I’m heavily pregnant, with crippling SPD/PGP and I can’t sleep at night so I’m exhausted. It’s fair to say it’s been a hell of a long summer holiday. I should be jumping for joy that it’s back to school time but I’m not. I honestly feel sick at the thought of it. Physically, I don’t know how I’m going to manage the walk there and back because of the pain in my hips and pelvis, which is a worry, but my concerns are for Molly, not me…
She hates school and it fills her with anxiety (I’ve seriously considered homeschooling because of it, but I want to see how she manages in a quieter, more structured year 1 first. Plus, I will have a newborn at home soon). About this time last year, I wrote a post questioning whether or not Molly was ready for school. I had concerns even then. In fact, within the first month of reception, the school had referred us to a paediatrician. A year later I now know that school has been tough and that Molly struggles because of sensory processing problems. We are currently on an autism pathway too and waiting to hear from the paediatrician once she has convened with all of the other professionals we’ve seen so far.
Molly is a fantastic actress and perfectly masks her feelings at school. Yet, she has a meltdown every single day after school because she’s tried to hold it together all day to be ‘like everyone else’. Sometimes we barely make it out of the school gates before she melts down. Other times we’ll just make it home. On a good day, she’ll even manage to ‘play out’ on her bike or scooter for a short while before the inevitable meltdown arrives.
Molly’s school uniform bothers her sensitive skin and she struggles with buttons/zips/putting shoes on etc. which only adds to her frustrations. Shoes and socks are incredibly uncomfortable and bother her feet all day. She has hypermobility so her little arms and legs ache. The people and traffic on the journey to and from school affect her. Eating lunch is a massive issue because Molly struggles with packets and chokes/gags a lot. Even the weather affects her and can put her out of sync for the entire day.
She has some learning difficulties so academically she’s very behind her peers. This is not a problem for me, she’ll get there or she won’t, my problem is her mental wellbeing and the fact that even at 5 years old she realises she struggles more than others and questions why she can’t do things all the other kids do. This difference she notices is a huge issue. She wants to be like everyone else so won’t wear ear defenders to block out the noise. She won’t take a chewer to school to help keep her calm even though she has oral sensory needs. And she refuses to go for quiet time during the day at school, even though it would really help her. In her mind, the other kids don’t do these things so it must be against the rules and so she refuses to do them.
I’ve mentioned school a lot to her over the holidays but more so in the last couple of weeks to prepare her – she doesn’t take too well to changes to her routine. She is in a new classroom environment with new teachers to get used to. She has some social communication problems and struggles to initiate conversation with anyone other than myself, her dad Chris or her cousin Jessica. Toileting will probably become an issue again as she won’t ask to go. And if she does manage to find the words or Jessica asks for her, the hand dryers will put her off ever wanting to go again.
Every single time I’ve mentioned school I’ve seen the look of panic on her face. I’ve noticed the extra cuddles I’ve been getting lately. She wants to leave the house even less than usual. The amount and variety of foods she’ll eat have drastically reduced. Her behaviour and play have become more repetitive and I have some concerns about new things I’ve noticed her doing too. Basically, her school anxiety appears to be back tenfold already and she hasn’t even gone back yet. How can I possibly be happy that school is back when she struggles so much with the whole thing? And as if that isn’t enough, there will be a new baby in the house in a couple of weeks which is even more upheaval for her to try to process and deal with.
But, this little girl is a superstar. Every day she wakes up with a massive smile on her face and she tries her best to keep her cool and understand life. She has to live in a world she doesn’t quite understand, and that really isn’t made for those with sensory processing problems.
I have no doubt in my mind that the forthcoming school year will be tough – on all of us. I know for a fact we’ll have meltdown after meltdown. I know we’ll receive more judgy looks and personal criticisms from people that don’t know the first thing about our life or what Molly is going through.
And I know that inevitably, every day will end with a bad case of mum guilt for me as I question and criticise the decisions I’ve made on Molly’s behalf. I’m forever wondering if I could’ve done more, or if I should’ve done things differently. But I also know that I do my best for her and every decision is made out of love. Molly knows home is her safe space and she feels loved. Professionals such as her speech therapist and paediatrician commenting on our relationship and how much I’ve done for her really gives me the strength to keep fighting for her cause. As I said, this little girl is a superstar and we’ll figure out this journey together, as we go.