Daunting first days at school: parents’ worries

Jo Worgan
Jo Worgan
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I sat writing my column the other week in an extremely quiet house.

Tom has returned to his autism specialist school and I have to say that, although it is lovely to sit in peace and quiet, it feels very strange to do so after the six weeks of holiday.

I’ve been thinking about parents of autistic children out there; whose little ones may be starting school for the very first time. 

Some will be experiencing what I did nearly three years ago. That nail biting, nervous feeling in the pit of your stomach as you wave goodbye to your child. Safely deposited into the care of a complete stranger in the minibus or taxi. 

Then your child is gone for the whole day, in our case eight hours, on their first day of school.

When you compare this to children starting Reception class in mainstream school, they usually go for half a day, and you can walk them there and back. But this is the way it has to be. Starting on half days is just too confusing.

I remember Tom’s first day as if it was yesterday, and so today I thought of all the new children starting at his school. I just want to say that things will be OK. That your child will progress and they are in the best possible place. 

It is hard for parents of children who attend a mainstream school to know what it is like for parents who have to wave their child off on an hour’s drive to school, at the age of four. But I do know, that was me.

All I will say is that it is the best decision I ever made. It still hurts sometimes though.

Stephen went back to school before Tom and for four days I walked Stephen to school, clutching Tom’s hand. I watched Stephen lining up with the rest of his friends in Year 4. Next to his class stood Year 3, which is where Tom would have been if mainstream had worked out for him.

Although irrational, I felt a sadness that I thought had longed passed. But it was short lived. I pushed the thought aside, knowing Tom is where he needs to be.

So, good luck to all the parents and children out there, who have started at their specialist schools.

It really will be OK.