Summer’s over – Back to school

Last year’s back to school was easier.

It was kindergarten, so you’d think I would be more nervous about it. But we’d sold our house and we were moving – RIGHT BEFORE THE START OF SCHOOL – so I didn’t have time to be nervous about how things would go, what the year would bring, how my son would do?

How would his Autism affect him in the classroom?

As it was, it was a pretty decent year. Everyone was learning how to behave in school. The color code for behavior (blue, yellow, orange, purple, red) fluctuated pretty heavily for DS in the first half of the year, but by the end of the year we’d gone from a rainbow of color to a sea of blue and yellow. DS was proud, mommy and daddy were proud. The teacher was very responsive, the OT was helpful, the Speech Pathologist was helpful, and we worked as a team to make things work for DS, as well as for the teacher and the other students.

Summer time comes along and I get nervous again. There’s a summer day camp that DS will be attending and I want things to go smoothly. But the counselors are not teachers, they’re not trained with any real special ed knowledge. My guy has an “invisible” disability – he has great language skills and academic skills, but his COMMUNICATION/SOCIAL/BODY LANGUAGE skills are the roadblocks he has to navigate around. They are subtle and can trip him up quickly.

My big fears? How would he do? How would they treat him? Would he have fun or would it all just be “work” for him? He loves people, he’s such a social butterfly – how would it all work out? Would they help him over the bumps or would he flounder alone?  DS is 6, a young but TALL 6 – people think he’s 8, so sometimes they expect much more mature behavior than he is capable of.

I went into “Education Mode” – googling, assembling info, tweaking, summarizing as much simple, useful info about Autism and Sensory Seeking that I could find. I tried to make it as easy to read as possible and passed it on to the Camp Management people. They were REALLY happy to get it, which was such a relief and a joy. They have kids that they know need a little extra, they know there are kids out there on the spectrum that aren’t “obvious”, as well as those that obviously need help. They were happy that I took the time to give them the info, that I took the time to talk to the counselors and gave them “cliff notes” to make things easier for them to help DS enjoy his time with them.

It went well – not perfectly, but well. The camp schedule that matched school and daycare hours got us through the summer. The counselors  let me know about challenges, I talked to them about strategies, I talked to DS about the challenges he faced and we talked about strategies to help him. He enjoyed it.

Now 1st grade is here and I’m freaking out a bit. We have a year of school related challenges, successes, and not–so-successful periods under our belts, and I’m worried for him. Most of the worries are just like any mom. Will he do well, will he have friends? Will his teacher understand him? Will she see how special and wonderful he is – the joy he brings with him?

But there are worries that moms of NT (neuro-typical) kids don’t have. Will the fact that he doesn’t quite “get it” about how to interact with the kids – that those rules that everybody “knows” weren’t in the “handbook” he was givenborn with – will that get in the way? Will the kids just think he’s weird, or annoying? Will he be the outsider or will someone see how sweet he is, how much he enjoys everything? Do we let the kids know that his brain works differently? Will that help if they understand the WHY (in an age-appropriate way of course) behind the different?

So I hit google for strategies, I emailed DS’s team, I found some tools. I’m feeling much better now. I kept my nerves away from DS because he’s a sensitive kid and doesn’t need my nerves on top of his. He doesn’t LOVE school, nor does he HATE it, but it was challenging and he remembers that. He remembers his color changing and worries that he’ll have a hard time. Hopefully we can discover what strategies will get him “in the zone”. Academically he’s pretty advanced, so I’m hoping that the challenge of first grade will keep him engaged because it is MORE challenging than kindergarten.

I just want him to find his groove, to be comfortable in his own skin, to find friends that “get” him. He’s always going to be different. As his mom, I want him to embrace that difference and work with it. I want to work with his teachers so they “get” it and work with the different.

I don’t know if it’s too much to ask, but there it is.

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