The first time I ever heard of Minecraft was when Jack asked to have the game. I had no idea of the strong links between autism and minecraft. A quick google of autism and Minecraft will bring up lots of results. It seems to be something that attracts some autistic people, and as is often the case. Once it becomes a special interest, it becomes an obsession.
Minecraft is even being used in therapies, to help autistic children learn things like social skills. You can apply for a specialised server for autistic people, called AutCraft, which is said to be a safe haven for autistic children to play Minecraft. Jack just plays on Minecraft normally, and it’s for fun.
The joy of building something
When you successfully build something, it gives you such a great feeling. No matter what it is, big or small, you still get that feeling of achievement. I talked about how Lego provides that for Jack in “Is Lego good for autistic children”, click the link if you haven’t read that post before.
Of course with Lego you are restricted to what you can make. In the computerised world of Minecraft the possibilities are practically endless. You can go wherever your imagination takes you.
Using Minecraft to express feelings
The other day Jack was very excited to show me a laboratory he made. He then told me he had the coronavirus inside it and was working on a cure.
I actually felt quite emotional and proud that he was thinking of doing that. He has found it difficult to understand, what is going on in the world right now. Trying to express his own feelings on the matter, hasn’t been easy either. We have spent a lot of time of time, trying to learnt what Jack is trying to say to us, when he is unable to do it directly.
This was Jacks way of showing us he is worried about the coronavirus, and wants there to be a cure found. So that everything can go back to normal. When he does something like this, it gives us the opportunity to ask questions about a subject he doesn’t like to talk about.
He won’t communicate about a subject he is anxious about, and if you try and force the issue he’s even less likely to talk. This was showing us he was ready to talk about the coronavirus. Only a few questions, with short answers and nods of the head. But enough for us to get an understand of how anxious and worried he is feeling, and now he knows we know.
Jack’s favourite builds
That was an example of how autism and Minecraft work, to help an autistic child communicate with his parents. Let’s finish with something more fun. I’ve asked Jack to share with you, the favourite things he has built on Minecraft.
Some of the favourite things he has built include, Freddy Fazbears Pizzeria, a nether portal, and the Kanto region in Pokemon.
His absolute favourite is the SCP 250 foundation facility. Don’t worry if you don’t know what that means, I don’t really either. Here is a brief explanation of what SCP is.
You can click here if you want to find out more about it. There’s a couple of pictures below to showing the facility that Jack has made.
There have been a lot of posts involving Lily recently, so it was fun for me to get Jack involved again. For those of you out there who’s kids like playing on Minecraft, or even you yourself. What do you enjoy building on there. We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below.
Keeping your children safe online, is something all parents have to think about these days. We were given a easy to understand online safety social story by Jack’s School. I believe in giving Jack as much freedom as we possibly can. About a year ago we ran into some problems online, with Jack using TikTok.
If you are not aware of TikTok, it is a social video sharing app. Jack discovered it and became obsessed with making videos. He does all sorts of stuff with the videos, adding music, filters and stuff beyond what I know how to do. I personally think it is a great creative outlet for him, and encourage him to work on his videos. Here is an an example of the type of things he does.
The problems came with it being a social media app, meaning you could message people. Something Jack wanted to do. You can turn messages off, which is what we did, but it didn’t take Jack long to figure out how to turn them back on.
The problem with Jack messaging people is his lack of understanding of how the real world works. If someone tells Jack they are his friend, he will believe that without question. That obviously has massive safety implications. Jack also can’t separate reality from fantasy. He would think something he watched in a movie was real life.
We have made some slow progress trying to explain these things to him. He has acknowledged these things when talking to him, but it’s difficult to know if he’s saying things just to shut Mum and Dad up. Jack has learned how to say things, to be able to get what he wants. We had problems explaining this to school at first, but they’ve seen it now. Jack is very clever at getting what he wants.
Jack’s trouble with social interaction
The other problem that Jack has in all walks of life. Is people see this 6 foot tall, well built person and think he is a lot older than he is. Add the fact his understanding levels are less than his age. This leaves a massive gap between what people expect of him and what he can actually do. Although his autistic traits are becoming more profound with age. It is not always obvious to people that Jack is “different”, until he speaks. With new people or someone you bump into out and about. Jack’s anxiety means he can get flustered and mix up his words.
When he talks to people, the conversation can be very one way, unless you know him well. Then you might be able to get a two-way conversation out of him, but only if Jack is willing. So when we found he had been messaging people, what we found was Jack bombarding people with talk about a subject. Often annoying the other person, as he wouldn’t stop.
Easy to understand online safety social story
We talked with school about the issue, and they worked on it at school and provided us with a social story. We now make our own using Twinkl, which is a website I highly recommend. I wanted Jack to still be able to make his videos. It is a great creative outlet for him, and something he really enjoys. But we had to make sure it was in a safe environment, so we went through the social story with him.
We took the step of deleting TikTok from Jacks phone, and made it so he couldn’t sign back into it. Unsurprisingly Jack wasn’t happy about this, but we came up with a solution that Jack has accepted. I have the TikTok app on my phone, and he is allowed to use it as long as we see what he’s made before he posts it. To be honest I enjoy watching the videos anyway. Also the messages have to stay turned off.
He asks to have it back on his own phone every now and then, but that’s not happening yet. It does mean I have to give up my phone when he wants to make videos, but I can live with that.
I know what you let your children do online and with technology is a divisive subject. It is an area where Jack thrives and even excels, in a world where he struggles with so many things. For that reason I encourage him in the area as much as possible, but of course always wanting to keep him as safe as possible. That was one of the reasons why this blog was started, to give him a platform where we can do stuff together. Something he is really excited about, and why we have the Jack’s documents section on the website. It’s important to have fun and be creative, but you always have to stay safe at the same time.
For the last 2 or 3 days I’ve been feeling so tired. Perhaps it’s a turn in the weather, we’ve had lots of lovely sunny spring days during this lockdown. This week however it’s been more like the British dull, grey and drizzly weather, us Brits know only too well.
Perhaps it’s the lack of Vitamin D, and not getting outside as much. Leading to an even greater feeling of isolation than previously, but I’ve been feeling so tired this week, and really struggled for motivation.
Annoyingly 3/4s of this post appears to have vanished, and I’ve not got it saved anywhere else 🤦♂️
Feeling so tired
There was at least another 7 paragraphs, talked about the difficulty and demands on parenting autistic children. I don’t think I can remember well enough to write it all out again, even if I wanted to. To be honest I don’t want to, the tiredness probably had something to do with me messing the post, and i’m feeling a bit dejected about it.
I’ll quickly say the two main points, that are proving difficult, and taking my energy. Jack’s routine. Dinner has to be at 12, and Tea has to be at 5. If it’s not he gets annoyed, sometimes angry. With Lily it is the demand for attention. All the jobs I would normally do when the kids are at school, I’m finding difficult to do, as Lily always wants you with her. I will just have to keep plugging away and do what I can.
I also went on to talk about playing in the rain, but I will now do that in a separate post tomorrow. As I have plans with Lily to get the waterproofs on and go for a long walk in the rain tomorrow. Assuming that it does actually rain that is.
So we are into the second week of the kids being at home. Since my last post things haven’t been going quite so well. Jack has delayed processing, understanding delayed processing as part of autism, and how it effects Jack, was something that took us a long time to get our heads around.
To put it in broad terms, an autistic person may experience a delayed response to sensory stimuli. What this means using Jack as an example. When I ask Jack a question, there is usually no response. It’s as if he hasn’t heard the question. I normally ask again, as Jack usually has a TV or some music on. Just in case he didn’t hear. But it is highly likely he did hear the first time.
Echolalia and learned responses
He just needs a lot more time to process what has been said, than you would typically expect from a child. Jack can give immediate responses, but these are what are called learned responses. Which is where his echolalia comes in. Jack can learn a conversation, and repeat it the next time the same situation comes up. But this is like someone on auto pilot. You are not getting his true thoughts and feelings. We have had many “disagreements” with “professionals” who have worked with Jack regarding this.
Getting Jack to express those true thoughts and feelings, hasn’t been an easy process. We are getting there slowly, and Jack is much better for it. Learning ourselves when to use social stories and PECS took time. They are so important and have been vital to Jack’s progress, and his ability to communicate.
As a parent it’s not easy to always remember this. Sometimes you can forget that a simple question like, what do you want for dinner? Is not so simple for an autistic child. Jack has to be given options to choose from, otherwise you just get a blank look and maybe a “don’t know”. Start with options of food he knows, even showing him the options, and he can give you an answer fairly quickly. Even in a situation of high anxiety or meltdown, though it’s likely he will respond with nods of the head rather than words.
Delayed response to situations
This delayed processing as part of autism, also comes into play, with situations that happen. Which is why it comes as no surprise to me, that Jack was fine with the sudden change last week. But this week he is finding it very difficult. His anxiety has gone through the roof, and he’s become tense and argumentative. It’s like it has taken him a week to process what is happening, and everything that has changed.
We are now prepared for this, and a week isn’t actually a long time. In the past Jack has had spikes of behaviours that stemmed from an incident that has happened months before. Which left us and everyone else baffled, until we finally worked it out with Jack. Knowing about the delayed processing, and just how long the delay can be has certainly been a great help. Now when Jack is unhappy, we know to trace back for months to find the solution if necessary.
What’s happening now?
Jack finding things difficult this week, in one sense can be a good thing. It’s only taken a week for him to start to process what’s going on. So we can now work on bringing his anxiety down, and getting him in a happy place.
The one issue with that of course is these are unprecedented times. We don’t have the answers to the questions he wants answering. When can he go back to school? I don’t know. Will respite be back soon? I have no idea. When can we go and see his grandparents and their dog Mack? I don’t have clue. Just like I have no answers for him when he asks about going bowling, or to the cinema.
He is getting frustrated that I don’t have any answers for him, and he’s becoming very argumentative at times. To be honest I’m getting frustrated myself, the last two days have been hard work. There’s no break from it either, no chance to recharge. The outlook isn’t looking good for that break coming any time soon either.
Jack was fairly calm and relaxed Tuesday evening, so hopefully that’s a good sign. When his anxiety has been down he’s been really good. He’s been playing with Lily more than usual, and spending more time out of his room than usual. I guess being at home all the time, staying in your room all day gets a bit dull. One positive of this coronavirus stuff, is we are doing activities together more than we would usually, which is nice.
Free sensory guide
Lastly I would like to point you in the direction of autismspectrumteacher.com where you can currently get a free 12 page guide to “Meeting Sensory Needs” by clicking here.
It is aimed at teachers in the school environment, but having read it there is certainly value in it for parents as well. As we know only to well with Jack, and are beginning to learn with Lily. Meeting a child’s sensory needs is so important. Get that right, and everything else will start to fall into place.
There’s some great information and ideas in the guide, which is the first chapter of an upcoming book. Though it’s based in the classroom, you shouldn’t assume your child’s school is always aware and doing these things. So arm yourself with information to take to them, that’s what we have always done and will continue to do for Jack and Lily.
So how is everyone feeling after the first week at home with the kids? I know some might have had them home earlier, and some homeschool all the time. But I think for most of us, at least in England where I live, this was week 1. So how’s it been?
Still having problems with Lily’s ear
It’s gone fairly well for us. The only real problem we’ve had is Lily is still complaining of pain in her ear. She seems fine the majority of the day, but come night time it’s a different story. She has woken up crying every night this week. Jack has coped with it really well, a few times he seems to have slept hrough it.
One time I went to check on Jack he was awake playing on his Nintendo Switch. It was around 4am. I asked him if Lily woke him up, he nodded yes. I asked him if he was alright, he nodded yes again. He was clearly tense, but he was managing to hold it together, which is really good.
Last night didn’t go so well. Lily woke up crying again, and this time I could hear straight away, Jack throwing things around his room. I went to check him and he had a real look of distress on his face and tears in his eyes. I tried to reassure him, but he just threw things at me, I told him Lily was ok, and left him for a few minutes. When I checked he had calmed down enough to be sat on his bed. It was just one disturbed nights sleep to far.
It’s a frustrating time, due to the situation getting a doctors appointment is near impossible, so you speak to one on the phone and they are guessing what’s wrong. She’s on her second antibiotic now. Fingers crossed this one works. The situation is difficult enough, without that added stress.
Things have generally been good
The day times have generally been good, during the first week at home with the kids. Jack and Lily both seem to be enjoying being at home. They’ve had some fun doing different activities. Jack has been a bit argumentative, which was to be expected, but has been calmer than he was during the recent school holidays. We’ve not pushed him with doing school work. He’s never had any homework, so he’s not understanding why he suddenly has to do work at home. So I’ve got a few ideas for him to learn using things he’s interested in.
Lily didn’t do any work the first few days, I thought it right to give her some time to adjust to what was going on. Then she started doing the work by herself. I’ve seen people trying to be teachers, and it’s almost like a competition with some people on social media. I don’t understand that way of thinking myself. I’m more interested in my children’s well being, than I am making sure they get all the work sheets done.
We are lucky to have a decent bit of garden space, so the kids can get out there for a bit of fresh air and some exercise. They’ve been out everyday, with the exception that Jack didn’t want to go outside yesterday.
I’m doing ok
I’m holding up alright. I am concerned about the effect of a prolonged lockdown on my depression, but I’m doing fine. I’ve actually enjoyed having the kids home for the most part. Ask me if I still am in 3 or 4 weeks, then maybe my answer will be different, but so far I’m feeling good. I’ve been spending a lot of time at home anyway over the past year, so one week without going out doesn’t bother me. If it becomes 4, 5, 6 weeks, then it will be a different story.
The first week at home with the kids then, up to now it’s been pretty good, everyone’s fit and well, and as long as that’s the case I don’t want to complain about anything else. I hope it’s going as well for everyone else. Families living with autism have extra pressures, and this a really difficult time. But it is difficult for all families. So I say to everybody, stay safe and stay well.
I wanted to share a coronavirus social story, that was kindly sent to me by someone on twitter. Obviously it is a very worrying time for everybody at the moment. These are unprecedented times in all our lives, and after the announcement from Boris Johnson last night. That we are basically in lockdown, it is getting more and more “real”.
The challenging behaviour from Jack over the weekend rose dramatically, from where it has been recently. It wasn’t a surprise, and I knew it was down to what is happening. Lily is also showing signs that she is struggling. First thing Monday morning she was sick in the bathroom, the first day of no school. This is an ongoing issue with vomiting, that we are not sure if it’s anxiety or allergy related, which I’ve talked about before.
Jack did something amazing yesterday, after sitting down and talking to him. He told us he was scared and confused by the coronavirus. This is such a massive thing. A lot of the problems Jack has, come from not being able to communicate effectively, or express his emotions. So for him to do that was incredible. 18 months ago I would have thought it was impossible. It’s yet more evidence of how far he has come.
He also asked for a Coronavirus social story, to help him understand what is going on. We told him we would get one for him. Last night a very kind person emailed me one. It is very good and Jack is very happy witH it. It’s so important to find a way to explain what’s happening.
Jack had already calmed down and appears less anxious. Of course it will take continuous reassurance, and revisiting this social story. But we will do whatever it takes to make Jack and Lily feel safe.
I thought it only right to share the coronavirus social story in the blog, for as many people to see as possible.
There it is, I hope people find it useful. The autism and SEN community on twitter can be a wonderful and helpful place, as was proved again here. If you want to make your own social story for this or any other subject, I highly recommend Twinkl as a great resource. I hope everyone is coping well in these difficult time, stay strong everyone. Please feel free to share any resources or ideas to help people get through this difficult time. Thank you.
Just a quick one today about how Jack’s struggling, and how Lily loves her Guinea Pigs. School holidays seriously eat away at your spare time, as I’m sure all parents know. Jacks still struggling a bit. He didn’t want to go out during his respite stay, which I can’t recall ever happening before. When he came home he wanted to go straight to his room. He hasn’y been out since.
I went and sat in his room for an hour, which he seemed happy about. We talked a bit and when I could get him away from Pokemon and YouTube. We did get a bit of two way conversation. He’s very interested in my website. Jack is obsessed with anything computer related, like most kids these days it seems. Jack and Lily both want to be YouTubers.
So I talked to him about helping me out on my website. His smile was wide and he nodded saying yes. I’m not sure exactly how and what yet, but I’ve known since I started he wanted to help, and I can only give a parents perspective on Autism. Jack and Lily are the ones who are autistic, and who people can learn the most from.
Lily loves her Guinea Pigs
Lily really enjoyed helping me clean the Guinea Pigs our today. Mainly because I did the cleaning, whilst Lily did the playing with the Guinea Pigs.
She did help me give them a wash and cut their nails. Doing a great job of holding them steady, which she was very proud of.
In other news, Jack’s DLA award came back. It wasn’t what we think it should be. So we are going to argue it. Which is yet more stress and work. It never ends.
Autism and meltdowns, the bit I don’t like to talk about much. Things have been going very well recently, when things are going well, you can’t help but wait for things to explode. It’s always there in the back of your mind. When’s it going to happen? There are so many challenges you have to face, being the parent of an autistic child. Then when you have 2 and there problems and needs are completely different. It is so hard to juggle.
The wait for things to explode ends
Today was explosion day for Jack. It wasn’t the worst “meltdown” we’ve ever had to deal with, but it was the worst one for at least 2 months. As I’ve said previously, the change of routine that comes with school holidays is always problematic. The loss of routine causes a spike in anxiety, which leads to a short fuse.
Today Jack has gone to his overnight stay respite. Normally he would go straight from school in his school taxi. Today we have to take him, which again is another change in routine. Sometimes he is still able to go without any major problems. Not today.
Autism & meltdowns
His anxiety was visible all morning, but it was being kept under control. Just before it was time to go, Lily ran into her art box and hurt her toe. It really hurt her and she cried a lot. Jack immediately lost it. Efforts to calm him down were not effective. Jack as is usual just wanted to fight me, he needs to get his frustration and anger out. He often picks me to take it out on, I guess as I’m the man in the house. He doesn’t want to hurt people, he never does anything to his sister. Who he is very protective of, but the frustration has to come out. The more he keeps it in, the bigger the explosion will be when it comes out.
The important thing with autism and meltdowns, is to try and stay on top of things. Try and keep the anxiety level under control, and try constantly help with Jack’s sensory issues. We try to give him deep pressure and squeezes throughout the today help him regulate.
Today my attempts to calm him weren’t working, so Natalie came to him, whilst I went to Lily. It took a while but he did eventually calm down enough to go. He was reluctant at first, but he made friends with me before he left. The normal respite routine will probably be good for him tonight.
It’s a weird situation. I like it when the kids are home on school holidays. We get more chance to do things together, but if Jack can’t cope with the change. It just makes everything difficult. So you end up feeling like you can’t wait for them to be back at school.
Jack wants time with us
Jack told Natalie that he wants Lily to have a sleepover at grandmas. So he can have a night with just Mummy and Daddy, like Lily has when he’s at respite. We have wondered before if this might happen. So you can expect a phone call grandma haha.
I did manage to finish the Lego Ninjago set (affiliate link) I started yesterday. It took longer than I expected, due to some fiddly parts, but we now have a nice snake. So that should cheer Jack up.
Jack was late getting to respite, so it was getting a bit late by the time Natalie got back. Because of her injured foot Lily didn’t want to go anywhere either, she wanted McDonalds at home and watch a movie. So that’s this evenings plan.
It must be the half term holidays! Yesterday Jack stayed in his room until 7pm. Then he came downstairs and wanted me to watch Pokemon with him. I let him watch 3 episodes, thn he had to go to bed.
Today when he got up. He was very edgy and argumentative. Yes it definitely must be the half term holidays. Even just the change of 1 week is enough. It’s a pretty common thing with autistic children. They don’t like a change in routine as a general rule.
Trip to my parents
Today we went to my parents for dinner. Like we do most Sunday’s. We go the route every time. If we to go a different route it would set Jack off immediately. Just one different turn and he wants to know where we are going.
When we got to my parents. My brother, his wife and my nephew were there. They also had their dog with them. So two dogs to fuss over makes Jack extra happy. The extra people being there that he’s not expecting. Always effect Jack to some degree. His right led was visibly shaking a lot.
But he was all about the dogs as usual. Then started to talk to everyone in typical Jack fashion. At some point I should document a conversation with Jack. If you’ve never talked to him. It’s hard to explain what it’s like. He did really well though. At one point he went and sat between his auntie and uncle. With their dog sat on his lap.
It wasn’t so long that Jack would have refused to go in the house. I would have had to go around the back, and sit with him in the conservatory. It was mostly because of his cousin. Who he was worried might cry. But now he has got older. Jack isn’t worried about that anymore.
Lily absolutely loves playing with her cousin. So she had a great time while he was there. They roped grandma into playing hide and seek. Which she really enjoyed.
Yes it must be the half term holidays
So after a argumentative start to the day. It actually went really well. Hopefully it will continue that way. It will need lots of reassurance for Jack. Plus stimulating his sensory issues, and keeping him busy. But also not making him over tired. Otherwise that causes problems. For Lily, it’s a case of keeping her entertained. But she is still complaining of headaches . Which is worrying me.
But yes, it must be the half term holidays. No rest for 9 straight days. Time to brace yourself autism parents.
Today I’ve decided to share what I like to call, our Special School Horror Story. It’s horrible outside and not much is happening, Jack and Lily have barely been out of their bedrooms. Lily does this sometimes but not to often, for Jack though this is a fairly normal Saturday.
Every Saturday he says he’s tired, and to be fair he normally looks it. So he wants to stay in his room most of the day. We used to try to encourage him to come out, but that only caused problems as it would irritate him.
After thinking about it. The school week takes a lot out of Jack. It does for all children but with all the extra things a child like Jack has to cope with it must take an ever bigger toll. We almost take for granted now, that Jack will go to school 5 days a week, and he will travel in his taxi with no issues.There was a time this wasn’t the case at all.
Special school horror story
Before Jack found his way to his current school. It was a very different story. One I like to call our Special School Horror Story. I’ve mentioned it a few times, and I will go back and tell you the story in more detail. It’s not a particularly nice story, but at least you know it has a happy ending. As Jack is on a much better place now.
Jack was diagnosed with Autism at a young age. He was only 18 months old, but when it came round to choosing a school. We really didn’t know what to do, originally we were just going to send him to a mainstream school, due to advice we were given by the professionals, that we were seeing at the time. Advice we now realise was terrible, and that is putting it mildly.
It is only because we moved out of the city and into the County Council area where we live. Which meant all the professionals we saw changed, that it quickly became clear that Jack was not suitable for mainstream school. But it was to late for starting in September, so we had to delay him starting school.
The best specialist school for autism in our entire county, is literally on our doorstep. But we were told it’s almost impossible to get a place. They were right. We looked at other schools in the area, and in the end Jack got a place at our second choice, which we were happy with as it seemed a good school.
Jack Starts School
He started in January and that first half a year went well, and we thought we had made the right choice. How wrong we were.
The second year started ok too, but then the problems started. Jack was at a general special needs school, not an autism specific one. So there were children of varying conditions. One of Jack’s biggest problems is loud noises. He is hypersensitive to sound, he also doesn’t understand that if he does something once. It doesn’t mean he can do it all the time.
So of course they put him in a class with children who’s conditions meant they made a lot of loud noises. Then they had him take a toy in for show & tell, which meant he then wanted to take a toy everyday, which he wasn’t allowed too, but couldn’t understand why. It caused problems with Jack’s behaviour. As he was still a small child the school appeared to be dealing with it. I will state here that because of what comes later, I do not trust any thing this school ever said.
The troubles really begin
Year 3 at school started off ok. We now know that it takes Jack time to settle in, before he starts display his behaviours. He needs time to get comfortable with his surrounding. Then he will push back and test the boundaries, hitting and kicking and pulling your hair, throwing things around and spitting is what we’re reported back to us.
It’s like he needs to get comfortable with a situation or person, before the real Jack comes out. Which is why when people meet him for the first time, they think he is lovely. Which he is when he is calm, and they find it hard to believe the story’s you tell them, regarding what his behaviour can be like. We’ve had support workers ask us if the reports they get on a child’s behaviour are right, after having a couple of sessions with him. Especially more recently when he has calmed down a lot. We have to keep all safe guarding in, because Jack is so big and strong, if something does trigger a meltdown, it becomes dangerous for everybody.
Travel to school
Jack started off going to school on a mini bus, where there were 14 kids on the bus, and he really struggled with it. In the end the transport broke down. He was continuously refusing to get on the bus, and if he did get on, often it would be too much. He’d get aggressive with the passenger assistants, and then refuse to get on the bus at home time. So in the end we took him to school ourselves.
Again there was noisy children in the class, and the behaviour started again. For the last term of the year, as his teacher was pregnant. The school moved Jack out of the class on safety grounds. He was moved to a class where the kids were older, more advanced and no one who was continuously noisy. Apart from the odd moment he had a good last term, and we thought it showed an obvious solution to Jack’s problems at school.
The special school horror story really starts
We were told that for year 4 at school, he would stay in that classroom. Well it was the same classroom. The same teacher, but not the same children. Considering by this point it was agreed by pretty much everyone, that the noise of classmates was the biggest issue Jack was having in school. When we saw the children that were in his class, we couldn’t believe it. It was like they had rounded up all the noisiest kids they could find.
Shock, horror. It wasn’t belong before the behaviour started again. Only now Jack was getting bigger, so the staff were getting hurt. We started getting the phone calls. The calls that he needs to come home, because he’s smashing things up, or refusing to do anything. This then resulted in Jack not wanting to go to school, and thinking he didn’t need to go. The school started not very subtly suggesting, that Jack might be better at another school.
The battle to get Jack to school
The battle every day just to get him to school was unreal. I only did it on Mondays due to work. The physical and mental strain it took is difficult to explain. If you’ve not experienced it, it basically feels like you are in a fight. You are being hit, but you can’t hit back. You just have to try and calm him down.
It’s difficult to do when Jacks at the point of punching straight through glass panels. Yes he has done that, and some how he was only left with a scratch on his knuckles. Strangely enough it was around this time. That the services involved started listening to our pleas for help….
Anyway these battles to get Jack to school, would take 1-2 hours most days. Then he’d be there an hour or 2 and they would ring for us to take him home.
Realising something isn’t right
They started to put him in a small library, that was connected to the class room. So he would be in a quiet room, and he could integrate with the class on his own terms. Apparently when no one was looking, he climbed out of a window. Which happened to be outside the security fence that surrounded the school. Great design!
It was only when the head teacher saw him running around the car park, with a big stick hitting all the cars that anyone noticed he’d gone missing. Which obviously left us with a lot of questions. How long was he being left in a room on his own. It just didn’t sit right, but the school weren’t forthcoming with any answers.
Then one day we came to pick him up from school, and we found him outside on a small playground on his own. It was the middle of winter, it was a cold day and he didn’t even have a coat on. School told us they called us because Jack had been kicking a glass window and it had cracked. That’s what the thought anyway, they didn’t actually know how it happened when we asked them.
So our first question was, How long have they been just putting him outside? Out of the way, so they didn’t have to deal with him. There was no way we were going to have Jack go to a school, thattreated him like this. We know more than anyone how hard it can be to deal with Jack, but never have we just thrown him outside on his own.
The school claimed they only did it as a last resort, for the safety of the children. In his time at school Jack never hurt another child. Claiming the only option was to leave a distressed autistic child unsupervised was not good enough.
Deciding it was time to find a new school
We told the school that we were looking to change schools. Honestly, they seemed relieved. The sly comments and suggestion they might have to exclude him, had been going on for well over a year. The plan was to try and see through to the end of the school year, as we were in the final term. School would sort things out to just keep Jack happy until the end of the year. They sent him over to the sixth form building, with the sixth form age kids. Who were all calmer and more mature, they supported Jack and he had a great time. That lasted for one day, and they put him back in his old class.
We were looking at just pulling Jack out of the school. Looking into who we would need to notify etc… but it wouldn’t matter I got a phone call whilst at work. It was the school wanting me to come and pick Jack up. When I got there I could hear him before I saw him.
He was out on the play ground again. He was growling and kicking everything. Normally when we came to pick him up, he was happy to go home. This time it took a while to get him to calm down enough to take him. Then it was only when he was alone with me that he properly calmed down, which really had my mind wondering what had gone on.
Jack gets excluded
We didn’t have to worry about him going back, we were informed he was being permanently excluded for kicking a teaching assistant on the shin. Now I’m not saying it’s ok to go around kicking people, but this was a special school, where many children, not just Jack would lash out at times. To me it was a weak excuse to get him out quickly, as they knew that’s what we wanted anyway.
I’d even go as far as to say it was planned. They put him back in a situation they knew he wasn’t coping with. Then at the first opportunity he was excluded. This happened just after school were told, that they would get extra funding for Jack. Including a porta cabin class room just for him. It was clear they didn’t want that to happen, but at least it was an end to our special school horror story.
Jack at home
For the next 3 of months we had Jack at home, whilst trying to find him a new school to go to. Whilst also being expected to home school him, eventually we had a home tutor come out 3 times a week who was very good with Jack and did a great job teaching him. We went to pretty much every special school in the county, and not one could meet Jacks needs. We’d heard this before when making enquires over the past couple of year, which was part of the reason we weren’t quick to pull Jack out of school. Finally we found a school in another county a 45-60 minute drive away.
Reflecting on the situation
Not everyone at the school we’re to blame. The staff tried their best in difficult circumstances. The family liaison officer was very good, and continued to help us find a school after Jack was excluded. Going to view schools with Natalie whilst I would be at work or with Jack.
But the Head Teacher I have no good words for, and I will leave it at that. I’m sure you’ve noticed I haven’t mentioned the school by name. Since Jack has left we have discovered a few things.
Hearing of other children’s problems
When parents asked where Jack had gone. The school told them we had chosen to move him to another school. We got word to people what actually happened, and the news soon spread. Next thing we knew, we were being told stories from other parents of the same things happening to their children. That had happened to Jack. I know that at least 2 kids are looking to be moved school.
The Head Teacher doesn’t like any of these stories being talked about. Not even in private WhatsApp groups, and has made threats to people of legal action. So I won’t be naming any name, but if anybody is looking at sending their child to a special school in the Amber Valley area. And would like some advice, feel free to message me. You can use the contact page on here, or find me on Facebook, or twitter @DadDoesAutism