Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘elementary

I picked up ds early from school to head to his regularly scheduled neurologist appointment. As we pull onto the carpool lane of the freeway, he begins to tell me a story that made me want to turn around and head back to the school…except I couldn’t, a neuro appt in a land far, far away awaited.

As close as I can understand, a group of ’20’ (maybe exaggerated in his head? maybe not?) kids put their hands over his eyes, covered his mouth so he couldn’t yell, and grabbed his arms, pulling him into the bathroom. He yelled to his friends, yet they did nothing. (He only has a few friends he plays with repeatedly, mainly one anymore, so this doesn’t surprise me.) He pulled away long enough to ask why he was there, and to let him leave, and they said “No, you’re in jail.” He breaks away again, gets out, and they try to re-catch him. He runs outside to the playground area, just running anywhere to get away, and two friends see him. Now, it must look fun, because they joined in to help him get away. They almost had him again, but when he ran far enough and his little friends were persistent, they left him alone. On a bad note, he doesn’t know who any of the kids are but one. On a good note, he doesn’t know who any of the kids are but one — which means they at least aren’t from his class.

Tonight is Back to School night. We will be setting up an appointment to meet with Admin in the morning. When he said “they took me into the bathroom,” I had to find a calm, discreet way to ask him where they touched him. I had to ask him if they ever used his name, to see if it appeared random. And I had to ask if he told anyone. He did, a playground proctor, and her words, per ds? “Poor kid.” Period. Nothing else was done.

But something else will be done. My son was dragged into a bathroom with strangers, against his will. Big deal or no, depending on who you are and how you look at it, he was taken somewhere against his will, people touched him, and he has no way of knowing if they’ll do it again. And no one did anything?

Mom’s unleashed. Admin will step in, I’m sure, we are blessed with a good team who truly care about ds, but he’s only in second grade. And I never heard of a group bullying incident like this.

I’ll update tonight, or tomorrow, depending on when I have anything to update with. Think happy thoughts.

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On the heels of my rant about how rude people can be, my son came home after experiencing it from a different perspective…again.

It’s no surprise that my son has a hard time with friends. Social skills are a huge part of any autism spectrum disorder. It’s a misnomer that all autistic kids don’t want friends — many do, they just don’t know how to go about it, and my son is one of them. He wants friends, desperately, though he does want them on his terms, something we’re trying to work on. (Honey, sometimes you have to play what your friends want. You can’t always talk about Pokemon. You aren’t always in charge. And so on.) He’s learning slowly how to fit in and join an activity, but it’s a vicious circle. I teach him on the assumption that other kids are going to be nice, when one yesterday told him he wasn’t as cool as another kid, so they left with the ‘cool’ kid, and another one held up his fist in a threat if ds played with them. Maybe this behavior’s allowed at their house, or maybe the parents don’t know, but it’s so hard to teach a kid social skills when their role models aren’t so hot.

So while he’s laying around wrapped in his blankie, home sick today with a lot of congestion, I’m wondering how to help him and what tomorrow will be like. He’s got what he calls “The Master Plan.” He’s going to be ‘cool,’ and kids will like him and leave the kids from yesterday to play with him. For his sake, I really hope it works. (I was just glad we moved on from the point where he wanted to hold his fist up in return, but he does realize that it’s an aggressive response that could get him in trouble so I think we’ll be okay. He’s SO afraid of having to pull a card, especially if he has to go to the bathroom outside of recess/lunch, so I had to let him know that his IEP, or “the meeting Mommy and Daddy have with the principal” says that he can go potty if he needs to, though he’s still supposed to try to use other accepted times as much as is possible. I think that’s preferred for everyone over him having an accident and needing to be walked to the nurse and miss class time for a clothing change, along with the teasing that he’d be at risk for.)

When school first started, social issues were at the top of my List of Worries. (Is it just me, or do we not all have one when our kids are in school?) I worried that he’d not find friends to play with him, and that, like last year, there’d be numerous birthday parties but few invitations. (I’ll save you my rant on how often he’s left out…for now, at least. I’ll probably rant on it at a later date.) I just hoped we’d not have the copious amounts of tears. It breaks my heart, and like we sat last night with him on my lap, I want to protect him every single day. The fact that this is something that’s not tangible and is harder to ‘fix,’ I’m concerned. I think he’s anxious about it all, and I know stress makes his behaviors worse. And the tantrums, anger and yelling have been much worse these last two weeks.

Until the IEP, I’m going to be working on my goals and needs for school, things I want written in the IEP, and possibly have a pre-IEP meeting just for a “this is my son and this is what he does” introduction. (Personally, I think those should be mandatory when a special needs child is placed in inclusion, but who am I.) I hate to be “that mom,” you know, the mom that the teacher sees, wonders if she’s been noticed, and if she hasn’t, wants to turn and hide. But, I can’t send my son off every day wondering if he’s going to be a mess that evening from school-induced stress or social issues that have him convinced he’s entirely unhappy.

In the end, it keeps rolling through my mind that it shouldn’t be this hard to be a kid. What comes more natural than just wanting to play and having friends. Autism is just wrong, and it’s a rare thing that I get mad at it, but right now, I am. Autism steals away some of the normal childhood fun. Sometimes I have to remind myself that just because I think he should do something doesn’t mean he should; if he’s happy not doing it, great. But when he wants to do something, and can’t because nasty autistm-related issues get in the way, it’s just wrong. It really shouldn’t be hard to be a kid.

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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