The title of this post, by the way, is an extremely obscure reference. Full marks to anyone who gets it. Anyway, our particular Day of the Three Things went very well. Details as previously promised:
Thing The First. The TISM, down at Jamie's soon-to-be-new school. This was due to start at 9.30, giving just enough time for us to get Jamie to nursery and ourselves and Katie down there. Also present were Manda and Jane from the nursery; Mrs K., Jamie's soon-to-be-new teacher; Sharon, the area SENCO; and someone whose name I've forgotten, who was SENCO for the school, if I remember rightly. We all squeezed into a tiny room just opposite reception, with a box of toys that Katie played with happily while the rest of us talked.
Sharon started out by going through Jamie's strengths, of which there are many, and the nursery staff talked about what a lovely little boy he was and how much they were going to miss him. She went on to discuss things that had come up at the LISM last December as being problems and what we'd done about implementing some of the solutions discussed then, such as the use of more visual prompts. Although Jamie understands spoken language perfectly well, he does, like most children on the autistic spectrum, respond well to visual prompts such as little pictures showing him what comes next in his routine, so Barry tried a couple of those last winter – one giving the sequence of getting dressed, and one showing which nights of the week he had showers and which nights baths (at the time, Barry was putting him to bed five nights a week and he had showers on those nights and baths on the nights I put him to bed). They're both now obsolete (he no longer has to wear a nappy during the daytime (hooray!) and thus that part of the getting dressed routine no longer applies, and he now has a bath with Katie every night), but they did seem to help at the time. Manda also tried using a 'surprise card' with him (a little picture of an exclamation mark) to give him warning when something out of the ordinary was coming up.
The biggest current issue is the toilet training. Jamie has (after a long slow struggle) reached the point of doing really well with staying dry during the day, but still hasn't really figured out how to poo on the toilet. This is not a terribly uncommon problem for autistic children, and can be due to them not interpreting their bodily sensations in the same way – I think he just can't tell when he needs to go. As you can imagine, this is something of a problem. At the time of the TISM, however, it so happened that there was light at the end of the tunnel – the weekend before had actually been one of the very occasional times when he did manage to poo on the toilet, I'd run round looking for a suitable reward, Barry had produced some gold star stickers, and the fascination of watching us snip off a piece with exactly three gold stars on it and then getting to peel these off proved to be sufficient to motivate him to do the same thing several more times over the course of the following week. So we may be getting somewhere. Or we may not, since he's since then had several non-successful days and it may be that the fascination of the Gold Star Stickers has worn off. We shall see, I guess.
Other than that, I have no worries about him starting school, and think he's going to love the place. We talked to Mrs K. about some of the things that make him tick. When he's getting a bit overloaded and needs a few seconds time-out for himself he'll shout "Loading!" and insist on a few seconds of counting to himself before he can go on. ("I'm loading! You shouldn't interrupt people when they're loading!" he told me very indignantly once when I'd unwittingly asked him to do something-or-other. Clearly I'd committed a major etiquette faux pas.) The others were delighted to hear that and all commented on how great it was that he'd learned how to do this to give himself a break when he needed it – Jane pointed out we could probably learn a lot from him. We also warned her of the importance of warning him of any changes in plan – it makes an enormous difference to how well he can cope, even if he's only warned a couple of minutes before things happen. What helps hugely here is that he understands how dates and calendars work, so it's easy to warn him in advance of things that are going to happen (as, you will recall, I did with the Day of the Three Things itself).
"But you need to be careful if you've got a calendar on display," Manda warned Mrs K. "I once looked up and saw him balancing on the back of a chair, and when I called out 'Jamie, what are you doing?!' he looked at me and said 'Manda, this calendar still says March, but it's April!'." (Ah, yes. I have also had this experience.)
The person whose name I can't remember asked whether Jamie had any special interests that particularly fascinated him ("Numbers," we all chorused), and whether he had a tendency to run away when things upset him (not usually, but he can get it into his head to take off somewhat unexpectedly, a longstanding issue for us on shopping trips). Barry also asked whether the school computers had the CBeebies site on them. "Jamie's worked out how to log into live television from that site" he explained. "He works out lots of stuff like that, just fiddling around. He knows how to change the desktop picture on his computer and he does that every few days."
"Sounds like you're going to need a surprise card," Sharon concluded to Mrs K.
Thing The Second
The educational psychologist arrived a little while after we got back. She talked about her morning with Jamie, and was very pleased with his reading and number abilities. She asked us several questions about various aspects of his development, and warned us that he isn't likely to qualify for statementing at this point. In plain English, this means we don't get any other extra funding for him beyond the lump sum already approved for the school, which is to be used for all children with special needs starting that school next term (there are four, apparently) and can be used/parceled out as the school sees fit. If it turns out that he can't manage without extra help, we can apply for statementing then. This will mean a time lag in getting help if there are any problems, but that can't be helped – I think she's got a fair point, and that Jamie probably would be turned down if we applied now, and that in itself automatically means a six month wait before you can apply again, so I think we probably are better off waiting to see just how things go in practice.
Thing The Third
I took Jamie to Big School, and, as I'd expected, he adored it. He found a hanging display of numbers straight away and started reading them out. Mrs K. saw him and came over, but by then he'd spotted the box of sticklebricks on a nearby table and charged over to them. "Sticklebricks! Here's a red one, a yellow one, another yellow one…" After a few minutes of Mrs K. trying to chat to
him while he kept up his excited monologue about the sticklebricks (in which he did, though, address Mrs K. by name once, so at least he was talking to her), I showed him the finger sums on the wall, and he liked those as well. Then he found a toy that had pieces of plastic with holes in that you could nail to a board. Then he had to check out the computers and teach himself how a couple of the games worked (he found the year's curriculum in the process, but I steered him gently back towards the games). A little girl came and played on the computer next to him and Mrs K. asked Jamie to explain to her how to play the Teletubbies game, which was one he knew from home. And he did. "First, you must click on 'Easy' or 'Difficult'. Next, click on the arrows to guide Po down the hill. Very good! Well done." He also found a three-minute hourglass-style timer on one of the shelves and played with that, and when I finally managed to get him out of there some time after the session was supposed to have ended he found the series of numbers painted on the playground for the children to play on. "This one is a jumping pad, and this one is hopscotch, and this one… is a circle jumping pad!" He had to jump on each in turn, of course. I think Big School is going to be a success.
Meanwhile, I have been through the stack of forms provided to Barry at the first part of the induction, signing permission slips for our son to have his photograph used in school brochures/use the Internet/go on school trips/have cooking lessons/eat the things he cooks/get free milk. I've filled in a detailed booklet about his abilities and likes and dislikes, completed a form saying what day we'd like the home visit that the teacher makes to all parents of new students in the first few weeks after they begin (yes, she does! How good is this school?? Damn good!), and written a cheque to cover various random activities and school meals. (Hang on a sec – just registered that fully in my mind, and Jamie isn't even going to be having school meals! We send him with packed lunches. Must remember to find out what money is due in that case.) Now all I have to do is order his school uniform, PE kit, name labels, and the crowbar for prising the boy loose at the end of subsequent visits, and I think we'll be just about set.