It is 2.54 pm. I am standing outside the school gates. Other parents are gathered around, but they seem distant, their voices muffled. A few words drift by me…
“Ohhh yes, mine is just like that since turning five! Sounds like we are in the same boat…”
It is hard to join in. It is hard to grasp those flimsy scraps of common ground, hard to tune out my own voice, resounding, repeating in my head:
“Please let it be a good day. Please let him be happy. Please let it be a good day. Please.”
The gates are opened and we all move forwards. Parents carrying bikes and scooters to be ridden home squeeze past me. As I approach the classroom door, my heart begins to beat faster. My chest tightens. The mantra in my head is getting louder, the chanting voice sounds more desperate. I lean forwards to peek through the windows, impatient for a sign, something to tell me which way the day has gone. Is he with the other children or alone? Has he retreated to the reading corner, the place he always feels the safest? Is he clinging to an adult? Is he smiling?
But today the blinds are drawn. I cannot see into the classroom. I must wait.
“Please. Please let it be a good day. Please let him have tried and played and joined in. Please don’t let him have been scared. Please, let him not have lashed out.”
Sometimes, those doors open and he is the last to emerge. Sometimes, his eyes are glazed and surrounded by dark circles. Sometimes, the look on his TA’s face is enough and I know. I know it has been a difficult day. Sometimes, his teacher must speak with me and huge, warm tears hit my hands as I hold his, and listen. Sometimes, the walk home is unbearable, as he sobs and struggles to breathe and begs me not to send him tomorrow.
Sometimes, that walk is the hardest walk of my life.
But not today.
He is at the front of the queue, his jumper bursting with brightly coloured stickers. ‘Well done! Good Job!’ Smiley faces. His TA is grinning.
“Mummy! Mummy! I had such a good day! Mrs – , didn’t I have such a good day?!”
He is breathless, beaming, jumping and stimming and flapping with excitement. And the voice in my head is singing with joy.
I listen as she recounts the details of his day. He tried activities of someone else’s choosing. He interacted with the other children and did not get too distressed when they did not behave exactly as he wanted. He joined in with literacy, did not refuse to do PE. He had one or two wobbles but he knew when he could not take any more and self-managed well.
We walk home, hand-in-hand and we play silly word games and talk about the things around us. Wouldn’t it be funny if the sky was purple or if cars drove on the pavement and people walked in the road? Praise spills from me. He is such a brilliant, clever, brave boy. We can do whatever he would like when we get in. We sing. We pretend we are walking on jelly. The desperate voice in my head is silenced… until tomorrow.
Sometimes, the walk home is the very best part of my day.
For more about autism, you can take a look at our autism category.