Day One Of Big School- Masking?

Excuse the dodgy hair do! She insisted and was much happier than this picture portrays! 😁

So for the eagerly awaited update on school-gate, erm ok maybe not so eagerly awaited (is anyone reading??? Lol)

Wow! I honestly did not think that I would be writing such a positive post about this!

My darling boy who has Autism and undiagnosed PDA actually went into school on his first day without a single tear 😁

Anyone who has read my previous posts will know how adamant he has been that he wouldnt be going to school and most definitely wouldn’t be wearing uniform but he did (well, only sort of on the uniform front!)

Our morning started with a little ninja crawling into bed with us at 5:15am, I knew it was because of the anxiety about school and so just let him snuggle in – ok thats a lie, there was no snuggling, just fidgeting and digging his toes into my legs!

Little Miss then asked him if he was excited to go to her school, he was not and said he was sorry but he couldnt go.

Then he had a ‘moment’ when I pulled out the lunch bags, declaring he didnt need lunch, etc, etc and demanding (ironic huh!) that I tell them he didnt have to have lunch. I agreed he didnt need to eat lunch ( he never did at nursery either) and that I would tell his teacher. He then told his sister he didnt need a lunch as he would be coming home 😬. I chose tactfully not to correct him, hey why enrage him unnecessarily!

I told him that it was time to get dressed as his sister needed to go in even if he wasnt and so he pulled out his joggers and a stripey top to wear. While he was distracted by the TV I managed to switch his navy joggers for some grey ones which I had put him in over the holidays to get him used to them. This sneaky tactic worked as he didnt realise and I managed to get him dressed in them whilst he was still watching TV.

The polo top was not as successful so I chose to leave that battle until a little later (see pic above).

Breakfast was a banana left by the TV to be found, but teeth brushing, hair and washing of face and hands just didnt happen. Yet so far we had avoided a meltdown although it was already pretty tiring for me.

With 10 minutes to go before leaving, I decided that good old fashioned bribery needed to be my last resort to get him out of the door fully clothed.I had hidden away a new snuggle bunny in his favourite colour as a special after school gift for later but decided it may be the only way to get him there in the first place.

I told him that as a treat for putting on the polo shirt he could have the extra special gift I had for him and it worked! The only picture I have of his first day, not very FB friendly 😂

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Little Miss was so keen to get out of the door to see her friends that she managed to convince him to leave the house and once we walked into his new classroom, all of the colourful toys and games were just too hard to resist and he wandered off to explore so I made my escape!

I waited with baited breath all day to see if I received a call from school but it never came and after school in the playground the family liason teacher came over to say that he had had a very good day and had been very calm. This was music to my ears because a good day today means that he may well go in easier tomorrow.

The teachers were all clearly confident that it had gone well and it really had as far as I can tell, but what they dont realise is that for the most part it may be all an act or ‘masking’

Taken from the PDA Society website https://www.pdasociety.org.uk/education/teachers-guide

Masking?

However, it is also important to note that the behaviour of a child with a PDA profile of ASD can vary between settings or at different times and with different people e.g. a child can be anxious at home, but appear calm at school. This may be a coping strategy for the child and, as with other children on the spectrum, some children with the PDA profile are able to ‘mask’ i.e. hold in their anxieties.

Children who ‘mask’ or ‘camouflage’ their Autism – Dr Judy Eaton

It’s not only girls who can mask – Dr Judy Eaton

Child masks in school – PDA Guidance

Different behaviour between school and home – The National Autistic Society (N.B. strategies suggested for children with a typical presentation of ASD will need to be considerably adapted for those with a presentation of PDA)

When a child masks their difficulties and anxieties it may sometimes result in parents feeling isolated and misunderstood when they discuss their concerns and experiences (at home) to professionals. Therefore, it is important for teachers to be aware that the child’s behaviour in school may not be indicative of the difficulties that parents face at home or indeed how the child feels on the inside.

Also, children who mask in school may, at some point experience a rapid deterioration in their tolerance and ability to cope at school, which can sometimes lead to school refusal. This further underlines the importance of a collaborative relationship between parents and school.

………..

The teachers obviously didnt see the anxious child between 5:15 and 8:45 or the amount of patience and negotiation it had taken just to get him there.

Taken from: Understanding Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome in Children A Guide for Parents, Teachers and Other Professionals by Phil Christie, Margaret Duncan, Ruth Fidler and Zara Healy

The average parents having an average morning with average kids may not realise that to a child with PDA, that ‘average’ morning is loaded with demands: ‘Get up.’‘Get your clothes on.’‘Wash your face.’‘Brush your teeth.’‘Comb your hair.’‘Eat your breakfast.’‘Take your tablets.’‘Find your homework.’‘Get your schoolbag.’‘Fetch your lunchbox’. ‘Put your shoes on.’‘Get your coat on.’‘Put that down we have to go.’‘Come on the bus is waiting.’ Imagine if every one of those demands was met with anxiety. Imagine if every time parents asked their child to do one of those things, they were met with a tirade of excuses, delaying tactics, refusals, swearing, spitting, abuse and sometimes violence. This has to be juggled with all the other things that must be done in the morning, like going to work and getting other children ready. There may be the added pressure of being a single parent. Imagine the impact that has on the parents, the siblings and the relationships within that family. It is demoralising, frustrating and can make any sane person question their parenting skills. It is surprising that the child even gets out of the house. Well, sometimes he doesn’t. Welcome to the household with a child who has PDA.

…………

The teachers wont see the boy who needed his pyjamas on the moment he got home, hear him talk gibberish at 90mph or see him doing laps of the room to try to regulate his mind.

They will of course just assume that everything is fine and thats the biggest worry, just because he seems ok on the outside doesn’t mean that he is ok on the inside and at some point, whether it is at home or in school, tomorrow, next week or next month, HE WILL PROBABLY ERUPT!

The demands will build up and up in his beautiful little head until he cannot cope anymore.

I have provided the school with lots of information about how to work with PDA students and I hope that they are using the strategies as much as possible but if they dont – because he seems to be doing ok, it will inevitably come back to bite us all on the behind.

But anyhoo, after a happy day today I am hopeful for tomorrow and thats as far forward as anyone can look to with a Pdaer I guess!

Bribery doesn’t always work but when it does its a beautiful thang!!

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