Would he be happier if there was anything else I could do? Does he do enough? Does he do to much?!
I think of the people who on hearing he is home educated and his little sister will be too ask,
“But what will they do all day? What do you do with them? Do the authorities check on you? Is it legal? How do you know what they are meant to be learning? Are you a teacher?
I wouldn't change a thing. Some children fit into school well and some find it overwhelming, to bright and loud coming home overloaded and melting down in a desperate attempt to communicate.
“I am not happy!” They screech.
“It's to much for me!” They kick.
These things may not be verbally said by the child but it's a fair indication that if your child is melting down, is upset and angry but unable to communicate what's wrong that they are blaming you for not knowing. They know, so why don't you? It's up to us to see if we can help our children in. ECHPs and IEPs are like gold dust and a good 1.1 can make the world of difference. Sensory breaks are essential and visual timetables with sand timers to ease transitions are great to ease anxiety.
But if your child is unhappy you are not failing them by withdrawing them from school. It's simply a different way of educating and not every peg will fit a round hole.
Pound a peg hard enough and you will chip the paint eventually and splinter the wood.
My peg is a bouncy cheeky one and his paint is now shiny and vibrant.
That's all you can ever want for your peg.