Like so many other parents when Spring Break is coming to a close they hear the words “I don’t wanna go back. I don’t want to go to school.” Johnny got very emotional if we mentioned school and would yell “no” but who knew the emotions and anxieties of returning to his school routine would spur on more speech.
“Mamma I want to stay here. Mamma I want to stay with baby. I done school.”
This began last Thursday and he also added very clear hand and arm movements like a pantomime to make sure we completely understood what he was saying. Does it sound very clear? The vowels are clearer, he’s saying strong “s” sounds now and if you listen closely you can understand it.
Yesterday I decided not to mention going back to school at all and not do what I usually do and coach and prepare him. I tried to coach Johnny on Saturday and it only led to increased anxiety, having trouble going to sleep and waking up too early. Monday morning when I did our cuddle wake up routine I just said “it was Monday and Daddy was getting ready for work.”
“I want to stay here.”
I decided all I would do is acknowledge that I understood what he wanted and that I would give him lots of extra cuddles. When we went downstairs to have breakfast I could see the waves of anxiety wafting off of him. What does it look like? Johnny is constantly on the move pacing back and forth, hands flapping very fast and his jaw dropping repeatedly as he tries to figure out how to tell me how he is feeling but the anxiety is in the way. He is self-regulating and I just stay calm and smile and don’t say anything. Sometimes words are just too much. After five minutes Johnny decided he is going to tidy his train table and again organizing and cleaning. He is fighting his anxiety and self-regulating. Soon he is ready to eat and is much calmer.
When its time for school we have a little 4×6 dollar store photo album filled with pictures of both of his schools and his buses in the order of an activity schedule to prepare him for his day. As his Daddy went through the pages like we do every school day he said “I want to stay here.” By the end he was smiling and went upstairs easily to get ready but with some worry in his face. When he was all dressed and ready to go I began coaching him for school and what was expected of him.
1) Gentle Hands with your friends.
2) Show the teachers you are listening to them by watching their noses when they are talking.
and the best for last
3) Have lots of fun:)
I asked him who he wanted to take him to the school bus, Momma or Dada. I knew the answer before I asked but I asked anyway. “Dada” I had trouble holding back the tears because I am still not use to hearing Johnny advocate strongly for himself with words.
I watched outside as he held his Daddy’s hand while waiting on the sidewalk. He wasn’t running around the front flower beds trying to find all the garbage and clean up or finding sticks.
He was ready for his school day to being.
* Photo taken by Johnny using iPad
EDIT: For some reason the Autism Support team from the school board decided to make an appearance at his school this morning the first day back to school. I hope all went well but it was the last thing I expected to have happen for a child with autism when he’s getting back to his school routine. I’m guessing the JK teacher was surprised as well as she was also having to deal with them and getting her 24 students back into their classroom routines. Yikes! Then I find out that at his afternoon school one of his teachers he has had for over a year suddenly resigned for personal reasons. The news is surprising and sad but in terms of Autism, I wish when changes happened that both schools gave us a heads up so we could prepare and coach Johnny.