Being a parent is so emotional…sometimes good emotions, sometimes ones that leave you drained. Today I had every emotion in one. J started Nursery all by himself.
When J was 2 he started at preschool. It was MY preschool. It was the family business which I run with my Mum. I was the Early Years Professional and had been in the preschool for 14 years. It meant I got best of both world-J could socialise and benefit from early years, AND I got to still be with him.
Then in July the preschool closed (personal reasons to do with family health).
I decided to keep J at home with me till he was 3. We went to gymnastics, play dates and days out. I did learning from home activities so he didn’t miss out on anything. Then decided to send him to Nursery so he could access his 15hr Early Years funding (although we’ve chosen to only use 10 this term…click here for more on funding options).
I spent months looking at settings. No where was going to be ‘our preschool’ but I wanted somewhere with a similar feel and a similar belief of how early years should be run. My ‘dislikes’ were the ones which felt like simply a babysitting service. No one really encouraged the children it was just looking after them till parents came back. Some didn’t have very inspiring use of space or looked too small for J to have his our space when he needed it. Then I found the one we have chosen.
I don’t want to name names as I like this blog to be anonymous but those who know me in ‘real life’ know I have raved about this place for a while. It’s in the middle of farmland, has an insanely huge outdoors area and the rooms are big and open plan. It wasn’t full of colour and posters and bits hanging everywhere. It was a lovely neutral colour with interesting displays and natural light. It was like a giant living room!
The staff were eager to get to know us and J. The hours were just what I was looking for and it’s all year round (using ‘stretched funding’ so I get less funded hours a week but more weeks a year) so I don’t have to get J out of routine during holidays.
We had extra visits as J’s Autism means he isn’t always the easiest child to care for as he can’t always communicate his needs and doesn’t see the world the same as most children.
It meant J could get to know his environment, build relationship with the staff and begin to recognise the settings routine. I acted as his ‘translator’ telling them what his actions and body language were showing, how to use his PECS and helped them establish a visual timetable/now and next system. In total we did 6 weeks, visiting once a week. Never be afraid to ask for more visits. All good providers will know how important a positive transition is and it should never be rushed.
Getting Things Ready
I told all the professionals where J’s setting was and when he was starting. This meant that those who needed to could contact the setting and start to build the professional relationship. You need a good team behind you and your child and they all need to work together so tell everyone! I made sure J had the pecs he needed and gave additional cards to the Nursery to use. I also gave them copies of reports and information that would be helpful to know more about J’s needs (also, settings can apply for additional funding to get extra staff, equipment etc for some children with additional needs so having copies of paperwork will help the to help your child).
I made sure that Nursery was dropped in conversation and part of our timetable at home. I made sure he knew the name of the setting and names of the staff looking after him. I made sure I was always positive. Its important that I put any of my nerves or anxieties aside because I wanted him to sense the excitement and positivity of going to Nursery.
The First Day
It was an earlier start than usual so J was a little annoyed he couldn’t play with his ‘Star Wars spaceship’. I negotiated by saying we’d ask if they had any Duplo to build a spaceship at Nursery. He was happy then and off we went. When we got there J headed straight for the door to buzz us in. He said ‘hello’ and walked straight into his room and went over to his favourite car (Mater with wings…from Cars 2). Wherever we go he has a favourite car of some kind and he will find that item as soon as we get there. Every visit he would go find it, I think it’s a safety beacon for him to let him know that his place is ok.
I put his bits away and chased him for a goodbye. I think it’s important to let the child know you’re leaving else they wonder where you’ve gone, and the next session they might not trust you being out of eye sight. J didn’t give a monkeys that I was leaving and had already gotten one of the ladies to make him a starwars space ship and then he disappeared outside into the garden.
J is having packed lunches. The food at Nursery looks amazing (and it’s a decent price) but with J’s sensory issues around textures it was easier to make a packed lunch of food J was guaranteed to eat with no fuss. He’s going through enough ‘new-ness’ that food can be a battle for later. One thing that was lovely is that J got upset that the children having hot meals got a yoghurt. It was a ‘proper yoghurt’ so J couldn’t eat it (joys of cows milk protein allergy). So they have asked me if J is allowed soya and they are going to keep a stick of soya yoghurts so J can join in next time. How great is that?
Pick up time
Well I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in town with my Mum and Dad, and walked around the shops. I even had chance to try on and buy a new pair of jeans! But every second of the trip around town I was thinking of J. What was he doing? Who was he with? Has he escaped out the doors (he’s like Houdini)? Is he missing me? Is he communicating to the staff?
Well I didn’t have to worry. Apart from filling in our first accident form for my ‘lack of coordination or spatial awareness’ child, J was fine. He hadn’t escaped and ran into a tractor, he wasn’t rocking in a corner or showing tear stained cheeks.
He was in the sensory area exploring lights and having a disagreement with another child (J’s angry cry was first thing I heard meaning in his eyes an injustice had happened…got to love 3 year olds and their politics). A member of staff was quick to go deal with it and once J saw me he started protesting going home…so, yeah he obviously missed me (*sarcastic tone*).
The staff gave me a run down of how J got on, and it sounds Ike he has had an amazing day. They talk with such care and admiration for him. Eager to tell me all the wonderfullness (yes I’m pretty sure I’m making up words).
It was a quiet car journey home, it was a quiet afternoon with J not interacting with me for nearly 4 hours (except to ask me for the iPad, to find his Chewbacca toy and for an ice lolly). He spent the first hour in IPad land. I let him. He needed the time to be away from expectations of socialising, communicating, sensory input of noise, light and new routine. This is how J ‘regulates’ himself. He then played with his new Star Wars toy (a gift from Grandad for his first day at Nursery) on the floor by himself.
Later, he came and sat next to me and kissed my arm (I held back tears at this point). I hugged him and kissed his head and told him he’s my favourite boy. He said “favourite Mummy”. My boy was ready to join the real world again. J is not the most ‘obvious’ special needs child. He is quiet and can mask quite well but after all that sensory and social build up he has to have an outlet. Retreating into his own solo world is that outlet. I can’t take it personally that he doesn’t run to hug me, doesn’t tell me about his day when I’m the car etc. I just had to wait for him to take the lead. He has now told me he played cars and Star Wars and sand, and he played with ‘Baddie’ (I’m assuming that’s not the child’s name and just J’s pronunciation of a name, haha) and ‘C’ (one of the staff) and that ‘I’ (another staff member took him to the toilet). It may not be the 10 o’clock news but it’s enough information for me.
I’m now sat here wondering where the last 3 years have gone. And if I’m this emotional over two Nursery days how am I going to cope with big school, haha. If any of J’s Nursery staff read this, thank you for putting up with me and giving the metaphorical shove to actually leave. You have my most precious thing in the whole universe and I trust you. Have fun with my amazing, autistic, adventurous little man x
How about everyone else? Did you push your child through the door and run away laughing? Were you a neurotic mess? If your child has Autism, what worked for you? Or if you’re yet to start and have questions let me know xxx
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