“Covid corona,” shouted DS1, as he brandished his Harry Potter wand at me, demonstrating in one fell swoop how to entwine his current obsession with what is going on in the world around him.
Yes, Potter is back… with a vengeance. Fuelled by his sudden decision to start playing the Xbox Harry Potter game he got a couple of years ago, and which had been gathering dust ever since, he has sourced many hours-worth of YouTube material featuring Potter geeks spouting their various theories about hidden meanings in the books and films.
Like a sponge, he is absorbing all this information and then imparting what he has learnt to me. Nonstop. Interrupting any conversation we may be having with a Potter fact, as they spring to his mind.
“These videos are teaching you a lot,” I said. “How about finding some on maths and English?”
“I’ve looked, but I just can’t find any,” he grinned.
School hokey cokey
It’s frightening how quickly things have changed. Just last Friday I was basking in the glory of DS1 qualifying as a vulnerable child, meaning he was one of the ‘lucky’ few allowed to attend school.
Much to our surprise, when we asked him if he wanted to continue going to school, despite the shutdown, he said, “Yes”.
“I want to go to school,” he said, confirming the previous sentence.
“There’ll only be about 10 kids there,” I explained. “From all different year groups. And there’ll be a couple from the [autism resource].”
“Why wouldn’t there be? They’ve got autism like me and that’s why I’m allowed to go,” he exclaimed, showing he was on top of everything.
He was happy. We were ecstatic, obviously. His headteacher, Mrs S, was pleased – taking it as a huge compliment that he wanted to go to school when he didn’t have to.
But as the situation changed over the course of the weekend, we began to question the decision to allow him to still go into school when we were both at home and capable (well, maybe not capable) of looking after him.
School had sent work packs home and provided links to online learning, so, in theory, just like everyone else, we could homeschool him. Although, how that would go with any child, let alone an autistic one, was open to debate. School is for learning, not the home, after all.
In the spirit of public duty rather than selfish gain, we talked to him about the situation again. Reluctantly, he agreed that he should stay at home under the circumstances; eventually admitting: “I only wanted to go to school because I didn’t want to do school work at home.”
Sorry Mrs S.
Locked out when in
While DS1 seemed to be taking this anxiety-inducing time in his stride, on the outside, the build-up to lockdown was clearly preying on his mind.
The tiniest thing was sending him into the autistic equivalent of anaphylactic shock. Fractious was an understatement.
“Shut up and go away,” he shouted at me.
“I’m only asking if you want some tea.”
He relented, briefly. His belly winning over his anxiety.
“Do you want gammon and mash?” I asked.
“Yes, but no vegetables.”
I made him gammon and mashed potato, as requested, and put a couple of bits of cauliflower and carrot on the plate as well.
“I told you I didn’t want vegetables. Take it away,” he screeched.
“You need to eat some vegetables,” I said, ignoring the advice not to make demands on him. Then, compounding matters even more, I added: “You have to have a balanced diet.”
“I’m not eating it, take it away.”
“Look, if you don’t want to eat them, just leave them on the side of your plate,” I replied tetchily.
“I’m not eating any of it until you take them away.”
There was only going to be one winner. And it wasn’t me.
With this being confined to barracks business, we have been opening windows to try and get some fresh air. But DS1 is going around the house shutting them as quickly as they are opened.
“They can’t be open,” he informed us.
“They just can’t.”
The bathroom that adjoins his bedroom has two doors, one to his room and the other to my study. He has now taken to bolting the door that leads to my study, so I can’t use that toilet.
“Why?” I asked, as you would.
“I don’t know. It just needs to be locked.”
But, he’s still showing signs of his wicked sense of humour.
Preceding our glorious leader’s latest pronouncement, the wife asked DS1 if he thought the country would go into total isolation?
“It depends what that stupid excuse for a Prime Minister says at 5 o’clock,” he declared.
While Mother’s Day brought more gems, as the wife opened her card to find the words: “To Mum from God.”
“I do love you,” she said.
“Who wouldn’t,” he replied without a hint of arrogance.
Not born to teach
We approached day one of homeschooling with a sense of trepidation.
First up, create a timetable. He wasn’t having it.
He ran off, hiding himself in a cupboard.
We coaxed him out and tried again to elicit his help in creating a timetable to ensure he had routine. By garnering his input rather than imposing it on him we would, hopefully, gain his buy-in.
“OK, so ‘school’ will start at 9am and you can do what you like until then,” said the wife.
He looked at the kitchen clock – it was 8:58.
“There’s two minutes,” he announced and ran off.
But he returned promptly as the clock ticked over to 9:00.
However, he was still unable to deal with the request and ran off, climbing back into the cupboard. Which I should point out isn’t that big and required him to contort himself to get inside.
Clearly cramped, he didn’t remain in there for long. Stomping back into the kitchen, for that is where we were, he grabbed a stool, turned it to face the corner and sat down.
With his back remaining to us, we threw up suggestions into the air and luckily they stuck. Somehow we had a DS1-sanctioned timetable.
He went about setting up his desk – the corner worktop in the kitchen in between the coffee machine and the toaster. Not the most convenient spot to be honest. But, hey…
As for why there, who knows? Not even him. It’s not like there’s a desk in his room or the dining room table he could use.
“I need to get into my uniform,” he said, running up to his bedroom.
Fair enough. If that makes him feel like he is in school mode, then fine, I thought.
He returned wearing a white school shirt (so far so good); yellow trousers, which are far too small for him; a yellow and black Hufflepuff tie and yellow trainers. Not so good.
“This is what you need to bring down in the morning for me to put on,” he informed me.
He’d also made up his PE bag, which contained a yellow t-shirt and shorts.
“We’re called Yellow Cuthbert’s Isolation Junior School,” he announced.
The morning session went relatively to plan. He actually sat there and did some work. Asking me for help when required. And even accepting what I said when I explained how to do things when he was stuck.
But after lunch, the wheels fell off.
“I don’t want to do the [theme project],” he moaned.
“But, you agreed to do it when we made the timetable.”
“Yes, but I just don’t want to do it.”
“OK, let’s do some coronavirus-related spellings today, instead,” I suggested, trying to re-engage him.
He responded with great enthusiasm, and we’d soon cracked through words such as ‘isolation’, precautions’ and ‘depression’. I suggested ‘boredom’ but this was poo-pooed.
He was done. He huffed at any further suggestions for lessons.
“Would it help if the timetable reflected what you would actually be doing if you were at school?” I asked, rather obviously, several hours too late.
We resolved to rectify that for the remainder of the week.
“But Monday has to stay the same because we’ve already decided that.”
“Even though you didn’t want to do the theme project after lunch?”
We cut our losses and allowed him an early dart.
I can feel an Inset day coming on very soon.