The week before last, Jamie’s nursery sent home a letter asking us to send our child to the March 6th session dressed as a book character in honour of World Book Day. The staff were at pains to assure me that in fact we didn’t have to do this if we felt it would be too difficult – sending him with a book would be a perfectly adequate substitute (have I mentioned that I love this nursery?). However, my husband, who is more enterprising than me, rose to the occasion – he searched the local charity shops, came up with a small blue coat in Jamie’s size, and made a large label to attach to it saying ‘Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.’ None of the charity shops had an appropriate hat, but Barry’s hat, although the wrong colour, approximates the right style, and he lent it for the morning. A brown pair of trousers to simulate brown furry legs and an old computer case of mine decked out with a ‘Wanted On Voyage’ label completed the ensemble.
The nursery staff were enchanted with the outfit. "Please look after this bear – oh, we will!" the teacher at the door assured me delightedly, as I dropped him off. I’d planned to catch Manda, the nursery supervisor I’d been dealing with, at the drop-off so I could let her know how our consultation with the paediatrician had gone, but she wouldn’t be in until a bit later, it turned out, so I looked out for her at pick-up time instead, meanwhile leaving Jamie with a couple of fairy princesses, a sailor, Spiderman, and assorted children in ordinary clothes.
Manda was also looking out for me, it turned out – we’d been talking, the last time I saw her, about how she’d been trying the little pictures from their visual timetable to get things through to Jamie on occasion when he seemed to be having a hard time taking things in (for example, showing him a picture of a coat to show him it was time to put coats on), and, since she’d found it seemed to work very well, I’d been interested in the thought of trying it at home and had asked her where I could get hold of some of the pictures. In an act of kindness that took my breath away, she had photocopied a bunch of the pictures to get me started, even laminating some of them ready for use. She’d included a couple of handouts – one with general information about using visual timetables, and one with a long list of suggestions for encouraging communication in children with communication impairments.
Manda brought out a box of cars for Jamie to play with while we talked. She went through the pictures with me and showed me a few Makaton signs. She is also planning to draw up an IEP – an individualised educational
plan – for Jamie, which might with a bit of luck be ready by this week
so that we can then discuss it with her. She is indeed, it turned out, the special educational needs co-ordinator for the nursery (abbreviated catchily to SENCo – I have a new vocabulary of acronyms ahead of me, it seems), and will thus be the one that Dr M. will be needing the report from. She explained that after qualifying as a nursery nurse she’d spent four years working in a school for autistic children, hence her experience in this area.
I told her that Dr M’s provisional diagnosis is autism, and explained the proposed further investigations. She was pleased to hear about the plan for the speech therapist to assess him, as she feels it would be helpful to get a speech therapist involved. One detail I forgot to mention in my post about the consultation was that, before we left, I asked Dr M. whether he felt we should try to get Jamie more nursery time; he agreed that we ‘might as well’ try this, although he did not sound too bothered either way. He came up with the suggestion of seeing whether a place was available at the local nursery for children with special needs, although he wasn’t quite sure whether this would be appropriate for Jamie given that the children there are rather a mixed bag as far as diagnoses go and Jamie is, as he said, clearly very bright. I’m not too bothered about that aspect of things – after all, I don’t send him to nursery for the academic education but for the play opportunities a nursery can offer, and it looks as though getting him used to managing in a group setting is also now an important reason, so I suspect this other nursery will do a perfectly adequate job on both counts in addition to having the bonus of some specialist support staff who can throw in ideas as it seems necessary. So I’m quite willing to give it a go, and Dr M. agreed to write a referral and see whether any places are actually available right now. Meanwhile, he’s on the waiting list for more time at his current nursery – there will definitely be more sessions available in September, but anything before that is just pure luck as to whether any other child drops out.
I signed a further copy of the information release form, giving the nursery staff permission to pass on information as needed to Dr M., the speech therapist, this other nursery, and the SENCo for the area, though I declined as before to authorise them to inform Uncle Tom Cobley and all. (This may be a mite paranoid on my part, since I have great faith in the nursery and can’t actually imagine them doing anything careless with Jamie’s information, but, given some of the scares that have been in the news recently and our government’s apparent desire to get detailed information on file about everyone, I figure it’s probably worth exercising a wee bit of care in the matter of who gets to see what.)
At one point during the chat, when Manda had got up to get something, I had a moment of thinking: I am about to tell someone else that a paediatrician thinks my child probably has autism. How will it feel to say that? Will it feel different, somehow, from all the things we’ve said on the subject already? To take that extra step into this new world? I looked over at my son playing on the carpet, the little boy with the label. The great big label attached to him saying ‘Please Look After This Bear. Thank You.’ You know those moments you get, as a parent, when you take a look at that wonderful special child of yours and get such a fierce rush of pride and love and joy that it just about overwhelms you? That’s how I felt right then, as I looked at my son. Overwhelmed with the wonder and joy of getting to be this little person’s mother.