Next month, Stanley will turn 3. By the end of this year, we will (somehow!) have made a decision on what school we would like him to go to.
Stanley doesn’t have an “official” diagnosis, we have so far only seen a private psychologist. We are aware of the struggles of getting a diagnosis, the time it takes, and the likelihood that they won’t see Stanley – due to his age, and how well we generally cope (most of the time, of course!). As a family, we do all we can to work around Stanley’s routines and needs, and so there has been no need for us to seek an official diagnosis. I think we are reluctant to seek it due to a fear of him receiving a label, becoming the label, and no longer being Stanley. I’m scared that people won’t see beyond it, and that they’ll make assumptions based on it. Society often needs a label in order to understand, but for us this is irrelevant – we simply want to help Stanley as best we can. If this means getting a label, we will fight for as long, and as hard, as we need.
As we start to think about schools, I start to panic. What if he needs extra support? Do we need a label for him to get better support and understanding at school? I know of battles that people have been through, and I’m scared that we’ll have to face this fight. I don’t want him to have to struggle at school before we can get help – for us to then have to battle to get it – when help could be sorted in advance to prevent this. But, I don’t think this is possible. From what I am told, they are unlikely to touch Stanley – one of the reasons being that two reports are needed – one from school – before anyone will see him. It is my fears of how Stanley will cope with school that leads me to wonder about seeking an official diagnosis. I’m scared that he won’t cope, and that he’ll either be labelled naughty, or that he’ll get missed. So I’m left wondering, do I try and start the battle now, a battle that I am unlikely to win, before school… or do I wait and see how he copes? Because there is of course a chance that he could be more than ok at school without the need for extra support, but we really don’t know… and won’t know until he makes the transition.
This of course also leads me to wonder what type of school will be best for Stanley. How are we supposed to know what’s best? What do we look for? What questions do we ask? Do we mention Autism despite no official diagnosis? Would he thrive more in a small school (<50 in whole school)? Or, would the jump to secondary then be too big to cope with (when this is already going to be a big enough jump)? Would he be better in a large school, with a wider range of children with differing needs and abilities… would this help him socially, or would this be too overwhelming? Do we ask about discipline? Homework? Do we ask how flexible they are to children’s individual needs? There are so many questions to ask. Plus, I have no idea how much to tell them. What do I prioritise? What do I look for in a good school? How will I know which one is best for Stanley? What if we pick the wrong one? What if we choose a school and he doesn’t get in? I want a school that will embrace individuality. A school that is flexible. A school that will work with Stanley, and not try to change him in any way. It’s hard when I don’t know exactly how he’s going to cope and what support he’s likely to need. There is so much to think about, and I wonder at times if I am even overthinking this all too much!