Today, Pudding is full of cold and heavy-eyed so I’m keeping him home rather than sending him to his usual preschool playgroup. It’s got me thinking about how much this resource means to us both.

He started last January and to be honest, I was initially nervous about what he’d be like there. When he went for our first visit, I had explained a bit about him, and that he does hit quite frequently. We didn’t have a diagnosis by then, though we were already being assessed by the Speech and Language Team. I didn’t know if he’d be ready to cope in a setting, but I knew that it would certainly be better for me. It was awful to admit it, but I was really struggling looking after him all day every day. Dealing with the constant demands for food and tv was wearing me down, and it had just taken me months to teach him a few body parts. I felt like I was failing as a mother. I would look at other stay-at-home parents who seemed to have endless supplies of patience and knew that wasn’t me.

The preschool manager (who has been there for years) was extremely welcoming and supportive, but I still worried. She explained that children aren’t allowed in the kitchen area. I pointed out that Pudding hasn’t been very good at accepting boundaries. She said breezily, ‘Oh, they all soon learn!’ I remained unconvinced.

A year on, and he still hasn’t learned not to go in the kitchen! But it isn’t a problem; they just shut the door when they need to.

I’m sure all parents worry about what their child will be like when they go into a setting unaccompanied. Will they behave? Will they make friends? When they reach school will it be more difficult? Will they be bullied?

For now at least, these questions no longer worry me. When we get there in the mornings, Pudding runs in to give the staff a hug and looks around, eager to see what there is to play with that day. I often stay for a brief chat with his keyworker, to discuss our latest news or talk about any goals we’re working on. I watch Pudding during this time, and I see so much to make me smile.

I see him waiting his turn at the top of the slide without pushing. I see another child arrive and immediately ask where Pudding is. I see two boys hand Pudding a toy and giggle excitedly as he runs off so they can play their usual chasing game. I see him thriving in the environment, and being accepted for who he is.

The other children don’t seem bothered by him not understanding the ‘rules’, and happily chat with him even though he can only respond in single words. They haven’t yet learnt about difference or prejudice, and respond simply to Pudding’s pleasure in their company.

As for me, a few times a week I get to do something that I want to. It gives me the space to feel like me again, and I know I’m a better mother because of it. Oh, and I get the best hugs when I go to pick him up!

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