It’s T-time again.
No, not time for a cuppa.
T is for Transition. For an autistic child, transition happens so often and is so painful. Experience is forgotten as sheer terror grips him, and all those past events which were successfully negotiated now count for nothing.
Transition can be on Saturday morning, a change of routine from the weekdays.
Transition can be on Sunday evening, the dreaded return to school.
Transition can happen on the eve of a holiday, or on the eve of the return trip.
Transition is bad enough at the end of the school year, and as if things couldn’t get more stressful, transition is at its worst in the lead up to the new school year. So many unknowns. You just can’t prepare for every eventuality.
In January, we have the transition from holidays into spring term. People will be asking ‘How was Christmas?’, ‘How was your birthday?’, ‘Ready and raring to go?’ and saying ‘You’ve grown, young man’, and ‘Nice to see you again’. All these things are usually said in passing, not really requiring an actual answer. So, why ask them, an autistic person may be justified in asking? Welcome to social conventions. It is a minefield. Most of us pick up the rules by observation and practise as we grow up, we adapt to expectations fairly easily, we learn to fit in with our ‘correct’ and quick responses. It doesn’t come as easily to everyone though.
It is usually only when we try to learn a new language that we realise how complicated our own one is. And so it is watching an autistic child try to learn responses, recall them fast enough, remember to smile or use a correct facial expression depending on the situation. If you sat down to draw some sort of fancy diagram of all the phrases which might crop up in a simple conversation exchange, you would be hard-pressed to make it clear. The problem is of course that the other person isn’t reciting from a script, so you can very well learn a whole range of suitable responses, but none of them may be quite apt in that moment in the real world.
So, tomorrow I will put out the bags and sports kits after he is in bed, I will not mention school all day.
Tomorrow he will be buried in his iPad with headphones on. He will eat popcorn and toast and not be challenged in any way.
This way he will (I hope) preserve some energy for the ordeal which is the morning of the first day back at school.