Living the Puzzle: Back to School
Middle School was 3 years in length… I consider that whole time to be like buying a new pair of shoes. You see new shoes, try them on, be annoyed that they are too tight, get some blisters, stretch them out, make them comfy and then you look forward to wearing them. Similarly, you meet the new IEP team, feel them out, disagree, compromise, and then by the end, everyone’s thought process is right where it needs to be. Then, graduation.
This past June, I sat in the gymnasium for the Middle School graduation ceremony. Like every other parent, I beamed with joy and little bit of sadness that my baby was growing up. Mostly, PRIDE! The principal had asked to hold all applause until the end. You heard some relatives shout out names, some random claps from the audience to deliberately embarrass and humiliate their teen. When a few kids from the Special Ed program were called, a handful of classmates cheered for them. Very heartwarming. Then my son was called. Again, classmates cheered for him. As he made his way back to his seat, he fist-pumped several and dabbed his way back to his seat. What a ham! Will there be that same comradery in high school? Will these same kids be in his classes?
After the ceremony, we were outside taking pictures and he suddenly started crying. I said, “Buddy, YOU DID IT!!! You should be SO PROUD!” He looked at me and said, “I’m just so happy and I am proud, but mom, WE did it.” I do not deserve any of the credit; it was all him, except for every single homework night that was more painful than having a root canal without Novocain. “WE DID IT”; what that says to me is that he knows that he is never ever in it alone.
September. Back to school.
My son is starting high school…..a whole new world. Exciting and scary for all but for Autism mom’s it is a terrifying, ulcer-forming, stroke-provoking experience. They don’t know him in that school. His triggers, how to deescalate him. Time to buy a new pair of shoes.
Today is the tenth day of school and I’ve gotten 3 calls so far from the nurse. His stomach wasn’t feeling good and his claims were legitimate. He still suffers from some medical issues. But he became overwhelmed because the nurse didn’t know him, and he wasn’t yet comfortable. He had also gotten lost and didn’t know who to ask for help, so he broke down.
I was at a work conference when I got the call. I was standing in the middle of the convention center when I was on the phone with him, crying to come home; inconsolable. My first instinct was to get to him as quickly as I could, but I can’t do that. He needs to get to know this staff and allow them to help him. He needs to learn who can help him instead of mom. I won’t always be with him every day. I must confess, I went into the ladies room and had a panic attack, but I knew I was doing the right thing. It’s just very hard. Then, I needed to somehow move on, as I still had other responsibilities. That’s the hardest part – putting a smile on your face when you just want to curl up into the fetal position.
I have learned a valuable lesson this week.
I interpret the calls and the stories that he tells me differently than I should. I was ready to hold on and buckle up for a long and bumpy transition. No big deal, not my first rodeo. But, as much as an advocate I am, as proud and encouraging as I am, I underestimated my son. I went into the school to meet with the nurse and adjustment counselor and this is an email I received:
“Thank you for coming into school this afternoon to speak with me. I know both you and your son are going through a transition with entering high school. In my 26 years of school nursing experience I feel he is on target in adjusting to the high school (from a nursing perspective). He is status quo for any student in 9th grade as many have transition anxiety. Adam really does appear happy. This is a positive reflection on your motherly love & support and all the support from other family members. He really is an incredible child. Hopefully he will find some friends or after-school activity that will engage him further. We as a high school community will assist him with social interactions (behind the scene, unknown)”.
We did it and we will do it again.
I think I’m going to like this new pair of shoes.