What would you do if your child was ridiculed in front of all their friends and peers and couldn’t do anything about it? Bullied and treated badly by the one person you entrusted with the care of that child?
My son has autism. We have never hid that fact, we have always been very open about it.
Last year, he started school, full of excitement about the school year ahead. He was thrilled to find out he was in a class with his friend and liked his teachers. He had two teachers, one for three days a week, one for two.
WATCH: What life is like with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Post continues after video.
I questioned the school as to whether this was a well thought out decision for a child who thrived on routine, but the school assured me that it was the best for him. I thought that, as they had much more experience in educating a child with special needs than I did, that they knew best, so let it go, and went along with the anticipation that the new year brings.
Would the teachers like him? Would they understand him and his needs? Would they be able to bring the best out of him? During those moments, we never asked ourselves if they would damage him, it didn’t even occur to us that it could happen.
The year started out well. He seemed to be fitting in quite well, he wasn’t getting too far ahead in reading, but we didn’t expect him to and he was coming home happy and cheery.
Then one Thursday, we got a call from the school. “Your son has run away from class, we need you to come and take him home.”
I was quite surprised. He has his issues, but was never a runner. I went to the school to pick him up.
What started as a one-off incident, became a 2-3 times a week issue. He got suspended numerous times for violence and absconding and the beautiful, kind-hearted little boy that we were so proud of, became somehow lost inside this child who sounded like a monster. We put him into occupational therapy (OT), we had meetings up at the school, we spent hours working on behaviour plans at home.
Our first inkling that something was wrong came when our OT went into the classroom to set up a sensory area. He had an area set up already, with a few books in it (he couldn’t read) and that was about it. She took in a tent, his weighted blanket and some fidgets to play with when he got stressed. I was excited at the prospect that something was happening and perhaps having a safe space would keep him from running away.