September 10th, 2010

When Mommies Cry

Becca Sanders

Yesterday was the open house at H.’s school, the time for turning in paperwork, finding your child’s classroom, labeling and organizing school supplies and eating ice cream. In this two-hour period, every student, at least one parent, and 14 siblings show up at the school in a seething horde.

Given H.’s fear of noise, crowds, and chaos it was – perhaps predictably – a disaster.

Despite my careful preparation, including a pre-departure snack, bathroom break, and pep-talk (“We get to meet your new teacher! Hurray!!”), H. was soon in tears. It was our bad luck as well to enter the door at the opposite side of the school from his new classroom. As we jostled through the crowds of kids, I was reminded of business trips years ago, where any connecting flight I took was bound to be at gate Z, leaving me to sprint through terminal after terminal, upstream, in heels.

But I wasn’t pulling a 75-pound, weeping autistic boy in my wake.

By the time we got to the classroom, I was in tears. H., out of desperation, bit me in the arm, then shrieked, startling the other kids and parents. The teacher came up to me, put her arm around me, and said, “You know I chose H., don’t you? I asked for him to be in my classroom. It’s ok. Just do what you can. It’s no big deal.”

I nodded dumbly and looked away, knowing that if I saw her sympathetic face I would be even more of a blathering mess. I grabbed H.’s hand and we ducked out a side door to the parking lot. H. soon recovered and was smiling, relaxed, and ready to go home. But I was still a mess.

In retrospect, I am angry at both myself and the school: myself, because this is our third year of such events, and it’s been a trial each time. Didn’t I learn anything from years one and two? With some things, we work step-by-step to help H. conquer his anxiety: go to the store for just a couple items, go to a crowded space and stay for a few minutes. In the school functions like this one, it’s go or not go: there’s no bite-sized piece to work on. We should have chosen “not go.”

I’m frustrated at the school because these events are too overwhelming for some kids, and not just kids like H. Even typical kids who are a little on the quiet side, more easily intimidated, might find the mad rush to be completely overwhelming. Could the school do K-2 in one time slot, 3-5 in another? Could there be a “special” time for special kids?

I don’t know what the ultimate solution is, but I’m on a mission. It’s my goal to make H.’s school – excellent though it is – more accommodating for H. and other kids like him, one step at a time.

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This Weeks Tip

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