My son is 3rd in line of 4 boys. He had always been a quiet child in public but at home was full of life and almost hyperactive. He was difficult to settle into reception class at school and was often quite clingy, but settled once I had left. His teachers always commented on how quiet he was at school, and used strategies to try and increase his confidence to speak out loud in the class etc, meanwhile I was taking him to the GP concerned he was hyperactive!
When he was 8 my GP wrote to the school to ask if there were any problems and they denied any so my worries were never followed up. He was often reluctant to attend primary school, particularly after an illness or break, but the years passed by and he finished primary to move on to secondary school.
Meanwhile I was still concerned about his behaviours at home. His older brother had autism and many of the symptoms William was displaying were similar to his brother, except he was much more anxious and clingy. I often spoke to school about my concerns and they were always dismissed because he was ‘ok’ at school. I was becoming more and more concerned as every morning before school he was saying he didn't feel well and was tearful, wasn't sleeping well, was becoming very absent minded and generally unhappy. His school reports also showed his grades were dropping fast, but the school said that was normal when a child transfers schools.
My GP now agreed that something wasn't right about his communication and behaviour and put us on a long waiting list to be evaluated by a developmental paediatrician.
The first year of high school finished and something changed with my son. All summer holidays he refused to go out of the house and he became more and more anxious about returning to school, asking me to home educate him. I was working and studying for a degree so this just wasn't possible for me to even consider.
The new school year began and so did Williams refusal to attend school. I would try to get him to leave the house and he was sobbing hysterically, hyperventilating, being sick, tummy aches, headaches and refused to move. The times I eventually managed to get him to school he would be ‘ok’ when he was there, but would return home unwell again.
I tried every technique I could think of from technology bans, rewards, taking him to the GP, nothing helped. The school staff didn't understand the situation and felt he was manipulating me to stay home from school. By this time I found the Facebook group Support for School Refusal and I found we were by far alone in this situation and I had a whole new lot of supportive and understanding friends to help me through.
My son became seriously unwell with anxiety by now refusing to leave the house at all, spending his time hidden under a blanket. I had to resign from work to become his full time career. An urgent appointment was made with the child development team where he was diagnosed with autism. He was then signed off school and given help from CAMHS, and a home tutor to help keep him up with his education.
He has been out of school for well over a year now whilst he has been recovering from his anxiety. He now has an EHC plan which has enabled him to get a place in a small specialist ASD school which he will soon start attending. He basically found the jump to high school mixed with puberty and the increased pressures of fitting in etc too much to deal with resulting in him becoming mentally unwell with anxiety.
Our story is not yet over, he is now 14 and behind on his education. Starting the new school will be another added pressure but he is so much better than he was. I will be eternally grateful for finding the support group on Facebook during my darkest time, and for how much the wonderful community there helped me cope and understand what was going on with my son.