No First Day At School Picture

Indirectly, society, my friends and family, Facebook and my conditioning, are all telling me, that I should be sad today. I should be sad that my son should be starting his first day at school today and that he is not.

I sense the eyes of onlookers. I hear the whispers of concern. I am aware of others values and beliefs.

Many of these values and beliefs were previously shared by me too. Before I needed to really examine them, that is.

This week I have asked myself whether I feel upset or envious as I see the children pass by our window on their way to school, or by the many photos on my news feed of children in their pristine school uniforms standing by their front doors?

Have I felt upset this week, despite this armour I often feel the need to wear?

My truth is actually somewhat different to this. As I sit here watching my son learning through play with his new, PDA informed, tutor, in our home; I feel relieved, I feel reassured and I feel immense gratitude.

Perhaps you’ll consider this aberrant? Some of you will I’m sure. But I know there will also be many of you that follow my page who will absolutely get this.

My feelings are informed by a stark understanding about the extent to which our son’s daily battleground of sensory, social and everyday demands, affects him. It is very much informed by the knowledge of how much more unbearably intense all of this would be for him; in a classroom environment. I feel thankful that this knowledge is deeply integrated into my understanding of, and my connection with, my son. I know, that by not sending our child off to school, our highly sensitive 4 year old will not have to endure a painful and overwhelming environment everyday, something he simply could not cope with.

I have observed how immensely damaging structured groups are to the very core of our son’s being. I have been his safe space every time we have returned home and he is exhausted after being bombarded with demands. I am always the one who is there when he can’t hold on any more and his distress tumbles out.

I am also with him everyday as he struggles to manage even very low – demand schedules, let alone the complex environment of school.

I know the irreparable damage that would be caused to my son’s mental health, if we ignored all of the evidence he has shown us, of which there is so much.

In a week when I am expected to feel some sadness, I most predominantly feel immense gratitude. Gratitude that my son has been able to unequivocally communicate to us what he needs. I feel thankful that his needs have also been assessed and reported on by some key professionals. I feel thankful that we have a specialist assessment report that recommends a non school based education. I feel thankful that we have been able to really hear our son and reflect on the journey that we have already been on as a family. I also feel immense gratitude for all those who have helped us to gain this understanding of his identity.

I won’t deceive you though. It would be incredibly misleading if I was to give the impression that I am so assured in all of this, that I don’t feel incredibly vulnerable with this, every single day. Calving out a different path is daunting, challenging and exhausting. I am constantly trying to learn to lean into the vulnerability, to have the courage to trust the process and most importantly; to provide my son with the space he needs to be who he is, and the freedom to learn on his terms.

None of this is easy, I am not good with feeling vulnerable, I need a high level of safety and control too. But many of you will relate to how there is an incredibly powerful force involved in becoming a Parent. For me, this force has actually been the most growthful and positive of my life.

Together, my boy, we can and we will figure this out.

If you like this page, you may want to visit the accompanying Facebook too:

By Jessica Matthews

Neurodivergent Mother, Independent Researcher, and Writer. Background in Psychology and Counselling with postgraduate training in Clinical Psychology (BSc Hons Psychology and Trained Integrative Counsellor). Passionate about Neurodivergent Identity, Non-neuronormative Narratives and Polyvagal Informed Parenting.

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