Autism Watch: 2007

First Day of School

Posted on: August 25, 2008

It’s too early to say if it was a success — unless I define success by the fact he went to school, stayed the day without a call and I picked him up on at the same time as everyone else. It’s also possibly too early to say that I am worried about the rest of the year..or is it?

He was SO excited about today. SO. excited. In turn, I was really happy for him. Thrilled that he was so happy to show his friends his new rolling backpack (“My backpack is so cool! It’s worth $40!”) and the Rainforest Cafe lunchbox he saw back in June and had to have for school this year…even though I had concerns it wasn’t sturdy enough. He talked about making new friends, about playing on the playground, and the cool things he was going to learn. I had every reason to be optimistic.

He wakes up today,  a few minutes earlier than I told him he should get up and get dressed, but he was smiling, and completely dressed in the outfit he chose for his first day. (It was 100 degrees here today, but he had to wear the new ‘softs,’ his loose track pants that I happened upon last week at Target for $5, mainly for home wear because he loves softs.) The softs went with the new Pokemon t-shirt well enough, and he even accessorized, wearing his engraved shark’s tooth necklace. Things were looking good.

He eats breakfast quickly, and watches the clock all morning. We leave, early, only to find out that the whole school population had arrived early, and we were easily 1/2 mile down the block….past construction, dust, dirt, and lots of badly-parked cars. But that didn’t deter him. By the time we got to his classroom, he’d said hello to a boy from his class last year, and when I got in line to say hello to his teacher, I put my hand on his chest and his little heart was pounding so hard and so fast. (Wahh, first threat of tears for me, he was so nervous.) He finds the seat with his nametag, while I have “the talk” with his teacher…you know, the talk where you say “My son’s got special needs/autism, he should be fine but if not, please don’t hesitate to call or email me. I’m available any time you have questions, or you can ask the teacher from last year or the aide. Oh, and he’s got space issues, so you should probably watch to make sure he doesn’t feel his space is being invaded.” I then found him sitting at his desk, looking at the “About Me” page that every child had to fill out. Hug, kiss, and I’m off…no tears, just a little prickling in the eyes at what a brave, big boy I have.

Fast forward to minimum day pickup time. Again, everyone and their family was there to pick up their child, and the crowd at the gate (by the time I finally made it from out south 40 parking space) was a wall of people 25 thick. Out came the first graders, and despite the principal asking people to wait, many parents and older siblings decided that the ‘please wait 10 minutes before entering to find your child’ really didn’t apply to them. (And I secretly wondered if these were the same people who’d triple-parked, parked at a 90-degree angle to the sidewalk, or otherwise abandoned their car where it shouldn’t have been because they’re so important that they shouldn’t have to walk as far as we mere peons did.) Finally, my son’s teacher was visible, and I could tell very quickly that I needed to get through that wall of people, quickly.

If only that was so easy. I had to step over strewn backpacks, squeeze around moving children, while I’m wondering why people who’d already gotten their children were still standing there, blocking the way. I got to ds relatively fast, but he was already shoving through the remaining crowd to get to me, with anger all over his face.

What’s wrong? What happened? “My lunchbox broke!”

For a split second, I felt so bad for him and wanted to rush it back to Rainforest Cafe and demand that an $8 plastic lunchbox should be sturdier. Poor thing doesn’t deserve to have such a prized possession break so quickly. But, no time for that — I had to deflect, re-direct, and get him to realize that an irrepairable broken handle doesn’t mean the end of the world for the lunchbox. “After all, it goes from backpack to lunchbox basket, back to the basket, then the backpack, right?” Crisis averted. Tomorrow’s lunch is already in it, minus the special crustless sandwich I’ll make tomorrow morning. Lemonade’s already in the thermos, and homemade cookies already bagged.

Moving on to discussion of the rest of the day. “It was pretty much bad.” Wow…where do you go from that? I asked why, knowing it would be a long list. No one played with him at recess. He didn’t have enough time to eat his whole lunch. He isn’t happy with his classmates, none are his friends. And, he was bored. Really bored. Nothing to do. But, the saving grace? The same aide as last year! We’d seen her in the morning, but I don’t think he appreciated her as much until the day started. Bless her, she gave him water and snacks and that’s what he talks about being the best part of the day, how she ‘cares about him.’ Remind me to give her a hug and tell her again how much I appreciate her and her genuine concern for my little guy. You can’t find people like her enough. Oh, and he likes his teacher, but she’s just part of the package for now, it’s too early to see what he really feels. (Should I be worried that in our two-minute conversation, when I tell her that no, thanks, I think he’ll be okay in any seat, but he has space issues…she says “There are 21 kids here…” I’m not sure if that was just a statement, or a teeny sign that my son’s going to need to conform and fit in? I am probably reading more into that, but given our history, I am hesitant. Thank God, his teacher situation was wonderful last year, though we did have an aide have to be removed due to inappropriate behavior towards him…no, not *that* kind of inappropriate, just a woman who shouldn’t be working with special needs children if she doesn’t understand that with them comes behaviors.)

Anyway….I think the problem I’m having is that he was so excited, so prepared, and I of course want nothing but good for him. To see the littlest thing take away from the expectations he had? How do you avoid it? And when it happens, how do you fix it? It shouldn’t be so hard. It should be fun. He should just be a child.

Anyway, he’s happily playing upstairs now, Pokemon strewn all over our room, watching Tivo’d Pokemon episodes. We talked about lunch, making friends, the lunchbox, etc., so I have hopes that tomorrow will be a better day. Advance preparation is such a big help, and now that I’ve seen his class, teacher, class location, and schedule, I have a lot more info with which to prepare him. Please, think happy thoughts for the little guy that he can fit in enough, but that the situations fits to him, too. I’m all for inclusion, but only to the extent that it’s manageable, fair, and makes sense. Sometimes accommodations need to be made, and sometimes those needs pop up out of nowhere.

Off for dinner…day #2 will come soon enough.

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5 Responses to "First Day of School"

Hey there,

Reading your post about ds’ first day of school brought up my own anxieties about MY son’s school, which doesn’t start until next week. It’s so hard to find a balance between letting them learn some things on their own and protecting them from the harsh world and the sometimes harsh people in it.

I don’t think you are overreacting to the teacher’s comment about “21 kids in the class.” I’m sure I would have reacted negatively to that, too. It does kind of sound like she’s telling you he’ll have to conform. I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a problem.

Sounds like you handled everything beautifully. It also sounds like your ds is ready to give it another go tomorrow. Let us know how it goes!

Kia

Ok, color me the overemotional mama this evening – its been a tough nite here. I just found this from blognetnews/autism and clicked on it right off. The first day is always so tough, it doesn’t really seem like it ever gets easier… I got all weepy when I read about your son’s lunchbox – I could only imagine the same thing happening to mine.. because we have ‘that’ luck. How lucky he is to have the same para from last year, sounds like that made all the difference in the world.. broken lunchbox or not.

Hopefully tomorrow goes a bit better all-around.

Ahh – the expectations of a positive first day, been there, done that.

Actually, little man didn’t do too bad the first day, it was the 3rd day that was bad! Time out most of the day, temper tantrums, and more but yet, he is still looking forward to go back!

I hope that things turn around for the best – he is so lucky to have his para from last year!

Wishing you the sanity to make it through another day and your DS the best day ever!

How did day two go? I am dying to know!
And as far as that teacher goes, ummm… I would continue to give her the benefit of the doubt BUT her comment left me deeply concerned. Actually, it kept bugging me as I fell asleep last night because I think it indicates an underlying lack of flexibility or understanding. If she had said, “we will do what we can BUT there are 21 kids here” that would have been better. You are SO not overreacting. Keep an eye on her. Does your son have an IEP?

Thank for your comment on my blog. Do you know about the special passes for children with unique needs?
http://parentingpartner.blogspot.com/2008/07/disneyland-with-disabilities.html

Loved reading your post.
Sounded exactly like our experience with 1st grade for my son. (Aspergers)
He is really having a tough time. So am I. Looks like I will be ‘researching’ on the internet for help!

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