Saturday, June 14, 2008

A child in need...

This morning, Saturday, was an occasion. The special school where I sometimes work with autistic adolescents opened its doors to welcome their parents. We all watched a film together featuring the children experiencing music, excursions and their daily life in the school. There are very few places in schools like this and the families come from a great distance. This means that the children are often fostered in homes nearby and do not see their families as often as they would like. They stay at school overnight during the week.

We all ate, and drank (this is France you know), together after the film, and I told anyone who was prepared to listen what a marvellous school I think it is…and it is.
The parents, like any others, were happy just to talk about their children, their progress and their hopes for the future. Some of the parents had their own problems, both mental and physical.

As I left, I glimpsed a tearful farewell between mother and daughter, both with the same startlingly blue eyes, holding each other so very tightly. The image haunts me still.

I am going downstairs to massage Drummer boy’s head and do my own maternal duty. He takes his first exam for his BAC on Monday and his nerves are as tight as my guitar strings…

16 comments:

Ms Mac said...

Ah, I would have been hard-pressed to fight the tears.

Good luck to Drummer Boy for his exam.

Mike said...

Yeah, touching moments between parents and children always bring me to tears.

rr said...

Very interesting. I was under the impression that autism was not a recognised diagnosis in the French medical system. Was this the case? has it changed recently? or am I (as is so often the case) totally deluded?

Thank goodness the decisions I have to take with and about my children are not nearly as difficult as those facing the parents you met.

Rosie said...

ms mac thank you, I think he is going to need a lot of luck. His revision plan seems to have been counting on it.
Mike, the whole morning made me realise how minor my problems are and I felt rather ashamed of myself for letting things get out of proportion.
Rachel This is a complex and fascinating subject that I am only just coming to grips with. I had the great good fortune to be on a table with the director of the school and share a bottle of red wine with him...I hope I am still employed there! He told me that France is way behind other countries in its treatment of autism, and that usually, autists are placed in schools with mentally handicapped children with needs that are often very different. His school is very rare in that it specialises. Of course it is a spectrum and diagnosis at the "normal" end can be difficult. Symptoms are mixed up together. All of our students are very different but they have greater difficulties...they are mainly non verbal and exhibit stereotypical behaviour. I have to say that certain of my family members exhibit some of their symptoms. Drummer boy has always had very precise food requirements...the food mustn't touch on his plate gravy must be just so, and he taps incessantly. I am a social phobic and leak music (humming and singing) if I dont concentrate hard. We are all somewhere on the human being spectrum...

Lucy said...

Best of luck to Drummer Boy. You seem to have had a rather wringing time lately, bon courage.

amy said...

I missed reading your blog the last few weeks - sounds like you've had lots to deal with. The school sounds like a very special place. Don't know if you saw this article in the Guardian last week about girls and Aspergers: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/women/story/0,,2283569,00.html

Hope your son aces the exams, remember he always has drumming to fall back on!

Jean said...

W"e are all somewhere on the human being spectrum..."

Indeed. Wise words. xxxxx

I often feel a strong identification with some of the common characteristics of autistic people, although in some ways I seem to be just the opposite (hypersensitivity to other people's moods and responses).

In some ways the many and proliferating diagnoses we have nowadays are a blessing, of course, for the understanding and help they bring, in other ways, I wonder... what is 'normal' is so much an existential rather than a medical question...

xxxxxxx

Rosie said...

jean, you are so right about the question of "normality". Since I have worked with these students I have been asking myself a lot of questions on the subject. We make assumptions about each others experience of the world which are perhaps not justified...

Omykiss said...

Beautiful moments, beautifully described .... thanks for sharing, rosie.

Rosie said...

Hi omykiss and thanks for dropping in.

amy said...

Sorry that link didn't work! Try this: http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/family/story/0,,2283587,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=networkfront and if that somehow doesn't do it, search "guardian women aspergers. Hope that helps!

Dr.John said...

Seems like a very good school. It is indeed hard for parents and children to separate even when that is best for the child.

hexe said...

Best of luck for the exams.

Half the time as a parent, I want to throttle the kids and then the other half are these moments.

Marianne said...

Hello - just found your blog - this is a lovely post- very interesting, I didn't realise they had this kind of system in France. How hard they have to stay with other families just to go to this special school. Good luck with the BAC and everything ahead.

rr said...

(returning rather belatedly)

Yes. There's so much about autism that looks like everyone else just slightly more so (or a lot more so) or for a bit longer (or a lot longer).

SecondSpawn, for example, was extremely rigid about lots of things when he was a baby/toddler with lots of ritualised behaviour. If his expectations, desires or habits were thwarted the tantrums were terrible. And we mostly had very little idea what the problem was. A misplaced dollop of ketchup, the top put on a bottle at the wrong moment etc etc.

"Normal" (whatever that is) developmental characteristics which were "matured" out of (eventually).

Spectrum is all too right.

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