We have been dreading the start of big school for a long time and now it’s almost here.
Hadley had a really hard time getting to grips with preschool and was very anxious. So much so that he would vomit at just the thought of going.
It took a lot of hard work from us and the preschool and various members of the community therapy team (and a hell of a lot of tears) to get him to the point of tolerating it. And then even more to get him to the point of enjoying it, which really wasn’t until the last couple of terms before he left.
It was a really tough few years.
As many children do, he struggles with any sort of change, and so we are prepared for going through this whole settling period again (just hoping it’s not the entire first couple of years of school!). We have been working really hard with the school to prepare him and to make the transition as smooth and a stress free as possible.
The school have been nothing but supportive and we are sure that we have made the right decision about the school we’ve chosen. But it was a massive decision. We moved house last summer eight or so miles away from our previous home, purely because it was the only place we could find an accessible bungalow to rent that was within our budget.
But as Hadley still wasn’t consistently settled at preschool we decided to not rock the boat further and continue attending the one in our old home town rather than starting somewhere new. But then came the time to choose a school and although we had imagined still travelling to our old town, we fell in love with the local village Primary and really felt that it was better placed to look after Hadley, his twin sister and us as a family.
So the friends that the children have become so close to, won’t be going to the same school! EEEEEK! It’s a cloud of guilt that I can’t seem to shrug. Even though I know that in the long run it is the right thing to do for so many reasons. But they are really going to miss their friends. I had no idea how strong their little friendships could be.
We’ve had several heart-wrenching meltdowns from the children as it’s sunk in and it’s been really hard not to feel awful about taking them away from what they know. Especially as by doing so we are adding another obstacle to what is already going to be a tough time.
Anyway, the real point of this post was to highlight some of the positive things that we have done to try and help prepare for this huge milestone.
We starting visiting the school just before Christmas last year when we knew that it was the one we wanted. We took the children with us every month at least for a visit and made a big fuss of how much we loved it and couldn’t wait for them to be excited about it too. The head teacher has been incredible and the children both already adore her.
The year R teacher has also been fantastic and has made them both feel so important and wanted. We have had training with the school, been heavily involved with the interviews and employment of Hadley’s one-to-one teaching assistant (LSA) and have even borrowed books and items from the school for the children to look after over the holidays.
But I think one of the most successful things we have done, and the thing that has really helped me stop feeling quite so guilty, is reaching out to the other new parents. We spoke at the new parents evening recently and gave everyone a copy of an open letter. It was nerve wracking getting up in front of so many people and talking so opening about our lives, fears and about Hadley’s disability. We were conscious to help people understand his needs, but not to baffle them with jargon. We wanted to make sure that they understood how much of a big deal starting school is for him, but we didn’t want to over dramatise it or seem really needy.
We just wanted to find a way to become part of the young family community here so that it all becomes natural and normal as soon as possible and because we know we will need them.
It was difficult to not get emotional, but it was so worth going through just a tiny bit of anxiety ourselves as parents (who are really not used to talking to an audience) to help Hadley and it has resulted in some wonderful new friends for all of us already.
So many people came up to us after the meeting and introduced themselves and many offered to get together for play dates so the children could get to know each other before school. And what’s more they have all made such an effort to make those play dates (and there have been several so far already) as easy for us as possible. Coming to our house to visit so Hadley feels more relaxed and pitching in with the general chaos that seems to come as part and parcel of our lives.
I don’t know if we just live in an exceptional village, but we seem to have found some of the most genuine, caring and thoughtful people to start this journey with and I feel very lucky and very glad we reached out for some support.
We have even had texts from parents that didn’t attend the meeting, but received the letter in the post, and have been invited to lots of local get together’s this summer.
Although Hadley will be the only child with Cerebral Palsy at the school, we are not in this alone and everyone wants to help him have a good time. There couldn’t be more people willing him on and I really hope it works.
Now well into the six weeks holidays his anxiety levels have started to rise.
His mood has changed and he’s not sleeping as well. He’s emotional and much more jumpy than normal.
But we are hoping that we just might have done enough to ensure that he stands the best chance of feeling secure and happy at school. I’m keeping everything crossed.
Watch this space.
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