Autism and back to school: Another brick in the wall
As the parent of an atypical son, few things are more stressful than the first day of school. There’s the yelling… the screaming… the combination hysterical tears and foot stomping… And that’s just my behavior! My son behaved splendidly — content and happy to get on his school bus for his first day of first grade.
For most kids — mine anyway — a new school year means new friends, new clothes and new adventures. For mothers of atypicals — me anyway — back to school symbolizes a return to PPTs, IEPs, weekly updates, daily progress reports and afternoons driving my son to various therapies: Speech, OT, PT, music, swim, craniosacral, etc.
Last but not least, there's medication regimen. Not medication for my son (he is drug-free), but medication for me. Forget Wheaties. Prozac and Xanax are my back-to-school breakfast of champions.
The silver lining
That cloud has a silver lining, of course. My son attends a “typical” elementary school, where he has a full-time paraprofessional to keep him focused and socialized. Every educator in his school — from the principal to the custodial engineers — knows Ethan by name and they all go out of their way to assist him. To Ethan’s credit, he’s memorized every staff photo and addresses them by name as well, albeit in a far-too-loud “outside” voice.
Ethan’s school team, affectionately called the “E-Team” includes the assistant principal, school psychologist, special education teacher, speech and language professional, occupational therapist, physical therapist and his new teacher. Every six weeks without fail, there is a one-hour, in-person “E-Team” meeting that also includes my husband and me.
Most meetings detail Ethan’s positive improvement, but sometimes it’s not all cotton candy and unicorns, if you know what I mean. The one constant in all these meetings, however, is the overwhelming sense that each “E-Team” member has unconditional love and genuine affection and reverence for my son. They want him to succeed as much as his father and I do, which makes perfect sense, as they are his family Monday through Friday, August to June.
With all the good things just described, one would wonder what kind of stress is actually in my life? Well, on my son’s second day of school, before his eyes were fully opened, he declared, “I am not going to school today. I want to go back to camp.” Like most democratic governments, I refuse to negotiate with a terrorist, even if said terrorist is an absolutely delicious 6-year-old boy. So, off to school he went.
The good news is that he can only complain about not wanting to go to school 180 more mornings. The bad news is that I’m clearly going to need a refill the Prozac and Xanax prescriptions. A lot. An awful lot.