It took us months as parents, to decide where to send our autistic son for his schooling. Homeschool, mainstream school, special-needs school, or a satellite class. After much research, and multiple visits to the various schools, we made our decision; a satellite class run by a special-needs school, situated at a main-stream school. It even has a teacher who was trained overseas specifically in dealing with autistic children. Everyone concerned agreed that he fitted in perfectly.
His teacher-to-be made a special story-book for him, with photos of his class-mates, teachers, and the class-room itself, which he has visited a few times and loves. We read the book to him every night, and everyday we do a count-down to school which is now only a few weeks away…
A couple of days ago, an arsonist (or arsonists – they are yet to be apprehended), burnt down half of the school he was due to attend. Specifically, the two-story building that comprised the junior school. Including the special needs satellite classroom he was meant to attend.
I was so distraught. For the school, for all those students, and for us. The photos in the story-book are not correct anymore. His orientation that we worked on teaching him in advance, so he knew where his classroom was, is now wrong. Our countdown to the starting date of school, is now up in the air, depending on if they can get replacement prefabs in on time. The favourite things in the classroom that motivated him and made him want to go back, are gone. Anyone with an autistic child can imagine how upsetting all these changes and uncertainties are, even those without an autistic child must have some idea.
I quite honestly feel sick to my stomach. All that time to make the best decision, all the effort and preparation we put into removing anxieties and uncertainties. Up in smoke. Literally.
We don’t know how to tell him, because we don’t know what to tell him. Decisions about replacement classrooms and resources are currently been made. Thankfully the principal of the special-needs school was quick about making contact, so we don’t feel forgotten about; my son isn’t enrolled via the school itself, but by the special-needs school which provides the teachers and funding, so I was worried we’d be out of the information loop.
It’s now a matter of waiting to see what happens and how fast it happens. I’m past the initial shock and devastation of hearing about the arson. It’s now time to mentally prepare for what effect this is going to have on our son, as we get closer to what should have been a very special and well-planned first day of school.