Thursday, 31 May 2012

Parents Night

Parent’s night has come and gone. My last one at daughter’s primary school before she heads up to the academy. She’s been a great credit to herself over the years and has achieved ‘Golden’ status more times than I care to remember.

Parents night is a breeze, we wait for half an hour because they always overrun, only to be told how the teachers look forward to “these ones” because they are easy for them. Pleasantries aside, we are in and out of there in less than five minutes, with glowing reports of how great our daughter is.

Our son was at this same school for three years. His autistic disorder meant he could not cope with mainstream and they could not cope with him. I spent those three years of my life almost continually battling with the establishment to either explain to them how autism needed to be adapted for or defending his rights. 
We went through two headmistresses, three classroom assistants and two special needs one to one teachers. 

My e-mails and letters are the stuff of legend, no matter how clever they thought they were being I responded clinically and defended my son while slashing through their waffle and exposing their lack of knowledge and at times sheer incompetency.

We had so many meetings, reviews, urgent summonses, illegal exclusions and downright avoidance of responsibility that it almost drove us to despair. As a professional, well informed individual who is tough in nature, I have no idea how some parents cope with this shambles. We felt stigmatised, alienated and discriminated against.

At times it was regularly suggested that his challenging behaviours were a result of naughtiness or insinuations about our parenting methods were made. For this I have to be even more grateful for our daughter’s performance than anything. She stood as testament that we, the parents of the child from hell were not at fault. Without her we would have been subject to even more criticism, blame and probably more social work scrutiny.

If our parenting was ever in question, we were lucky in some respects to be able to say, look at our daughter, look how she behaves, how she responds, how polite and eloquent she is.
For parents with children who are all autistic, they won’t have this yardstick for others to measure them on and I would imagine the pressure must be even greater.

To you and other parents who are fighting bureaucracy or policies that do not deliver what they say and who have to cope with crap day in, day out.....Try not to let those bastards get you down. You know your child better than they ever will, but they will always think they know better.

Parents of autistic children tend to become very well informed about the condition. Initially this can be part of the denial phase where you franticly search for every little bit of information trying to convince yourself that your child doesn’t have the condition. This quickly progresses to scrambling around to understand entitlements, policies and current practice and is further reinforced by the realisation that many professional teaching staff know very little about ASD or its complexities as far as individual presentation goes. This drives you to become an expert in your own right and soon you learn where to take information from and who offers the best explanations. Undoubtedly this is provided by other parents – or more valuably by those who have learned and adapted to live with the condition. Their insight and perspective means a great deal to me.

Of course the internet can be your enemy too, and there is far too much nonsense out there, be it outrageous hypothesis or sheer exploitation. In truth, we may never know why our children have this condition, nor fully understand, but we must cope with it and the difficulties it brings.


  1. Fantastic post but also a really worrying one too. I have taught 3 autistic boys in mainstream education & have a very close friend whose son is autistic. You are right about the lack of information out there but what is really worrying s the lack f training (so lack of understanding for the autistic pupil) for teachers. When a particular boy appeared in my class all I got was a piece of paper telling me about his "routine". There was no discussion with parents etc on how best to help him. In the end I met with parents and we devised a plan. When I found out I was pregnant and would be leaving before the end of term he was my first priority- hw to build into lessons the concept that I would be leaving and another teacher taking over. His parents were incredibly supportive.
    I have to say I don't think autistic pupils should be in mainstream education- not because they are deemed to be naughty or disruptive but because mainstream is not good enough for them. Skills for life that are instilled at home need to be emphasised at school and mainstream cannot do that.

  2. Hi Helen, thanks for commenting.
    I agree with you, Wihtout a change in the way mainstream operates it was never going to work. the policies are actually very good but they don't play out in practice. mainstream is far too regimented and restrictive, it would actually be good for all kids if it opened up a bit, but it would take a radical change. Don't think this radicalism is supported by many teachers, certainly not the old guard. I must also add I in no way blame teaching staff, their training is not sufficient and we would require specialist teachers. A lot of parents i speak with would like specialist autistic schools, perhaps could be adjoined to mainstream for integration purposes for those who can cope better when they are older.