Two weeks ago I had that awkward moment when my child comes off the school bus and he’s not dressed appropriately. It’s absolute torrential rain outside, the wind is blowing, it’s busy, other kids are trying to get off the bus along with other children coming from other schools are crowding the sidewalk. I look up through my water drenched eyes and I see my son who has Autism, his raincoat is not zipped up and in fact it’s barely on him and the big rain boots that I put on him in the morning are not on his feet but his running shoes are. My daughter on the other hand who is only four and in kindergarten has her rain coat and boots on. As I help my him off the bus, I ask my son where is his boots are and he says “they are in my backpack.” I assume that everyone was rushing for the bus but it still doesn’t excuse the fact that it’s cold out and Johnny is just getting better from a nasty cold and he’s not dressed appropriately for the weather. He’s no longer on the small school bus reserved for special education children that drops children off at their front door but rather he’s getting off the big long school bus two blocks from his house.
I luckily have an umbrella and I help him get down to the sidewalk with his little sister. Its raining a lot which means there’s lots of big puddles for him to play in. The rule for our house is that if you have boots on you can jump in the puddles but “no boots no puddles.” After a busy day at school it’s fun for him to engage in sensory activities that help him let loose and counteract everything that happened during the day. If it’s raining out I like to take advantage and let him jump in the puddles and just enjoy. The French expression “la joie de vivre” or the joy of living. But can you imagine what happened as I’m trying to walk him home in the downpour and he’s wearing his sneakers and he knows he can’t jump in the puddles and he tries to but I stop him so he doesn’t get a soaker because he’s just getting over a cold? He’s getting upset saying he wants his boots on so he can jump and I don’t blame him. So I decide to say to heck with it and find a big old maple tree to hide under and open his bag to quickly to exchange his footwear. But it’s to no avail because his boots are not there. He trusted that one of his teachers or his EA would have remembered to shove them in his bag before they raced for the bus. I wish they could see his face because they would never forget to help him again.
Everyone makes mistakes and forgets but at the same time I find that when Johnny is doing so amazingly well that folks that work with him forget that he is Autistic and faces some daily living challenges. One of these is forgetting to bring some things home and not being able to get all of his gear on properly. So I wrote the staff a letter explaining this after I took many deep breathes and calmed myself. I reminded them that Johnny may be 7 and he is learning life skills but at the same time he might always have trouble tying his own shoes or forget to tie them so he might always need assistance in this small thing but he can’t let that slow him down. I mentioned Jacob Barnett who is a teenager with Aspergers and who used to be non-verbal but is busy being a young genius who often resorts to wearing sandals because he forgets to tie his sneakers up. Read here: http://www.autismspectrumconnection.com/blogs/openforum/jacob_barnett_at_the_perimeter_institute
Let’s face it, Johnny has come a long way in a relatively short time and is surprising everyone each and every day as he pushes forward. As he learns to read, speak more clearly, socialize, and be more independent can someone just help him if he forgets to tie his shoes, zip up his coat or prompt him to put on his boots? I don’t think its a lot to ask especially since every minute, of every hour of every day at school they are asking Johnny to do so much.