“If you loved him, you’d just home school him.”
I’m sorry what?
“I’m just saying, if you really want what’s best for him, and clearly you aren’t going to find that in mainstream school, you might want to rethink your priorities”.
“Wouldn’t it better for you to give up work and home school him? You just said yourself he’ll get lost in the mainstream system”.
I had said that. And I knew it to be true.
We were talking about my son, Sam. Sam is 12-years-old and in a perfect world, would start year 7 at the same mainstream state high school as his 14-year-old sister next year. But it’s not a perfect world and Sam isn’t a “mainstream” kid.
I need to back up a little I guess. To tell you why this would have even been a conversation two women who had always seemingly been on the same page. You need to know also that I’m not a heated confrontation kinda gal. No, I’m more a ‘grab a box of popcorn and watch others go at it from the sidelines’ type of person.
But this confrontation, this debate, was unavoidable because I was being called a bad mother for refusing to give up my career to home school a child who, as far as I’m concerned, would not benefit from it.
Sam is a high a functioning Autistic child. This was, up until recently, labelled Asperger’s and is now diagnosed as ‘On the Autism Spectrum’. Academically, he struggles with the fundamentals and to comprehend in the most conventional of ways. Trying to do so comes with large amounts of fruitless hard work, difficulty and tears. Handwriting is painfully laboured and he is a good two years behind his peers in most acceptable areas, his reading level, at best, Year 4. And I’m being generous.
Yet Sam is incredibly intelligent when it comes to other subjects, especially when those subjects include a topic that captivates him like Science or History. He is able to readily recall and discuss facts and topics that would baffle most adults.
Socially though he can often be acutely unaware of how to make friends and read social cues. Other times, too many people, too much chaos overwhelms him. Yet really, all he really requires is a little bit of help. An aide to guide him when things don’t naturally make sense.
The last time I wrote about Sam, we were experiencing difficulty at his mainstream state primary school. They, in not so many words, told us that his current school was not the “school for him”.
Subsequently he has been tested, academically and medically. All results put him, basically, in the “too hard basket”. To gain an aide in the Victorian School System, he needs to test 70 or lower. He scored a 74. Too high to access funding yet clearly too low to function without it.
Let it be understood that a score of 70 is considered to be intellectually impaired.
Medically, they tell me if I could have him labelled with some kind of behavioural disorder, he’d get help. If he had some kind of chromosomal issue, again, help. It appears, in this flawed system, if I can’t somehow make him 4 points more disabled, consistently naughty or chronically sick, then there was simply no help for Sam in the classroom. Ridiculous? You betcha.
So we moved him to a small independent school that specialises in children on the spectrum. Here he is flourishing and although expensive, worth every penny and every extra hour of overtime to see his confidence grow as he finally “gets it”.
The thing is, by the end of this year, he’ll have outgrown this beautiful little school and supposedly, head off to big wide world of High School. His options are once again, limited. Limited is an understatement. If I send him to a mainstream high school, he will simply get lost, drown really, in a system that just will not be able to cater to his learning level yet he scores too “high” to go to one of the specialist government high schools.