She was great. The autism support charity woman. She was young - and Dutch, so we bonded over the grammatical simplicities of Afrikaans and the opportunity to drink rooibos tea - and full of energy and enthusiasm and ideas. Lists of people I should apply to, talk to, get therapy from. Irritatingly, many were private. Why IS it that the ideal therapy that you think you will need is never the one that you can afford at the time? I explained to her that we have stretched ourselves financially by buying this house. Never mind, she said cheerfully, there will be time, there are things you can do with this and that social benefit which you might one day be eligible for. We made lists of challenging behaviours for all three of the children and she came up with sensible suggestions as to how she and I might work on them together. She also offered to let me use their parents' lending library, although I doubt they have a tome entitled "How to Rescue Your Sons From the Emotional and Practical Chaos Caused By Emigration And Re-Establish Order Despite Feeling A Little Wobbly Yourself At Points."
On other issues she was also a good reference point. She said that she had heard very good things of the ABA therapist we were going to work with, but that if it didn't work out she would make other suggestions. Better still, she promised to come back in a week, having thought about everything and made plans as to how to proceed.
It was a bit like encountering Attila the Hun, if Attila the Hun was the type of invading horde that dispensed encouragement and learning opportunities, rather than rape and pillage. My initial, instinctive resistances ("So are you actually any good or are you going to fob me off with telling me you like rooibos, and talk of a visual timetable?") were quickly worn down. She brought so much enthusiasm and knowledge that I was left reeling. She understood my boys very quickly, too. Think she will be good for us.
One piece of advice worries me, though. It isn't that I didn't know it, it is that it was depressing to have it reiterated so forcibly. "When you interview the school tomorrow," she said, "If they are even slightly half-hearted about taking your son, if they even refer to lack of resources, walk away. It doesn't matter how highly the school is rated, how convenient it is, it doesn't matter the fact that they are obliged to take him. Just walk away. I have worked with hundreds of families, and I have known so many families who pushed their way in, and it never, ever works."
Oh God. She's right of course. We shall have to wait and see what the Head says. But my son is so excited about our local school. He's met a child who goes there, and he is thrilled that they have no uniform. Or at least he is thrilled now. He was a little uncertain about that at first, until we clarified that no uniform doesn't mean he has to go naked. Now that's resolved, he's happy. We've driven past it and he has peeked at the grounds, and was thrilled. He's had so many changes, and he has dealt with them all so well. I really dread the idea having to tell him that it isn't his new school after all.