Wednesday 11 September 2019

For the first time in his life, he didn’t cry about going back to school

Anthony's last day at a mainstream primary school.

My son Anthony is now 11 years old.  He has been going to school for seven years.  After each holiday he cried several times a day, several days before his first day back at school.  Let's just say half of Christmas was miserable for him.

Sometimes when he’d cry the night before school restarted, I counted us lucky.  Anthony was at least able to go to a school.  There are many kids out there like Anthony, who has autism and ADHD, who simply don't have a school they can attend.

Sometimes I'd get annoyed - "For goodness sake Anthony, you are eight years old now. Get over it now," I'd think... or say. Even though I knew that was the wrong attitude.

Sometimes I'd think it would pass or that we were going to be OK with it.

Sometimes I'd cry with him.  Because he'd say something about going back that would just hit me in the chest. "I hate the way I feel at school."

Since he was eight years old, we’ve been looking at and trying to get him into another, more suitable school.  Anthony tried some trial days.  He was refused at some schools but was able to tell us why he felt they worked for him. He, and we identified smaller class sizes as something that made a huge difference to his ability to cope, learn and even, dare I say it.. enjoy school.

Amazingly, a school was being opened in our borough for kids just like Anthony that was going to start it's intake this year with Year 7 kids - the year Anthony was going into.

A new school is always a gamble.

We looked around the new place last July, a few months before it would open. We thought it could work.

Anthony looked around it with us a week later. He rated it 10/10 against all other schools he had seen.  PS. He rated his current primary school -1/10. He rated a local mainstream secondary school as "It's so low... can you have minus infinity?"

I had no idea that a school placement could mean so much.

On his last day of primary school, Anthony came out like many of the other kids... crying.  Everyone was saying goodbye to their friends, goodbye to their teachers and there was a lot of red eyes and hugs.

Anthony hugged his teachers goodbye.    He later said that he rated all the people at the school really well, just the school wasn't the right place for him.

The conflicted emotions came out.  His sister hugged him as he started to cry.

"I just can't believe it... it's finally over. Finally, finally finally, I'm going to go to a school that's right for me."

The summer holidays went fast. We had an amazing vacation. The kids were amazing and did things that two years ago I would not have thought possible. Zip lining, hiking up waterfalls, bear watching! How would they cope with back to school?

Anthony did not cry.  He was excited to try on his uniform.  He was literally jumping for joy as we walked to his collection point for the school transport on his first day. He even exclaimed, "I'm so excited.. I can't believe how lucky I am."

When I collected him, he'd had "A great day - the best day at school ever."

I had known we could do better for Anthony. We struggled to figure what that was and how.  I knew he found it difficult.  I had no idea that changing his environment could have such an impact on him.  When I think of his mental health, I'm just so relieved.

Obviously it's just starting.  It's a new school, new staff etc etc.  There will, I'm sure, be hurdles.  But if nothing else, the months, no, years spent looking, trying and discussing what's right for Anthony, and then spent on the phone to our LA have at least paid of for Anthony this time.    His whole attitude to school, education, what he thinks of himself has been transformed.  I can't wait to see how his first week has gone.


  1. This is amazing. I am so pleased he can finally enjoy going to school! I really hope it last for him #kcacols

  2. Sounds like a real result. School has clearly been quite a journey for you both. I'm glad you've had a success this time. #KCACOLS

  3. Oh this is fabulous! I'm so pleased for him (and you!) Fingers crossed that the success continues. #KCACOLS

  4. Oh this is lovely to hear. I do so hope that he carries on loving it! #KCACOLS

  5. Oh how wonderful is this to read! I love this time they figure out that school isn't so bad after all. I really hope school goes well throughout the rest of the year. Thank you so much for linking up with us for #kcacols and we hope to see you next time.

  6. I hope all is still going well. It is fantastic to hear what a great start Anthony had. Amazing how much diffrence environmental change can make. #spectrumsunday

  7. A story exactly like my own.
    My son will be 11 in August. We just found out he got a place at a specialist asd unit for September. after struggling since 4yr old in mainstream primary’s. He will be in bits to leave his current primary hub. He’s been full time there since April ‘19. After being out of school since year 3 and low attendance in year 1&2 due to unmet needs and struggling in the mainstream environment. Where his first school said he’s fine no issues. ( they lied to the LA). He’s actually the most complex child in his hub base!
    New chapter for secondary and the relief is immense

  8. This really touched me. I hope that he has continued to enjoy his new school and that having such a long break recently hasn't set him back at all.

  9. This must have been super hard to get to this stage but thankfully now you can relax and feel happy that he is happy with his school. Excellent.


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