With a tremendous start to the year, we were on a winning start to our princesses the first year of high school: daily attendance, new friends, low anxiety, birthday party success and a zeal for learning. We had seen similar success last year when her primary school finally developed an individual education plan (IEP), and we were confident and expectant of what the year would bring.
We developed an IEP with the high school, excluded her from subjects that have previously cause stress and anxiety (for example, language and sciences.) and started to talk up the possibilities with our Princess. This well-intentioned plan was seeing some success, and we saw tremendous growth and zeal for learning for about 7-8weeks.
We hit a wall, a common trend for our Princess, a wall that rears its head this time each year. The excitement of ‘a new thing’ had worn out, the unkind words started from her peers, the feeling that people are watching her, looking at her, staring, and then her anxiety skyrocketed. I started the predictable next phase of digging, questioning and trying to explore what was going on for her.
Jenna’s anxiety manifests in stomach pains, tears, low mood and generalised unhappiness. These periods of pain quite often end with multiple trips to the doctors and ultimately, a visit to the hospital for test and scans. She gets herself so worked up that she loses any ability to communicate rationally and usually regression is seen in all aspects of learning and communication.
We have been in this headspace the past eight weeks. Jenna is tired; her siblings quite frankly want to kill her have had enough, and her parents are in desperate need for some respite and rest.
During these past eight weeks, we have had four doctors appointments, one psychiatric review, one hospital visit, a paediatrician review and eight phycologist appointments across two different practitioners. Each in their own language and expertise trying to assist our Princess in developing a ‘kit bag’ of resources, tools, tricks and education to survive this harsh reality successfully, we may call everyday life.
Each appointment, we are hopeful that new techniques sticks and philosophy we reinforce at homes are again reinforced during therapy. It seems we are sitting at about 100:1 odds and the investment made seems mostly money thrown down the drain. Regression, seclusion, frustration is becoming the norm and each day moving farther and farther away from her peers.
Our dreams of independence, a life away from mum and dad, a career, family and lifelong friends seem unattainable, and that’s gut-wrenching, painful and a scary future. Each day I try and push away refusing to accept, and I continue to help her dream, push her farther and again try a new strategy to get through a somewhat typical predictable day.
So our reality currently has been 1-2hours of school attendance per week, that’s right not 1-2days per week but hours. Getting a predictable phone call every day she attends from the office (hearing uncontrollable crying in the background) asking us to pick up Jenna.
The school is at a loss, and us at home having a bored, under stimulated girl that can not handle any social interactions.
We took a bold step this week. As like an IEP, we have developed an individual timetable with the school for Jenna. We have arranged a curriculum that is key learning only (English & Math, with a little cooking) this means that she doesn’t need to enter the school playground, no mainstream classes and no full school assemblies. We have school attendance agreed at four days per week at a maximum of 2.5hours per day. Although a headache and quite a strain on us to organise transportation around work, we are confident that this is a necessary step to ensure some social engagement, some stress and anxiety experienced in a staff place and hopefully stretched scholastically over time.
We can only hope that tomorrow is a better day, that school attendance becomes routine and that I can better understand her anxiety to in turn better support her to growth, be stretched and succeed.