Three things that happen when your autistic child is different at home and at school

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I am going through a very difficult time with my son. This morning he was carried to his taxi by my husband and myself kicking and screaming. He was stressed, his sister terrified and I was anxious and worried.
I haven’t called the school and asked if he is ok because I know what they will say.
He is not like that in school

Reports from school don’t marry with the child at home at all. In school he conforms, is settled and appears happy. At home he can be violent, unpredictable and highly distressed. This creates some problems for school, home and professionals. The great divide between home and school is a huge challenge and I am not alone in struggling with this.

When my autistic child is different in school it makes parents feel they are to blame.

When the common denominator for the challenging behaviour and meltdowns is home it is all too easy for professionals and schools to jump to the conclusion that bad parenting is to blame. We are accused of lack of discipline, lack of stability, lack of structure, feeding our children the wrong food and even not loving them enough! Just because a child has the ability to ‘hold it together’ in a very controlled environment all day and releases the lid on their frustrations, stressed and anxieties at home does not mean home life is awful. In fact the opposite is true! If a child did not feel secure, loved and safe they would continue to ‘hold it together’ at home for fear of releasing their true feelings.
Instead of blaming parents, schools and professionals should be more understanding of the difference between home and school and more willing to listen when their ‘perfect’ child is presenting totally different outside the school gates.

When my autistic child is different in school it makes accessing support very challenging.

So many parents know their child needs support from CAMHS or social work or speech and language but continually get denied these services due to presentation within a school setting. It is frustrating and damaging for so many children who put on a front within the classroom but who inside are screaming out for help. The system is loaded too much to the side of education where if referrals are put in from schools these are readily accepted yet a parent refers to the same service and the referral is often refused. There is still a huge assumption in the system that if a child truly had problems these would manifest in all settings the same. So parents get left to pick up the pieces of broken children by themselves with little support and hundreds of vulnerable children fall through the system because they are ‘good’ in school.
Perhaps if schools spoke to children or were more aware of stresses within the classroom environment for children with autism like noise, lights and the stress of conforming all day they may be more willing to support referrals for children who seem like Jekyll and Hyde.

When my autistic child is different in school it appears I am lying.

I have been at the meeting when all eyes are on me and I know they think I am lying, or at best exaggerating. I should never have to do it but I have resorted to videos and photographs of my child at times to prove that what I say actually happened. Would staff at school have to do this if the opposite was true and he was angelic at home but violent in school? Everyone at the meeting would be jumping in to support the teacher or school support staff if they were scratched or bitten or pushed by my son but as his mother it is seen as outrageous that I accept this behaviour at home. When I mention strategies we have put in place to help support my child at home and how these are not working some days they once again assume I am lying. It makes parents feel so alone, so belittled and unworthy. We already feel like a failure and those feeling are just made worse when schools give more and more examples of wonderful behaviour at school in answer to every incident at home that is mentioned. He punched his sister at home but shared his pencils with another child in school the same afternoon! He had a complete meltdown over homework yet got full marks in his spelling test the same day! It can be the same child and the sooner professionals and schools understand this the better for everyone. Have they never been professional and polite to someone in their job only to go home and let off steam by moaning at their husband or shouting at a driver who cuts them up?

I know what it is like to see my child happy, flappy and a delight to be with. I also know how hard it is for him and myself to see him so distressed he can not control what he is doing. Like thousands of other autism parents I experience the great divide, the Jekyll and Hyde of autism, on a daily basis.

Put me into different environments like an interview, a prison, a party or a holiday and you will see me change to suit my environment. My child with autism is no different.

I need people to see this and understand.

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127 thoughts on “Three things that happen when your autistic child is different at home and at school

  1. This is my son, we still have no asd diagnosis because of this. We have a dyspraxia and dyslexia diagnosis aswell as them saying he has severe emotional dysregulation. Why is is so hard for them to listen to me that he is autistic.

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  2. My Son is now 19.5. I had years of ‘Professionals’ telling me he wasn’t as bad as I was saying. His Sister at 3.5 was so covered in bite marks at one point that every day I had to tell the nursery school which bite marks were new. She is now 16 and paying the price for being his punch bag for years, I once told a Social Worker I was willing to sacrifice my son to Social Care for me to save my daughter from irreversible damage.
    Still nothing was done. After she had taken 2 overdoses at just 13 we were finally re assessed and my Son was granted Respite care of one afternoon a week and one weekend a month. It was too little way too late.
    He now lives in an AMAZING supported living house. He is thriving and happy. We are still picking up the pieces of years of physical and mental abuse. I’m glad my Son is now in a happy, safe environment for him. Just wish my daughter’s needs had been listened to quicker.

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  3. OMG my daughter was excactly the same at primary she’s now 34 we found out she was abused at school by a teacher female sellotaped her mouth her hands to a seat squeezed her face pulled her hahair for Two years we never knew

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  4. Currently experiencing this with my 7 year old daughter who is very clever and a little angel in school. But at home is having melt downs over everything. Anxiety and ocd too. I am Currently getting support from school just, and they are reviewing by daughter on one to one meetings in school during school day once a week to do the assessments. Then will see if needs referral to appropriate people. It is a long process which is no good on the child in the meantime as I struggle at home with her.

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  5. I found that my son with asd was exactly the same he would keep his school anxieties bottled up till he got home. he refused to go and would say on most mornings that he didn’t want to go to school. We found that he couldn’t hold his frustrations in anymore and school found out how difficult his behaviour could be I still found they still was picking fault with our parenting skills. At the ended I had enough and the school apologised and admitted that they could have handled things better.

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  6. Pingback: When your child is different at home and at school – Jekyl and Hyde | The Family of 5's Journey

  7. My daughter is like this. When we went to camhs with the evidence they jumped on me saying I should not be doing that as it is negative to my daughter. Never mind the fact that she self harms and has tried wrapping things round her neck before. They are more interested in sending me on yet another parenting course.

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  8. So relieved that we’re not alone in this!
    Our 8 year old daughter is like a ticking bomb, her anger is so awful she’s started getting violent with us at home and she has two younger brothers that are getting in the line of fire more often.
    We’re in the process of getting an ADHD diagnosis (we hope!) through CAHMS, and she’s has been classed by them as a ‘complex’ child, but we still haven’t had any practical help, apart from suggestions from the psychologist.
    She’s got sensory processing challenges, impulse control, huge emotional dysregulation issues. We’re worried for the effects on her mental health of all the huge anger episodes, as well as her brothers (2 and 6yrs), who are starting to copy phrases and reactions.
    Our biggest confusion is that she can hold it together at school (was the same at nursery) but comes home and it can start as soon as I arrive at the playground, on the way home, or once her ‘will’ is interfered with.
    Its exhausting and so isolating when no-one else can really understand what life is like!
    We too have daily meltdowns before school, and have tried to film/record whats going on just so we can show professionals, or relatives if it comes to it (although its horrible to think of showing them her like that).
    We wondered if she may have ODD, and someone from Amaze (charity) recently said some of what described sounded like they were typically seen in ASD.
    We’re waiting for a classroom assessment at the moment, but thankfully not everything hinges on that!

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  9. The same is true of adopted or fostered children who have previously suffered trauma and who do not feel secure enough to show their feelings at school but let them all out when they get home.

    School won’t give extra support because ‘nothing is wrong ‘ they don’t get that the child is holding it all in and the strain is so much it bursts out when they get home.

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  10. Sorry to hear this, we too went through this – 4 years of not being believed, understood, supported. Until our child started self harming in a toxic school environment! CAMHS said the self harm wasn’t enough! We had to seek private help! Our son is now diagnosed as ADHD, ASD , high anxiety and multiple sensory needs. He is in a school that understands and fully supports him and is a completely different child, happy in himself and for the most part coping.

    It is so important that you trust your own instincts here, you are the parent! You do know what your child needs! And let’s renember not to judge, you don’t know what some one else is going through, help not hinder!

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