Our journey in the Autism Spectrum

Posts tagged ‘mainstream’


I was holding my breath all the way to the school this morning. At least I don’t recall actually breathing. We pulled into the familiar parking lot. The anxious moments for Henry began almost immediately. The lot was littered with cicadas, living and dead. Others buzzed around us. He did not want to get out of the van. With some encouragement from big sister, Molly, he got out and was walking quickly with her. I had Lucy in tow. Once inside I could see Henry relax. That is, until we reached the summer camp classroom. He was well aware that this was not his regular classroom and he stopped short just outside the window looking into the classroom. He tensed up again and didn’t want to go in.

It was here at this point I remember taking a deep breath, saying, “It’s okay, Hen. You can just look in the window while I walk Lucy inside.” As I looked up I saw Miss K, Henry’s language therapist during the regular school year. “Look, Hen, it’s Miss K. See? She’s here in the building just like during school.”

Miss K came over to say hi and offered some words of encouragement to Henry. I don’t know if he even looked at her or heard her words but as Lucy went through the door of the classroom, Henry followed. He made a straight path to the backdoor that opens up to the playground. Lucy found her cubby right away and put her things in and made herself at home. Henry on the other hand was as stiff as a board, not looking at anyone, not talking, not moving. I recognized this typical posturing instantly. Fear. Anxiety. Oh, no, little dude. Please. It’ll be okay. I was able to get him to walk back to me to find his cubby and put his backpack inside. After giving him some time to look around the room and meet his summer camp teachers I told him that I needed to go to get Molly to her camp.

“Henry, I’m going to take Molly to her camp now and she is going to be right in that big building next door. And Lucy is staying here with you and our friend will be here soon too! Did you hear what your teacher said? You guys are going to make paint today!”

I could see right away, the fear and anxiety from the moment we were outside the classroom door. He stands so quiet and still, not moving, not looking at anyone. When I told him I had to leave his eyes got wet with tears and he just kept standing there with barely a perceptible shake of his head, “no”.

“Hey, dude it’s gonna be okay. You’re going to have fun here.” I tried to sound convincing. I smiled at him and hoped he wouldn’t notice the tears I was trying to hold back in my own eyes. I can see and feel the pain of his anxiety!  I offered to walk around the room with him. He walked over to a table that was ready for making paint.

“How do you make that, Mom?”

“I don’t know. You’ll have to listen to your teachers today. They’ll show you. Why don’t you go over to the carpet and they’ll tell you what all you’re going to do today. It will be fun!”

Molly said softly to him, “Yeah, Hen. You’re gonna have lots of fun at your school today. And I really need Mom to take me to camp now so I can have my turn.” (She is attending band camp at the high school that is right next door).

Lucy was checking out the books and things they had on the carpet area with a couple of other kids that were already there. She was being a bit shy and quiet but she was already making her way. When our friend arrived Lucy jumped up to greet her and I could see Henry relax again but only barely. He slowly moved to stand even closer to me…okay, now what? Switch up tactics a bit. A small, desperate fib…

“Hey, Hen, ya know what? Miss B is right down the hall today too! So ya see, Miss K is here and Miss B, just like always. They’re here and Molly will be right next door. Lucy and Ellie are going to be in this room here with you and you guys are going to have fun!” (At this point I guess I am figuring that the more I tell him how much damn fun he is going to have the more he will actually have~yeah, because we all know how well that works!)

He just continued to stand so still, just barely shaking his head but I saw his shoulders loosen and drop when I told him Miss B, one of his pre-school teachers, would be in the building. I just hoped I hadn’t made a mistake in telling him that for fear that he would want to see her. I had no idea if she would be there today or not as summer school doesn’t start until next week. It’s not something I do with him. Lie like that. I felt even worse than I already did as the words tumbled out…in my own anxiety I panicked.

This camp HAS to work. This day camp is set up for mainstream kids. Henry goes to this school but he has been in a special education classroom. We thought it would be good for him to experience a more mainstream situation before he heads to kindergarten in the fall. Mainstream kindergarten in which he doesn’t qualify for a lot of support…this camp is only two half-days a week. Baby steps but steps nonetheless. Please work! Please have fun! Please like this day camp.  Show me that you can learn to adapt and cope and be near regular kids!

“Okay, guys, I’m going now.” Lucy came over to join us in good-byes. I kept my eyes on Henry wondering how this was going to go.

He looked up at me. “Five?” he said quietly. We gave each other a high-five.

“Knucks?” he said. We did our exploding knucks.

“Down?” I leaned down. “Is it Tuesday?”

“Yep, Hen, it’s Tuesday.”

I got my raspberry. Our good-bye ritual wasn’t being done with his usual enthusiasm. It was quiet and subdued but he was going through with it which told me that he was okay with staying or at least he was resigned to it. He did the ritual with Molly.  Lucy has adopted her own version of this ritual so I had to go through that with her as well.

Finally, Molly and I were out the door. We chatted with our friend on the way out of the building as we swatted and danced around the cicadas that were flying around the parking lot. I drove to the back of the campus where I dropped the oldest off for her camp. In the quiet van, alone, I cried as I drove home. Just please have FUN, dammit!

Processing the Twilight Zone (or Kindergarten IEP- Part II)

[Editor’s Note: An alternative, more appropriate title for this post really should be: An Annoying Mother Who Worries Too Much! ~Trust me, I know. I annoy myself!]

School is now officially out for the summer. It’s probably time I just push through this post and get it out there…before summer is over and we enter into a whole other mess of worries and anxieties and issues! This particular blog post has been sitting in my drafts for days and days now. I just haven’t been able to bring myself to fully think through and process the whole thing. I can’t seem to grasp (or don’t want to grasp) the thoughts swirling and spiraling in my head. I am not completely sure why but  my guess is because just thinking about it raises my anxiety. If I think about it too much doubt, worries, fears about whether or not we made the right decisions creep in.  Worrying and second-guessing come naturally to me so I like to avoid and “stuff” all things which I don’t want to deal with…like then maybe it won’t happen. Denial…I could not possibly be sending my son to all-day, mainstream Kindergarten in August where he will ride the bus, eat lunch and be in a class of TWENTY other children with ONE teacher! All. by. himself!

So if you remember, a few weeks back we had Henry’s big Kindergarten Transition IEP. In case you missed it you can read the prequel here. Since that time I have been slowly trying process what transpired. 14 or so individuals (not counting Grant and myself) sitting around two big library tables pulled together was a little intimidating. And when it came to discussions about data and percentages of pull-out versus push-in and weekly minutes in the triple digits….well, my brain shut that part out for fear of vertigo and vomiting. (Some day I hope to write more about my newly self-diagnosed dyscalculia~it has a name!) Anyway, if you asked me now, I would not be able to tell you exactly what even came out of that IEP…that’s how badly I block data and numbers. (Scarier still is that I do the banking and bill paying for our family!)

Anyway, what I do know is that he is roughly getting only about 20% special education help; mostly in language and social/emotional areas. This is good. Right? I think?  Occupational therapy is basically being reduced to only a consultative basis, which is reasonable at this point.

Overall I came away from that (2-hour!) meeting feeling pretty good. Still nervous and anxious about Henry starting mainstream Kindergarten but it wasn’t so horrible. I still  had an appetite afterwards. Not feeling nauseous after an IEP is a good sign for me so the fact that my husband and I enjoyed a very nice lunch afterward was a positive.

What my brain keeps circling back too, and I have said as much to his beloved SSD teacher, is that my little dude looks pretty darn good on paper. Everything we talked about and decided on in the IEP makes sense and seemed reasonable at the time.

But now…the more think about it, what my son is on paper is not what he always is in the classroom and out in real life. And what triggers his autistic traits to come out are generally what are found in the mainstream school setting; the hum of voices in a confined area, many things going on at one time in this setting, many people/classmates moving around him…that buzz or hum causes him to shut down, act out, become noncompliant, meltdown. We have yet to see any real success in this area without one-on-one help. Now I am wondering if I stressed this very real trigger enough to our new team. There was no talk of a para for him. I do remember questioning this at one point where I was “assured” that they would have resources to pull in someone for him if needed.

I have enrolled Henry in a mainstream summer camp starting next week where he will go two half-days a week with his younger sister, in hopes of introducing him to a more mainstream setting. He will also still get two half-days of SSD summer school.

I know I have to let go. I have to raise the bar for my little dude, nudge him. But his anxieties and meltdowns are so painful to watch. I feel them along with him. He generally doesn’t even want to talk about Kindergarten! I anticipate a shaky start, some bumps in the road but I have to believe we will get through it and he will succeed; surpassing my expectations as he is known to do.

For now, I am going to try to take one small step at a time. Henry and I will take these steps together…anxiety and all! We will see how the mainstream camp goes. We will talk about Kindergarten; like it or not. I don’t let him see my anxiety. I don’t let most people see it. Ever. But it is there still just the same as it is in my little dude.

Now I await the letter that will come in the next few weeks telling us who his new Kindergarten teacher will be. And then I will probably worry some more! I haven’t even begun to address my little dude’s social/emotional issues! In between all this worrying I hope to actually enjoy some of this summer…Get ready for us Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher!

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