My son Giovanni was my second child to start primary school. I wasn’t as nervous as I was the first time. I knew the drill.
In fact, so chilled was I that I let my husband take him to school that first week.
It wasn’t until a couple of months into his Kindergarten year that I started to notice how different he was to his brother who had begun primary school four years earlier. In fact, he was very different to the rest of the kids as well.
Giovanni couldn’t remember where his classroom was.
He didn’t know the name of his teacher.
He was unable to share anything about his day.
My little boy was pensive, and confused.
Several meetings with his teacher later and the suspicion I had carried in the pit of my stomach was about to be tested. I was going to have my son assessed for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I’d spent the past two years taking online quizes to try and figure out if he was somewhere on the spectrum.
They all said he was.
What do online quizes know.
Then he was formally diagnosed and there was no avoiding it.
My son has ASD, dyspraxia and anxiety.
My perfect little guy.
His stark diagnosis explained everything.
When Giovanni lay his head on his hands on the desk at school or lay on the floor he was mentally “checking out” because he couldn’t understand what was going on.
When he destroyed his stationary by breaking it all into little pieces he didn’t even know he was doing it. He was fidgeting out of anxiety.
It no longer became about my son achieving in school or excelling.
It was about helping him learn strategies to cope.
We tried everything. And nothing worked. If anything, it got worse.
We were all so confused.
It wasn’t the fault of the school or the teachers who did their very best to cater to my special needs child who, despite being “high functioning,” simply couldn’t figure out what on earth was expected of him at school.
It was too busy, too noisy, too confusing, too everything.
So I took my son out of his mainstream school and enrolled him in a program for children with autism.
It’s the best choice I could have made for him.
There’s been a lot of conversation lately about children with autism being in mainstream schooling, thanks to the thoughtless, tactless, uneducated comment made by One Nation senator Pauline Hanson.
“These kids have a right to an education, by all means, but, if there are a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be looked after and given that special attention,” she said.
Despite the fact I did pull my son out of mainstream education and place him in a “special classroom”, I can’t disagree more with what she said.
There’s so much wrong with her statement that I hardly know where to begin, despite the fact I did exactly as she suggested.
How about the fact not all children with autism struggle in mainstream schools, with many thriving?
How about the fact many neurotypical children don’t cope with mainstream education and could do with some intervention themselves?
And where are all of these “special classrooms”? I had to wait 18 months for my son to get a place in his special classroom and it’s 40 minutes away from our home.
Also, it’s expensive.
Not all families can afford the thousands of dollars it costs to access a “special classroom” on top of the many other expense of having a special needs child.
My son’s situation was unique in that his autism combined with dyspraxia combined with the fact he was diagnosed late meant he wasn’t ready for a mainstream education.
By the time he’s ready to begin high school we’ll be transitioning him back into mainstream education, if that’s the best thing for him.
Notice how I phrased that?
I’ll be making a decision about my son with autism’s education based on WHAT IS BEST FOR HIM.
Not on what people think is best for children who don’t have special needs.
Because here’s a newsflash.
There are many children of difference. Children come in many shapes, forms and abilities.
So do adults.
We live in a world made up of many and varied personalities.
By removing all children with additional needs from mainstream school we not only do them a disservice, but we do neurotypical kids a disservice as well.
Each child deserves to be assessed individually and the best choices made for them.
The job of our education system is to cater equally to all of them.
To find out more about Autism Spectrum Disorder visit the APSECT website.