Max is a Y5 student in primary school.
This morning, Max had to come a different way to school because they were digging up the road. By the time they’d gone round the diversion, Max was late for school.
Max hates being late. He hates to walk into class when all the other children are milling about. So he waits in the cloakroom until they’ve all gone in. Mrs White said it’s OK for him to do that.
When Max steps into class, Mrs White isn’t there. There’s a stranger standing at the front with the Head teacher. Mrs White has gone on a course today and they have a substitute teacher, Mrs Grey. But Max doesn’t know this because he came in late. He sits down when the Head teacher tells him to, and wonders when Mrs White will be in.
Mrs Grey announces that the class spelling test will be first. Max has been trying really hard with his spellings. He has practised them at home. Mrs Grey starts to read them out, but they’re not in the right order. Max can feel a knot in his stomach and writes out the spelling test he has learnt in the right order. Two out of ten and told he will have to try harder. He didn’t even get a smiley face and Max likes stickers.
At break time, Max goes out into the playground. He’s got an apple for snack, but as he is eating it, a girl playing chase bumps into him and it drops on the floor. One of the boys shouts “football” and kicks it across the playground… It ends up in a puddle. Max goes to get it and gets his feet wet. He hates being wet, so he goes back into class and takes his shoes and socks off. Mrs Grey almost trips over Max, who is sitting right in the doorway of the classroom. She tells Max to either put his wet things back on or to put his pumps on. He tells Mrs Grey that it is not P.E yet it’s literacy next.
Mrs Grey glares at Max and suggests that perhaps Max would prefer to sit outside the Head’s office. Max is quite relieved about this; it’s nice and quiet in the corridor. He puts his pumps on but they don’t feel right without socks, and all he can think about is how scratchy they are on his feet.
On the way out of the classroom, he sees the girl that bumped into him in the playground. He pushes her back and she tells the teacher that he pushed her for no reason. Mrs Grey walks over to Max. She’s wearing really strong perfume and he wants to retch. When she asks him why he is pulling faces, he says it’s because she smells.
Mrs Grey marches Max down the corridor and tells the Head that Max is being naughty and very rude. Max tells her she is lying. The Head tells Max to sit there until he feels he can behave.
After half an hour outside the Head’s office, Max is feeling much calmer so he decides to go back to his classroom. Still no Mrs White. He looks round to see what he is supposed to do and sees some boys spinning their pens so he goes and watches them cause it looks interesting.
When the bell goes for lunch, Max puts his hands over his ears and runs to the classroom door to be first. Mrs Grey tells him off for pushing and makes him wait at the end of the queue. When he goes to get his lunchbox he can’t find it, it’s not with his coat where he left it.
When the Mid-day Assistant manages to calm him down, she arranges for him to have a school dinner instead. He has to sit on a different table in the hall and the smell of other peoples dinners makes him feel ill. He looks down and notices that the beans are touching the potatoes so he can’t eat that now. Dry food shouldn’t touch wet foods. Everyone is talking and the noise of cutlery and scraping of chairs is overwhelming; even the playground is better than this.
Max goes back to the cloakroom and lies on the floor with his coat over his head. The floor is nice and cool and he starts to feel calmer. He makes the Mid-day Assistant jump when she walks past him, and she chastises him saying “you scared me to death Max!” Max is really worried about this because he really likes her and doesn’t want her to die, but she carries on walking as though she was OK. He follows her round the playground just to make sure.
After lunch Mrs Grey tells the class to get into pairs. Max sits on a table with two other children, and they’ve already paired up. He doesn’t know what to do… Mrs Grey asks for anyone who’s not sitting with someone to put up their hand. Max doesn’t realise she’s talking to him – he’s sitting with two people, so he doesn’t put his hand up… When Mrs Grey raises her voice and asks why he wasn’t paying attention, it all becomes a bit of a blur… and Max has no idea why he is being told off again. He wonders if it is because he made the Mid-day Assistant die.
The bell goes at the end of the day, and Max goes out to find his Mum.
“Did you have a good day at school Max?” asks his Mum.
Max has spent all day masking and ‘holding it all in’. Think of Max as a bottle of pop. As he goes through the day the bottle gets shaken each time there is a trigger, with the pressure building up as their stress and anxiety increase.
Max managed to hold it all together whilst at school but when Mum picked him up, he had a meltdown – the pop was released from the bottle in one go. Many parents will be familiar with the Pop Bottle effect – the delayed meltdown which follows a day of triggers and masking/camouflaging. ∎