Back to School

September 3, 2021 Case Studies - Families Ann Anderson

So, the holidays are over! Bathed & hair washed, school uniform laid out, bag all checked, and pencils sharpened. But who’s more excited? Parents can now have days to themselves, do a kid free supermarket shop, maybe even squeeze in a bar-lunch with friends.


In theory, that is all possible but what about wee Jamie? Going into P5! New teacher, different classroom & his friend he’s known since forever moved away a few weeks ago.

Excitedly Jamie has his breakfast while mum prepares his packed lunch, he even brushes his teeth without fuss because he can’t wait to get back to school. We all know this is going to be short lived as Jamie is only focussing on seeing his best friend Sally, who has been on holiday most of the Summer.

The playground seems smaller this year, it’s very noisy and there’s a strange smell… only freshly cut grass, but still strange to Jamie. Mum does her best to reassure Jamie that the playground is the same and the noise will ease, but all the pupils are so excited to be back with their friends. New shoes, new uniforms, it’s all very exciting! And noisy.

It’s 9am and the bell rings. Off he goes lining up with the rest of his class. Deep breath. I depart while muttering to myself ‘please, please let everything be ok today’. I will just a have a quick cuppa before tackling the mountain of laundry, but I am always on-call… I’ve been here before.

Although Jamie was shown his new classroom and met his new teacher 6 weeks ago, it has all changed. His teacher Miss Cairns’ desk is in a different position and all the tables and chairs have changed. ‘Come on Jamie get yourself sat down and we can get started’. Reluctantly, he sits down and starts rocking, trying his best to cope with the new surroundings.

Miss Cairns spots this straight away and asks Jamie if ‘he is ok’?

Hesitantly, Jamie says, “I don’t like to sit here, it’s too noisy outside”. She explains they will try to move everyone around, so they are comfortable later, and in the meantime closes the window to help with the noise. Jamie suddenly realises Sally isn’t there either, and is now upset at the thought of not spending break times with her. He feels lost at lunch time too, but other kids in his class involve him and discuss what treats they have in their packed lunches.

Miss Cairns knew all about Jamie’s Autism & ADHD and had prepared herself for this. At lunch time she called me to check in and reassure her, which should have put mum’s mind at ease, but I continue to worry.

After lunch, Miss Cairns agreed they would rearrange the class so everyone was happy. Knowing the moving of desks and chairs etc was going to be noisy, she approached Jamie and asked if he had his ear defenders. This would help the noise be more bearable for him. Soon the classroom was sorted and although the noise and commotion were difficult, Jamie was in his element with his desk away from the window and beside the wall so nobody could pass behind him. Mum had so far breezed through the morning and smugly had an empty ironing basket but… she still doesn’t want to push it and leave the house…. Just in case.

Out of nowhere, Miss Cairns announces Assembly is in 10 minutes. Jamie froze. This is not Friday and it’s not 9am! THIS IS NOT ASSEMBLY TIME! Jamie often gets really stressed at Assembly, having to sit on your bottom on a cold hard gym floor, without fidgeting! Almost impossible.

Jamie begins rocking again, using his fidget spinner and starts humming and getting increasingly stressed. His classmates are used to Jamie’s ways of coping with situations like this, but this was worse than normal! Usually, Sally would be the first to help calm Jamie but with her absence, little Robert lets the teacher know that Jamie needs some help. Miss Cairns tries her best to calm Jamie down but soon becomes overwhelmed and has to admit defeat so call’s Mum for help! It doesn’t happen often but when Jamie is like this it can become dangerous for him and his classmates.

One bite into Mum’s toastie and the phone rings… The call she knew was coming all day! Throwing her trainers on she answers without hesitation and says, “yeah I’ll be right there”. She finds Jamie in an empty classroom rocking back and forth on a chair. When he see’s her he throws his arms round her and begs to go home! He didn’t like school today…

For most children, starting back at school after the holidays is exciting, and mostly goes without hiccups. For children with additional needs, and their families, it can be so daunting and confusing. Parents and Carers are reminded that that bar-lunch may not be so realistic!

This is exactly why being a member of ENABLE Scotland helps me. Just knowing that I can be connected to other families who are going through the same things as me makes things that little bit easier. Join us and you will always find some good advice and a listening ear – and even more help from the team if you are struggling with anything.


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