My little boy is growing up. In February Arun will be five years old and this means we need to start thinking about full time schooling for him. I suspect that most parents think hard about the right school for their children and Arun is no different. However, because of his disabilities the decisions we have to make are very different.
Arun already goes to school. He attends a special needs school for children with physical disabilities and associated learning difficulties for a couple of days a week. In addition he goes to a lovely little playgroup around the corner. Until now, we and Arun have been delighted with this combination. However, the law now tells us that a pre-school is no longer good enough and that he will very shortly need to be in a real school environment five days a week.
The first challenge that we have faced is that I don’t care what the law says. Arun is very different to the children that legislators had in mind when they drafted the law requiring all children aged five to be in approved schooling. For a start Arun was born three and a half months too early and then spent the first year of his life largely immobile because he was oxygen dependent. It feels completely arbitrary to timetable his schooling based on a nonsensical birth date rather than a more meaningful reflection of his real development. In addition, Arun is not a normal five year old. His physical disabilities mean that he gets tired and ill very easily. There is no way I am going to put him into school full time if it makes him unwell.
Next up we have agonised about the right environment for Arun. His learning difficulties mean he needs specialised teaching methods that a special school is best positioned to provide. However, Arun’s particular brand of autism pulls us in an entirely different direction. Arun is a-typically autistic in that he is very socially motivated towards adults. We have been strongly advised that Arun needs contact with socially motivated children to help him develop his interpersonal skills – this directs us to a mainstream environment. Clare and I spent hours batting this one back and forth.
In the end we plumped for the special school. The main reason being that there are a couple of bossy little girls in his class who Arun has started to form a sort of friendship with (I think they remind him of his sister).
As with any child, our decision about where and how to school him will be one of the most important of Arun’s life. I don’t know whether we’ve made the right choices for him. Arun can’t tell us and we won’t see the full results for twenty years. I don’t have my crystal ball with me at the moment so I’ll have to muddle along like all parents do basing their decisions on what they know about the world and their love for their child. I hope that’s good enough.