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I feel low today. Disappointed. Depressed.
Gilbert was suspended from school yesterday until Monday morning and it feels like I’ve been dealt a heavy body blow.
Things were going well. His first 4 weeks passed without incident or concern. He seemed happy, the school seemed happy, we were happy.
Everything was rosy until I returned to work on Monday.
Whether this unsettled the boy or whether it’s because we are selling our house or another reason entirely, I don’t know.
But Monday was when the rosy picture became decidedly less rosy.
The boy had a meltdown at Lunch 2 as he had money to spend at the canteen and the canteen was not open (apparently it closes early on a Monday but I did not know that).
There was kicking and screaming and swearing and shouting. But he calmed down and was able to return to class.
The school rang afterwards so I knew what had happened. At the time I was so relieved that they were able to work through it with him.
For the first time I felt I could let out that breath I had been holding for a month and trust that the transition was going to go okay.
I should not have let myself relax, I should have known it was all going to go wrong.
Wednesday dawned. It was the day the real estate agent was coming over to take photos of the house and I needed to have it ready before I left for work.
Of course I ended up running late so the kids could not get to school early enough for breakfast club. Gilbert was beside himself and went into meltdown pretty much the minute he arrived.
I hoped that he would settle with the routine of the school and headed off to work.
Just as I arrived I got a call to say Gilbert was refusing to go into class and that it would be best if I came back and kept him at home for the day. Otherwise, he could be suspended if his behaviour continued.
I was surprised, to say the least, to hear the word suspension thrown into the mix – surely he could not do anything that would lead to that action? Surely, they wouldn’t bring that up suddenly after 4 weeks of generally cooperative behaviour?
I readied myself to head back to the school, held hostage by the implied threat of suspension if I did not, when they rang back to say he had been coaxed into class and I did not have to pick him up after all. Although they could not guarantee that they wouldn’t ring back later if his previous behaviour returned.
I was relieved the crisis was averted but troubled by the fact suspension was being considered – wasn’t there a warning process before we got to that stage, or was this my warning?
I had a good talk to Gilbert on Wednesday afternoon and stuck to our normal routine on Thursday morning to ensure he was in a good mood for school.
As I was still troubled by the conversation from the day before I sent an email to the school requesting a meeting to go over his behaviour and talk through the school’s discipline policy.
So when I received a call from the Assistant Principal at 2pm I thought she was calling in relation to my email. Unfortunately that was not the case.
She informed me Gilbert had been suspended for 4 days as he had attempted to choke another child and then hit his aide when she attempted to intervene.
I felt sick to my stomach – he is not a violent child, why would he have done something like this? More to the point, what series of events had provoked to this kind of action?
I raced to the school needing to know what really happened. Turns out he was playing rough with his classmates in the playground and got another boy in a headlock. The aide tried to intervene and Gilbert reacted by hitting her in the face.
I explained he seeks out rough play for his sensory needs and would not have been aware that he may have been hurting anyone.
I further explained his low vision combined with his autism means he cannot read faces so he doesn’t always realise if he has gone too far.
Besides, he is nearly 8 and most boys of that age enjoy rough play. And, to be honest a part of me was pleased to know that he had been playing with anyone at all.
But I was mortified that he had hit anyone, especially his aide. She knew it wasn’t intentional but it was unacceptable, nonetheless. Although I didn’t agree with a suspension I can understand the school’s point of view.
The school agreed it was not a malicious act but as it was a clear case of physical aggression it attracted an automatic short suspension of 4 days.
We will meet with the school on Monday morning when he is due to return to address the suspension. We have also arranged another formal meeting for the following week to dicuss all aspects of his behaviour and transition.
I am disappointed that we have got to this point. I am worried that Gilbert will see acting up as a way of getting out of school. I am fearful that this transition will not work out after all.
And, to be honest, I am above all frustrated that the school has resorted to suspension so early on. It is obvious that suspension is not the ideal form of discipline for a child who doesn’t really want to go to school in the first place.
But still I am hopeful we can come to an understanding with the school so strategies can be put in place to avoid future suspensions and encourage Gilbert to make the right choices.
Because if we lose hope of that, what hope is there of achieving an ultimately successful outcome?

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