August 5, 2014. (facebook post from last year’s open house)
“I am an optimistic person by nature. I try to always look on the bright side. Sometimes that is hard to do. I thought that I would take the boys to open house by myself to meet their teacher since Tracer & Tay are at football. Big mistake. Huge.
First, there are two of them and only one of me. Second, way too many people and extremely too much stimuli. It started when we pulled up and they saw all the people. Jesse was already upset because he had to leave his cousin, Cooper. I had a hard time getting them out of the van. I was trying to talk softly, reassuringly to coax them to get out and head to the school. As we got closer, Jake is moaning, chewing his shirt and slapping himself. Jesse is crying while trying to smack both me and Jake. Both of them are trying to pull away from me. Jake is over 80lbs and that is a lot of weight to pull.
As we make it through the school doors, people are spilling out everywhere. I know that this is typical for open house, but it freaked my boys out. They are crying, scared, and acting out. I manage to keep it together until we make it to their classroom. Jesse barely goes in the door, but Jake resists. I manage to pull him just inside of the door before we both fall to the floor. The teacher comes over to help. She is so sweet that I just start crying. (You know that feeling you get when you are trying so hard to keep it together until someone hugs you? Yea, that feeling.)
I proceed to sit on the floor with Jake in my lap and Jesse on the floor beside me. After a few minutes, we all calm down. They still wanted to leave, but were more calm. Jesse sat by the door after looking around a bit and Jake told the teacher, “Thank you. Nice to meet you. See you later.”
I was thankful that we were able to leave through the side door. Both boys were happy and playful heading to the van. They are all good. I’m emotionally drained. I need a hot bubble bath, probably a glass of wine, and a hug.
Autism is real… and it sucks.”
Back to school is a rough time around here, not because the boys dislike school, but because it is a change. It is a new adjustment after being relatively carefree all summer. It starts with open house. We need to see new teachers and new classrooms. This year is the first year that they will be in separate classes. Their wonderful teacher, Erin, last year suggested it. She told me that they did better when she put them in different study groups. Honestly, I had been thinking about it myself to see if it would help their dependence on each other. Jake does pretty well without Jesse, but Jesse constantly asks for Jake when he isn’t around. I am always game to at least try something that might help my boys.Before school started, their school’s awesome principal called me to discuss it. She wanted to check with me first and said that we could always put them back together if need be. Let’s do it!
The boys attend an after school program. It gives me a chance to work, get errands completed, and work on my classes. It gives them extra socialization and extra work on academics. They LOVE it!!My boys rely heavily on routine, most autistic kids do, and a change can send them in to a meltdown. (Meltdowns are different than tantrums. More on that in another post.) Usually, when I go to get the boys, we head home to finish dinner, take baths, chill out/snuggle before bedtime. Well, on open house night, we stay. I tried to catch the program workers before they called the boys up so that I could go check things out without the boys. Nope, they saw me walking up among the crowd.Don’t get me wrong, they did what they normally do. I was the one that was going to change routine.
I heard the boys coming down the hallway before I could see them, as usual. lol. Once they rounded the corner and saw the crowd of parents, they immediately got anxious. That only got worse when they realized we weren’t leaving, we were headed in the opposite direction. I had to pull them down the hall. Jake starts moaning and chewing his shirt. Jesse is screaming NO and hits Jake in the face. I must explain, Jesse’s reaction to stress is to strike out at those he loves most… Jake or me. I try to catch it before it happens. If he manages to hit first, I immediately try to discipline and correct the behavior. He has gotten much better about it, but it still happens. Anyway, I am now dragging them down the hall. Jake is a heavy boy. Once he plops on the ground and decides he isn’t moving, it is difficult to manage him. I am talking, pleading, demanding, trying everything. I do get him up for a few steps and back down again. All the while I am trying to keep Jesse from hitting Jake again. Walking, talking, dragging, we make it to Jesse’s class. Jake sits at the door. Jesse tearfully walks around a bit while asking/begging/demanding to go home to see Tucker, our dog. I talk with the teacher a bit. She seems really nice, but I can’t pay full attention to her because of the boys’ distraction.
Next, time to visit Jake’s class. Jake is having NONE of it. He sits on the floor outside the class all the while chewing his shirt, moaning, smacking his own face, and rocking. It breaks my heart. I manage to drag him in the class and we both end up seated on the floor. He is crying in obvious distress. I am now finally crying myself out of frustration and my heart is breaking for my boys. I can only imagine what all the adults- teachers, aides, parents thought about the scene we made. Thankfully, Jake’s teacher seems very sweet, too.
Finally, it is time to go. We are in the hallway and decide to take the nearest exit. It’s kinda ironic since that is where I parked. It was one of the only spots that I could find. It was around the building and way away from the front entrance. Worked perfectly when we were leaving. lol. Once we got out the door, the boys immediately relaxed and started smiling. Jesse even skipped to the car and Jake started asking about dinner. Our ride home was smiling and “dancing” to the radio. Whew. Glad that was over for another year.
I took for granted all those happy, excited, fun open houses with my older kids. It is hard for and with my little guys. I didn’t know it, but I have since found out that I can add “transitional time” to our IEP. If the boys are to have a different teacher next year, their current teacher can arrange little visits with their next teacher before the school year is over. We could also request Open House a little earlier before the crowd comes in. I didn’t even think about those things. It is awesome to have friends that are Spec Ed teachers, plus being involved with Special Moms’ groups gives plenty of ideas, too.
My next decision was allowing the boys to ride the bus in the morning. They get so excited when the see a bus. They always say “field trip, field trip.” I love riding the bus in elementary school and I wanted them to have some fun, too. First, I had to find out how long the trip would take— less than 30 minutes. Cool. Next, we added to their IEP that an aide would have to be on the bus with them as well as seatbelts. check check. Since the open house went so badly, I didn’t want the first day of school to be a repeat. I decided to let them ride the boys. Jake was ok, Jesse was stressed. He hit Jake.(One day, he is going to realize that Jake is much bigger and will start hitting back.) He calmed down, but looked a bit pitiful. It was hard. I made myself back away. I try to really look at each situation. Yes, he may get upset, but will he get “over it” and end up liking it or will it traumatize him. I do not routinely force things on my kids just to make them try something new. It is a balancing act.
The next day, Jake was happy and Jesse was less fearful. They even sat at the window looking for the bus. The third day, Jesse skipped down the driveway. They LOVE the bus so much now that on Saturday morning, they wanted to get dressed and wait for the bus. They kept asking to “go to school.” yay. My heart is smiling. ❤
If you have questions/comments, I’d love to hear them below.
“Life isn’t always beautiful, but it’s a beautiful ride.”