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Child-Free.. as free as the wind blows..

This morning, without so much as a backwards glance, both our autistic children climbed on board a coach with their classmates and set off for their annual trip to PGL. For us, this means no children in the house for the next four days. We still have the dog of course, but he doesn't put up a fight at bedtime or complain that dinner is 'disgusting'.

At the same time as feeling ever-so-slightly elated, our hearts do go out to those brave teachers venturing forth with fifty children aged between 7 and 11, all with some type of special need. These range from dyslexia, to speech difficulties to Asperger's Syndrome. The teachers know only too well what puzzled faces could ensue with the saying, 'It's raining cats and dogs'.

Far from being tough little tykes, practically all these youngsters have in their backpacks their cuddly toys, blankets or other comforter, even the big strapping ones like my 11-year-old. He has his old cotton cellular cot blanket, a stuffed reindeer and two stuffed Club Penguin plushies, all shoved down into his rucksack along with his tuck for the trip.

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Something smells

They both went on the trip last year and then, there were a few tears from my youngest before they set off, but was smiling again once on the coach. I shed more tears on the way home at the thought of them being away from me on a school holiday for the first time. When they returned, I was going through Son's bag and there was a suspicious amount of clean underwear, an untouched toothbrush and a still-neatly folded flannel. It turned out that he hadn't washed, cleaned his teeth or changed his pants for the whole four days.

Despite this squalour, he still managed to bag himself a posh girlfriend at the end of trip disco. She rang him so often afterwards that I heard him say to her, "Can you not ring me so often, it's getting a bit annoying." Oh, dearie me, he has a lot to learn.. but then he was only 11 at the time.

After his success last year, Son1 is uber-confident that the prep school fillies will be throwing themselves at his feet again. He's offered his sibling a few pointers, but let's hope his tips on personal hygiene aren't among them..

Tania Tirraoro
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