I headed to the door feeling mildly confident that he would enjoy his day. I took one last look back, hoping to catch his eye and give him a wave and he had disappeared. I scanned the rows of students but couldn't see him anywhere. Puzzled, I turned to the front of the room where the teachers still stood and there he was, standing in front of his 'learning mentor'. Not more than five minutes before I had reminded him that if at any time he was feeling sad, worried or lonely he could always go and talk to his learning mentor. I'm thinking he wasn't feeling as 'okay' about his first day as he had made me believe. Still, I'd done all I could do to make this transition as comfortable as I could for him.
He was originally enrolled to go to another school with a student population of 1400, my decision based solely on the fabulous integration program they had there. As soon as I realised we wouldn't be getting any help from the Government I found another school for him. Today he has joined around 149 other year 7s at a brand new school, with well-planned buildings and a fresh new teaching staff. We have visited the school a couple of times prior to today and spoken with the principal and a couple of the staff. I have put together a page of information and ideas to help J's teachers to better understand and help him. I can only trust that they will read it.
I'm at home now and feeling all kinds of emotions about this day and the years to come. I'm feeling apprehensive, proud, relieved; relieved that the build up to this day is over and he's finally there and proud of all the hard work he has put in to get here. But I'm also feeling ripped-off and angry on J's behalf. We had to reapply for funding at the end of last year and we were knocked back. We appealed the decision and were again knocked back. The hard work we've put in over the last seven years (nine, if we count the two years of early intervention at the autism school before that) is just the foundation; the next six years are even more important to J developing the skills he'll need to be able to get and keep a job and be as independent as he can possibly be as an adult with autism. Having this extra, vital support denied to him now is like a kick in the guts. I'm still pursuing the Government for funding. I have written to the Minister for Education. I won't be giving up.