Thursday, 2 February 2017

What I see now my autistic sons are at school

What I see at playgroup now my autistic sons are at school

I visited a playgroup I haven't been to in over a year.  In fact I haven't been to it much since David was really little. I tried to go for a while before David went to preschool.  Honestly I tried.

At the time David was three years old and Jane was a year.   The local church had two playgroups, one for kids up to two and a half years and one for older kids. If you had an older child and a baby then you went to the bigger age group.  I had cheated a bit and stayed in the younger group for longer than I should have done. Truth is I should have just stayed there.

David wasn't ready for the bigger children or the structure of the older kids play group.   Whereas his older autistic brother had some level of communication at three years, David still didn't really.  He struggled with sharing anything, struggled with sitting for snack, ran around during the quiet story time and screamed during all the changes of activities.  I spent more time worrying about him than I did baby Jane.  I was constantly watching the kids like a hawk; waiting for something to go wrong. Some days were better than others but our bad days seemed terrible. Looking back it wasn't that much fun really. I felt like everyone was looking at my son and then at me.  It looked to me like many parents seemed to ignore their kids and this made it harder for David.

Now, David is at school, a different one to his brother, but it's full time.  Jane will be starting reception in September.  She is already attending pre-school in the afternoons and is getting to the point where she wants activity in the morning too.  So I went back to the playgroup.

And I noticed something. Something that surprised me.

Jane is very capable. She can play on her own and she loves playing with me too. Dressing up, creative activities and listening to stories are all good.  Yes, sometimes she is a bit shy but she usually gets over it.  Yesterday there was a pal from her pre-school at the playgroup and she thought this was brilliant. When I wasn't required, I was barely needed. And that's when I saw it.

I saw a parent trying to fend of a little toddler while telling a little girl not to pull another's hair. "I don't have to hold you all the time for goodness sake," she said to the toddler who was pawing at her leg.

I saw a mum ask her son to sit down at least five times whilst he ran around during the story and refused to take off the spiderman costume.  Then in an effort to get the costume off, mum got kicked in the face.  The soles of kids shoes are not soft - this I know all to well.

I saw a girl and boy fighting over a dinosaur one moment and a car the next.  And the mother sighing and "Can't you behave for just one minute?"

The mum, that looks soo tired (something I still get).

And whilst I offered to hold crying baby number one whilst mummy changed soggy baby number two, I realised that I wasn't the only one that found play groups difficult.

Yes it's true that being autistic made some things difficult for my boys and us. And yes, it's the case that this was often misunderstood by others. Telling my son off when he ran around was not on my agenda.  That wasn't how he or I could work.  And in the end we found mainstream or regular play groups too difficult to attend with David. But there were a few mums who I'd bet would rather have been at home that morning than in the chaos that their kids appeared to be creating.

And I realised that despite being different, in some ways we were 'normal'. I probably wasn't the only one having a hard time at playgroup.

Our bad days might be a bit more ferocious, but by being consumed by the difficulties magnitude of an autistic meltdown David may have been having, I didn't see that others were having a tough time too.  And by leaving that playgroup and taking what appeared to be the most disruptive child away, another child became the one causing most of the trouble.  At least in some ways autism gave us a bit of an excuse. It's possible I even had a holier than thou type attitude, that I feel a bit embarrassed about now.

So to the mum struggling with whatever it is today, I understand. And I'm sorry I didn't notice. We all have tough days and it's OK.  How can I help?

67 comments:

  1. Thank you. this post is so honest and compassionate. I must admit I struggle with groups, though my boys are both really well behaved, I find it more my own tiredness and social issues that hold me back. Sometimes it is easier to stay home than try to fit in. It's lovely to be reminded that everyone is fighting their own battles and, probably, too focused on their own kids to notice mine! xx #coolmumclub

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    1. Generally they notice mine no problem! ;-)

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  2. This is a really lovely read. It's so true, we can all get a little self involved at these types of things...no one talked to me (did you talk to anyone else?) It's so cliquey (are you in the centre of a clique?) The kids didn't like it (I didn't like it). You are so right, we are all going through our own battles and often are oblivious to the car crash going on all around us.
    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub

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    1. I do try - it can be a hard though can't it?

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  3. It is so easy to focus on your own children and parenting, that you don't notice that others are going through similar things, and might be having bad days, too. This is all so true, I suspect we've all been there, but we rarely see it until we're having a good day! Thanks for sharing with #WotW

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  4. I'm having a tough afternoon, it literally feels like I'm running a zoo at home today! Gah.... hurry up bedtime! (I live in Arizona, don't worry my kids don't go to bed at midnight 😂) #brilliantblogposts

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  5. One of the best blog posts I have ever read. We all need to walk in each others shoes more than we do as we share so much and as mums are usually struggling with things, different things perhaps but still struggling

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  6. It's so easy to see things from our own pov all the time, but it's so valuable to see the world from someone elses when we can. I'm sure the help you've given is welcome #wotw

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  7. I loved reading this thanks for sharing. I too found it very difficult taking my autistic son to playgroup (unaware at that time that he had autism) so really empathise when I see other parents struggling. #postsfromtheheart x

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    1. We mostly went to a wonderful play session at a charity called Me Too & Co that it there to support families with disabled kids (the whole family incl parents and siblings are welcome and supported). I now am heavily involved in this charity as I found it invaluable.

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  8. It's so easy to get totally tuned in to just your little family and to feel as if you are the only one in that situation but really, everyone is facing their own hurdles. Or spiderman costume debates! Thanks for being an important part of the #bigpinklink

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    1. The fight over the sleeping beauty costume was epic.

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  9. I love, love, love this post. Playgroup for us with Number One was predictably difficult, though in different ways so are baby groups with Number Two. You are so right that although the challenges of our children may differ to those of others, parenting is difficult for many if not all families - and playgroup seems to exemplify that well! Thank you so much for sharing this at #PostsFromTheHeart and reminding us all that we are not alone.

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    1. There's always going to be reason's to feel different or like the outsider. But I think maybe we all feel a bit like this sometimes. Thanks for saying you 'love love love' the post ;-) An ego boost is always welcome!

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  10. This is a brilliant post, and so very true...I find play groups a struggle myself, I worry that my parenting skills (or lack thereof!) are on show and the kids pick up on that I swear #KCACOLS

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  11. I think the world understands more. A friend's ASD kid is in my child's class and I find it interesting to listen to how the kids see it. Far more accepting than you'd imagine - and even when he loses it, they just see it as 'it's naughty but he's allowed to do that'. I think it's our age group that needs to be educated to view things differently. #KCACOLS

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    1. Kids can be great with the differences. Both the boys class mates are incredibly, not just understanding but actually supportive of them. Usually it's kids from other classes or years that cause them problems at school :-( Thanks so much for commenting

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  12. I think you're right, we all have those days, where everything goes wrong. And having an audience only makes matters worse! xx #KCACOLS

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  13. Sometimes it can be hard to understand what others are going through if it isn't the same for you. tolerance and understanding are a great quality #KCACOLS

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  14. This is so true. Play groups can be a challenge depending on how you're feeling and how your baby is doing on a particular day. We should all try to help each other out during those more challenging days.

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  15. Ooh this post is a lovely read. Its so important to put yourself into someone else's shoes, you have nice idea of their situation so don't just judge. #KCACOLS

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  16. GREat post! Think we've all been there #kcacols

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  17. Important to remember that none of us are alone - that everybody is dealing with their own trials and tribulations. Its a shame some people never realize this #KCACOLS

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  18. I love this so much- I do playgroups and I have toddler twins- who both lose their shit and want to be held and two older girls. I am always the mom everyone stares at!

    #KCACOLS

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  19. Great post!!! It's interesting how our lenses shift when we become special needs mommies!! But sometimes, just being a mommy is hard work!!! Thanks for sharing :) #kcacols

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  20. Children are hard work, autistic children even more so, and all parents have bad days! #kcacols

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    1. Yes, they do, and it's ok.Thanks for commenting

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  21. this is such a lovely post. I used to find baby groups tough sometimes. b would be crying or I'd spend half of the group in the loo changing a pooey bum. and every other mum seemed to just "cope" and get on with it. I go out of my way now to try and be helpful - i.e hold a trolley for a mum or pick something up etc #KCACOLS

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    1. Yes me too, fall over myself to hold the door open for a buggy!

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  22. I found playgroups really tricky with the twins once they started to move. Trying to keep an eye on both of them was a nightmare. I am glad we are past that stage if I am honest. I love this post, we all have bad days x #KCACOLS

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    1. A bit of understanding goes a long way doesn't it. Thanks for commenting.

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  23. I love this post as it could easily have been a woe is me type post as I'm sure you struggle with the kids anx autism but instead I love how you acknowledge that we all have our bad days! #kcacols xx

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  24. I love this post as it could easily have been a woe is me type post as I'm sure you struggle with the kids anx autism but instead I love how you acknowledge that we all have our bad days! #kcacols xx

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  25. Great post - I think with or without autistic children it's okay to have missed what's going on with other people. Sometimes our worlds sort of narrow in on our own stuff. #kcacols

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  26. This is a lovely post. It is easy to convince yourself that you have the most difficult and tantrum filled child when you are in public. The truth is that all of our kids have good days and bad day, or rather a good five mins followed by a bad five mins. It is hard and stressful. I hate dealing with this in public too. Pen x #KCACOLS

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  27. This is so true for many situations. We can often think our own children are the only ones playing up and often they're not. They all have good and bad days x
    #KCACOLS

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  28. I really enjoyed reading this post. I teach a number of pupils with 'labels' and I sometimes wonder whether actually their behaviour has nothing to do with the label and they're just being like many other children can be at times. Lots to think about! #KCACOLS

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  29. This was a great read. I think with baby groups, we have all found them hard at times. We never know how others are feeling.
    #KCACOLS

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  30. This is such an important and useful post. I know I have found playgroups hard work in the past. We should just try and support each other as we don't the details of other's lives. This was a great read. Thank you. #KCACOLS

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  31. A great reminder that parenting is difficult for us all, and that everyone has their own battles that they need to face - especially in social environments such as playgroups. As an autism mum I sometimes forget the struggles that other parents go through too. This has been a great reminder that we all are faced with battles that can leave us a little weary.

    #kcacols

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  32. This is a lovely post. I do think playgroups can be hard for anyone and everyone gets wrapped up in their own stuff without noticing the difficulties everyone else is having. I took my youngest to a playgroup recently that I used to take my eldest to all the time. It was such a different experience! He just played with toys instead of picking fights like my eldest always did! Amazing that I persevered with them like I did. #kcacols

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  33. such an honest post, we all have bad day as mums and we struggle at times and it is completely ok #KCACOLS

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  34. That's really beautiful and made me tear up for some reason. We are all fighting some battle. Life isn't easy for any of us and parenthood is not simplyfing anyone's life. It's easy to get caught up in our own struggles and become blind to those of others. But you know, maybe that's ok too. Maybe when one person is having a bad day we can all forgive the fact that they are not noticing our struggles and give them the support they need. The weak link changes daily, sometimes from one minute to the next, and the other links need to bear the weight when that happens knowing that the same will be done for them when it's their turn to be the weak link. #KCACOLS

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  35. I love this post. I felt very much the same taking my youngest daughter to groups, I felt judged and I felt my child was being judged too. She is awaiting assessment with CAHMS and she is "different" to other children, although I see that as a positive. xx

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  36. Your honesty is heart warming and I think we can all take a holier than thou attitude sometimes. Thanks for sharing! #kcacols

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  37. It's great that we are not alone in this crazy parenting world. We should be able to help each other out and support one another. #KCACOLS

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  38. I think being able to relate to others makes us human: caring and supportive. Parenting is not easy. I didnt like taking my children to groups, I always felt the clicky Mums made me feel awkward. I have no idea why! #KCACOLS

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  39. I struggled with talking to other mums when my girls were small and as you say spent most of the playgroup chasing them around. As I got braver I got to know a few mums who we still see at the school gates now. Being a mum can be difficult and more mums are understanding of that than we may think. #KCACOLS

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  40. I love this, I like how honest you are, I imagine it was hard for you and it probably would be in a slightly different way to the mums you saw, but their difficulties would be slightly different to the other mothers they see struggling at times they are not.

    #KCACOLS

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  41. All so true. It must have been so hard for you. It's true though - we all struggle at times, and when those days happen (you know the ones) there's nothing that seems worse to you than what your child is doing. And you fail to notice and really 'see' the people around you. The mums around you, who may also be struggling and having a bad day. And in different circumstances and with different children, they are also feeling exactly the same way you are. Thanks for sharing #KCACOLS

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  42. I was at a playgroup the other day and it was just crazy! I forgot how mental it gets when you stick a load of toddlers in one room together! I come out with a headache and still go back the next week. Go figure. #KCACOLS

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  43. It is hard when you have that one child that won't do what all the others are doing. And I know personally I can sometimes be questioning myself. Why isn't he doing what the others are doing? Is it my fault. My son is autistic (that's we know of). But at the end of the day we all take it in turns to go through the shitfest. The best thing we can all do is make the mum who's turn it is that day, feel like it's perfectly normal and we have all been there. Nothing worse than feeling like you are being judged on top of everything else you are dealing with.

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  44. Lovely and honest. I agree, I think pretty much all mums are going through some kind of trauma or worry or problem. We all have days of struggling with our kids and it can sometimes be hard to see what's going on with everyone else. #KCACOLS

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  45. I loved reading this, and wasn't quite expecting it to go the way it did. We do get so caught up in our own struggles sometimes, we don't always see that other parents are finding things hard too. I found play groups with my son really hard at times, because he was always such a busy child, he never ever sat still for the singing at the end! x #KCACOLS

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  46. It's so true, weve all been there, some more than others, but we've all been the mum struggling at playgroup. #KCACOLS

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  47. I find playgroups can bring out the worst in everyone - both the kids and the parents!! #KCACOLS

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  48. I don't believe there is a child out there who hasn't created a scene at least once in their life! We all have the fear that it'll be our child today. I love this post because we're so quick to be engulfed in our own worries and fears we forget there are other mums and dads in the exact same boat as us! #KCACOLS Becky x

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  49. this is such a good and open and honest post. I hate baby groups as I feel the mums are too judgey even though they're the people who should understand my situation the most! thank you for sharing your story #KCACOLS

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  50. This is a beautiful and honest post. I had it easy with my first but my second child is a definite challenge at times and have had to leave playgroup more than once. It's awful feeling like others there are judging you but last week my daughter was really well behaved and I was able to relax a little more and that's when I noticed that there were others there struggling too and felt much less alone x
    #KCACOLS

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  51. Thank you, on the behalf of the other mums for offering to help. I find that more often than not we are more willing to sit and judge than we are to offering a helping hand. #KCACOLS

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I read all your comments and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with me and our readers. I welcome any feedback on my posts and you can always contact me directly. Thank you.

What is Autism?
It's so much I couldn't possibly try and explain. For us it's wonderful and heart-breaking. Joyous and truthful. But as far as diagnosis is concerned, why not have a look at the National Autistic Society for their definition of Autism.
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