Gaining Confidence and Independence

I sit here writing this blog, pretty amazed at how far we have come.

I need to go upstairs and pack my boy’s bag ready for a three day residential that he will be going on tomorrow. I no longer feel nervous or feel sick with worry that he may not cope because I know he will not only cope but he will enjoy the experience.

I remember clearly the school trips back in “mainstream days”. I often wanted to go along but was told that I would be made to chaperone a different group of children, which I understood. The school did this so that parents on trips weren’t giving their child all the attention and not watching the others. I knew that my child needed that extra support but rules were rules and it would be classed as unfair to allow me to be with my child. This was just one of the reasons why I hoped that once we received a diagnosis these petty rules would vanish and we could just concentrate on my child’s needs. It’s sad that I felt I had to get a diagnosis to make the teachers understand that my child was just craving that little extra support – it shouldn’t be that way.

Once we had that little bit of paper with the diagnosis on it, it was like a golden ticket. The school asked me if I would like to support my child on school trips. Things changed quite rapidly to the extent they were pleading me to go because no one knew how to support my child. As I sat next to him on the coach seat, with him looking as proud as punch because he was allowed his mummy on the trip with him, I did wonder if this was how things would always be? If it would be expected that I should escort my child on school outings and if I couldn’t he would miss out? It crossed my mind with great sadness that he would never ever manage a residential trip away from me. I remember sitting on the school coach feeling a sense of sadness.

If only I knew back then what I know now! In June this year our boy went on his first residential trip with his new specialist school. A full 5 days away to Butlins in Skegness. I remember the school family liaison lady telling us about this trip. I raised my hand over my mouth and shook my head “I don’t think my child is ready for that so soon..” She replied, “He will be and he will love it.” How could she be so confident? I was his mother and didn’t feel this confident, he hadn’t been away from home for even one night, even an attempt to sleep at his nanas house was tricky with us having to cut our adult-only night short to collect him because he couldn’t cope, his teddys weren’t in HIS bed, the change was too much.

That summer term came round very fast! My boy was ready for residential like no other, I was the only one worrying.

How would he cope with the noise on an evening in the clubhouse? How would he cope with the demands of going to different places? How would he cope not being in his own bed without his teddys? He can only sleep at home with two teddy bears at either side of him. All these thoughts were running through my mind.

We prepped him beforehand and showed him videos of where he was staying. To my amazement, the school took the boys to the resort for a day the week before. They did this to familiarise them with their surroundings and reduce their anxiety. When the trip itself came, he took his mobile phone and briefly called each evening.  I was shocked he was coping, not just coping – he was actually loving it.

At the end of those 5 days, the camp leader said he’d been the happiest and most outgoing boy there! When he returned home I was expecting things to be rather unsettled. I wondered if he had masked a lot on the trip and whether all hell would break out at home.  Quite the opposite it turns out – he was happy to be home but cried. I wondered if things may have just been too overwhelming for him; but no, he cried because he said he was missing his friends!

The next school residential has come around fast. The September trip is a good way to break the ice back into the school routine. So here I am again, packing his bag for 3 days. Although he’s not been feeling too well (he’s loaded with a cold), who’s going to be there to rub Vicks on his back at night to help him breathe? Who’s going to keep topping his nose with vaseline to stop it from being sore because he’s been blowing it too much? I’ve asked him if we can come to a deal. If he wants to come home on the evening I can go and collect him and bring him back the next day for activities. It’ s not too far away from home – about an hour drive. We’ve made the agreement, however, I am sure he won’t ask to come home but the choice is there if he needs it.

When do we ever stop worrying about our children, hey? On a positive, I never dreamed that my child would ever manage without my support. It is pretty obvious that the staff at school are doing an amazing job with him, which has turned his little mind around to trusting adults again.

Once a child feels safe, liked and adored they will thrive.


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