Sunday, 5 May 2019

Highbury School

Yesterday, Adam visited his new school for the first time.  Once a month, they have something called "Super Saturday" where they open the school and some of its facilities to children and families to come and play.  

We had met with the Headteacher and Adam's future classroom teacher the day before and, even though Adam hasn't yet transitioned to the school, they gave us permission to come to Super Saturday so Adam could explore.

We really wanted to see the school through Adam's eyes because the transition itself will obviously be managed by professionals (staff from his current school and transport staff) taking him there so this felt like our opportunity to see for ourselves how he related to it.

For the first half an hour or so, Adam just wandered in circles, not saying much.  He walked, looked and explored but couldn't actually settle to anything; he wasn't upset or refusing or having a meltdown (which seemed positive) but he also wasn't enthusing about it.  I thought I understood that because of it being a new environment and change is always difficult in the world of autism.  

But eventually, after circling continually, I asked if he wanted to go into soft play - considering this was where the majority of other children were, and those who will become his peers. I thought it might be a good thing but he kept saying no.  I realised this was probably because it was noisy, crowded and overwhelming so we kept walking as he quietly explored and began to understand the place.  

After 4-5 full circuits of the entire school, I stopped him outside soft play, asked again if he wanted to go in and he said no.  But I then got down to his level to get his attention and said quietly, "Adam, there is jumping in there.  Would you like to do jumping?"  It was like watching a dawning sunrise on his little face as he looked at me hopefully and said, "Jumping?  Yes?"  So I took off his shoes, took him into the room and he immediately spied the rebound trampoline...then this happened:

His little face was wreathed in smiles as he jumped, he was giggling and absolutely full of joy.  (There were plenty of other children there, but hopefully obviously, I took photos just showing Adam)  

He spent easily another half an hour on the trampoline before deciding he was finished and then, when we went outdoors again, he decided he wanted to have a little go on the bikes (I couldn't take photos of that as other children were riding too) and then decided to explore the den making area and the garden kitchen.  Of his own accord, he found a watering can, held it up and said, "Watering can!  Water!" then pretended to water the herbs in the herb garden.  He then found the pretend play area and spent time putting together the slices of a loaf of bread, cutting them apart with a toy knife and popping them into the toaster.

By the time all of this exploration and play was finished, I knelt down in front of him and asked, "Adam this is your new school.  Is it a nice school or a not nice school?"

He thought for a moment, looked up at the sky and took his time deliberating before looking at me and saying, "Yes nice.  Nice school."

This was a joy to hear, see and experience with him as we know just how hard we have fought for him to be placed here.  Over the coming weeks, the transition will begin from his current school to this one.  In the meantime, our independent Speech and Language Therapist is visiting both schools for an assessment this week, and next week our independent Educational Psychologist is doing the same, while we're also meeting with all of the professionals involved in the case and our solicitor continues to work tirelessly on our behalf, negotiating the transition and serving as our intermediary and advocate with the Local Authority.

So to all of you who so kindly and graciously donated money towards our appeal - and just over £8,000 was raised through online and offline donations - we cannot thank you enough. It makes no difference whether your donation was £10 or significantly more, every donation mattered to us and thank you so so much - this is what your kindness is achieving.  "Yes nice.  Nice school."  I couldn't have put it better myself!