It’s the big step up to school and no one is more excited yet worried than poor mum. No one knows their jelijunior better than mum and the transition to school can harbour fears as well as hopes. Within the UK generally the line between mainstream and special schools falls when a child has an IQ test.
The systems are slowly changing and different criteria are now being tried. For this article we will concentrate on ‘mainstream education’. What if your jelijunior has hated Pre School and that was only 3 mornings a week! And they are still is glued to your right leg. How will they cope with a full day away from mum, new noises, smells and uniform? Will the teachers understand them? What happens if…….?
The questions and the worries are never ending. Can you trust the teachers to understand how your jelijunior MUST keep their school bag with them ALL THE TIME? Do they realise how precious that special handkerchief is in their pocket and the meltdown that will ensue if anything happens to it? And what if your jelijuniour has a meltdown because dear little Johnny pushed him over in the playground? Change in any shape or form is not good for a jelibean. Planning every step is essential if you are to make the transition as smooth as possible.
In the UK, there are a number of professional channels that parents and school can follow: Speech and Language Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Educational Psychologists. However in secondary school these services disappear. For many children and parents, school becomes a nightmare that few wake up from. We intend to help parents navigate their way through. Please see articles in ‘Education’.
HOME LIFE FOR A JELIJUNIOR
School years for a jelijunior can impact quite heavily on home life. Frustrations and problems at school can mean that life at home becomes unpredictable and troublesome. Many times I have heard worn out parents complain that every Sunday night their jelijunior goes down with a sore throat, headache or just simple refusal to go to school the next day. Others watch their jelijuniors disappear into school worrying that they are being bullied or upset by their peer groups. Signs to watch for are withdrawal, anxiety, school refusal, fears and phobias, night terrors and sleep disturbance, excess stimming, meltdowns.
Jelibean advises all parents jot down notes in a diary if they are concerned. Many children on the autism spectrum cannot combine the thought of school and home. School work gets done at school, home is for relaxing. The problems with homework are again endless and one that is very common with jelibeans of all ages. If the situation becomes intolerable it may be preferable for homework to be done at lunchtime or in homework club if school offer it.
Jelijuniors no matter where they are on the autism spectrum all want and need one thing – a friend. We all strive to be liked but when our differences stick out like a sore thumb and we get picked on, it isn’t easy to see who our ‘real’ friend is and who isn’t.
Sometimes it can become a very lonely journey and not one that most jelibeans would admit to. No matter where on the spectrum we fall most of us experience some form of a problem with identifying and keeping friends. Some of us can be too overpowering and overwhelm others whilst others are scared of their own shadow and unable to initiate any relationship least of all maintain one. Whichever way it goes the consequences are often the same – loneliness. Then there are the ‘friends’ you really wish your jelijunior hadn’t made.
It is during this time of your jelibeans life you may notice an ‘YBN’ (Yeah but No) syndrome starting. Oppositional Defiance Disorder is a whole new subject which is why there is an article specific to this. However that being said, if your child is showing signs of ODD, this will further compound problems.
Oh that old chestnut again! Sibling rivalry will instantly turn your jelibean a neon shade of green. Envy and competition for attention adds further strain to an already overstretched family dynamic. I remember one of my children nearly killing his brother with a rattle over the head in the double buggy! It was then I went for the tandem buggy as opposed to the side by side! Special interests and collections Has your jelijunior become obsessed with Ben10? Thomas the Tank Engine? Dr Who? Or maybe it is collecting cars/dolls or other objects that their fascination demands. Traffic cones, rocks, shells are common collections although my son loved collecting tickets (even ones dropped on station platforms!). There is no knowing of what it will be but I bet many of you will be nodding your heads right nowJ. This is where pocket money comes in useful. Please see article on pocket money and money management.
Jelibeans have generally little money sense. Some jelijuniors discover early that the fascination steps beyond collections and into the realms of electronics or computers. Often we hear stories of jelijuniors stripping down non working pieces of equipment they can, only to piece it together again and proudly present them to their parents fixed, leaving many parents aghast. Then there are others who enjoy taking their possessions/toys apart unable to repair them – leaving them useless. Many parents end up in despair witnessing expensive toys left ruined within hours of their darlings receiving them.
Autism spectrum conditions are a neurodevelopmental. This means that there are changes as we get older. Every jelibean I have met so far experiences certain sensory differences. Not all of these remain the same, some appear whilst others disappear. By now your jelijunior may be exhibiting other sensory differences or exacerbations of the old ones. Please see the section sensory Issues for further information. But please be aware that overwhelming sensory differences will impact on your jelijuniors life. School uniform presents problems often with jelibeans complaining that the fabric or fit is not comfortable. My own son always found school uniform unbearable. He wore the same school shirt for 2yrs, it was paper thin but he would not have anything else. If you are seeing any increase in stimming or maybe the school jumper is half eaten (sleeves are the tastiest I believe) ask yourself ‘why’?
Sadly meltdowns are commonplace and painful for both those that experience them and those who witness them. Often a meltdown is a result of many incidents that have accumulated into a ‘volcano’ of emotion. As we all know volcanoes are prone to explosions. Meltdowns can be caused by many triggers.Please see Meltdown/Tusnami article for further information. It is always helpful for parents to diarise these meltdowns. Frequency and severity with triggers if possible. Jelibean advises that meltdowns should be treated similar to epileptic seizures. When a jelibean is in meltdown they cannot hear any instructions so shouting at them is pointless. Best advice is to treat them very gently and try and be softly spoken and kind. A meltdown can be triggered by many things – frustration, anxiety, unexpected change and being blamed for something that they are not guilty for. Those on the spectrum cannot cope with unfair justice. It will upset them so much often pushing them into meltdown.
Advice for teachers in Education.
So just because your jelibean is growing up, it doesn’t mean to say you will be ‘cured’ or devoid of problems. There will be many but our advice is to take each day as it comes. Timetable everything. A jelijunior is likely to respond well to organised structure. Don’t leave every decision to the last minute and PLEASE NO BROKEN PROMISES. Nothing worse than looking forward to something only to be told its cancelled! So that gives you a vague idea. For teachers please see the article specific to you