Guest Blog - Back to School

As you may know we want to share blogs written by our families which shows what life is like.

We know how tough it can be for our families when the summer ends and it’s time to go back to school. We are really pleased to share an honest thoughtful back to school blog written for us by a long time friend of the network, you can see more from her here: Our Sensory Story (@oursensorystory) • Instagram photos and videos.

Back to school blog

I always know it’s going to be tough but somehow I’m never really quite prepared for how tough it is….

It’s hard for lots of kids to go back after a long summer off, but for us it’s harder than most.

Much of it is unseen though.

I have friends who have children who very visually and vocally display how hard they find school but mine bottles it up and unleashes it on me at home.

When he started school 2 years ago, I knew it as a big change in his life, but I genuinely thought that as he’d been in nursery and preschool from an early age, it wouldn’t be such a shock. It wasn’t like he’d been home with me all the time after all. He was used to routines and going to a setting each day and having to be with other children in busy environments for example.

But I was wrong, very wrong. Despite only being 4 years old, the afterschool outbursts were really hard to manage and physically very challenging with huge meltdowns when he got home. Sometimes, we didn’t even make it home and I would have to manage a very distressed child out of the school gates and up the path to the car, often being shouted at or attacked.

I spoke to school about it lots and they offered support and reassured me it was just him getting use to the school environment. Then I watched a program about ‘post school restraint collapse’ and thought that was it! We didn’t have a diagnosis then but I was sure this was part of the issue. He was that fizzy coke bottle, being shaken and shaken all day and then exploding as soon as he got to a safe space (me) and all the masking and coping mechanisms falling away. And I learnt to brace myself for those days, armed with food, drink and to tread very carefully until he had unravelled a little from the days stressors.

Then we’ve had 18 months of on off schooling and lockdowns so we’ve never really got into the swing of school. But I have noticed that it’s always a tricky few days after a school holiday.

A lot has changed since he first started school, we have now got two diagnosis, Sensory Processing Disorder and just last month ASD and now looking at ADHD. We have lots of sensory diet things in place at school to help manage his needs and I have a far better understanding of what that is and how to read him. It helps avoid the bottled up explosions I was getting but I don’t always get it right.

We have done 5 terms of One Planning adding to it each time and I think the school and SENCO are starting to listen and see some of the issues I have been mentioning for a long time. Although they see a more muted version mostly. I feel like we are getting there slowly but am not sure when to trigger the EHCP button.

This September, I knew it would be a tough time going back. I’d learnt from previous school holidays that the first few days and weeks are hard and it takes all my emotional resilience to support him through those times. Enduring physical attacks, meltdowns, screaming at me and him loosing his temper or bursting into tears at the slightest thing. I tread so carefully for weeks, trying to avoid an outburst. It’s exhausting for us all.

Lots of parents see him go in happily and behave well at school, they don’t see the other side, when he collapses, unable to contain it any longer. Overwhelmed by the containment of school, the routine, sitting still, listening, understanding social etiquette, trying to manage friendships, sensory overload or underload. It’s a lot for a small boy to manage. That’s really become clear when he has come home and a simple question phrased wrong or his younger brother talking has been the tipping point and the pent up containment has come out, generally, angrily at us. I wish it would all come out though, I wish I could help him to completely unload it all at the end of the day or the week. I often feel like I only decant a bit, enough to allow him to bottle it back up again. Maybe in time we will learn how to be more effective at it. Maybe it will always be this hard?

I’m glad I’m his safe space but gosh it’s hard. So this September I’m trying to give myself space to absorb that and refill my own reserves to hold him tight and help him through the first few days and weeks….

So whatever back to school looks like for you, know you are not alone, even those who seem ok, might not be. Don’t buy into the social media perceptions of happy children skipping of to school in their freshly pressed uniform. Many of us will have had a battle just getting the uniform on and for the sock seams to be just right!