So far, the first little bit of school is going better than I expected.
Better than I anticipated.
Better than I hoped.
Better than I dared to ever dream.
Seriously, you guys.
Because Sept 1 was the first day of school, and in Autism Land, that's a really big deal. To start something as profound as returning to school, on the first day of the month. Really. And it was risky because it was a Thursday, but it's not as bad as starting a week on a Tuesday, which was the next week, and that had the potential to be a clusterfuck, especially had it been a full moon, but, fortuitously, it wasn't. The full moon is today Sept 16 (they got an app for that!).
I originally requested that Nathan return to school part time, 3 days a week, from 7:45 until about noon. He and I had discussed it numerous times and this is what he and I agreed to, so when I met with the principal, this is what I negotiated on his behalf, and it felt right. It's important to test the waters and not feel unnecessary pressure to jump right back in. And, as he and I discussed, I was going to be in the classroom with him until he and I agreed that he could manage on his own. Baby steps. If he felt he could handle more days and time at school, everyone was going to support that decision; but the decision was to be Nathan's.
So, on the first day, which everyone starts on the first day of school, even if you're a part-timer, and even if you're special needs...when I asked him around noon how he was doing, he said good. And then I asked him if he wanted to stay or to go, and he said stay. And so we stayed. For the whole day. Until 2 pm. Six hours and 15 minutes, of partying. Right? And seeing friends and strangers and so many different faces and lots of stimulation and thank the Sweet Baby Jesus for the Bite Saber that I found on line and ordered which happens to be IN HIS FAVORITE COLOR because, clearly, divine intervention made the owners of ARK Therapeutic decide that forest green be "Xtra Xtra Tough, recommended for more avid chewing.
These are the most firm and provide the most resistance to the jaw. No
chew tool is indestructible, but these are very tough." For the kid who chews holes in his shirts, you get the XXT I'm not gonna let you down AFA* Chew Stick. And I got one that looks like a Lego (but they call it a Brick Stick) because seriously, I don't know if he wants a smooth surface or a bumpy surface. And he said he liked both when we looked at them together; done. And on the first day of school, he chewed the fuck out of that Bite Saber. Best money spent. After school, I did see a few more seizures than I would've liked too...but not nearly as many as I saw after we went to the movies and saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater.
On the second day of school, Friday, he was chewing and chewing and chewing on his Bite Saber and walking down the hall, and one of Isaac's classmates came out of the classroom, and started walking with us in the hall. I introduced them and the kid said "what's that in your mouth?" And Nathan said, "A Bite Saber" without taking it out of his mouth, and the kid understood what Nathan said, because then the boy said "what's it for?" and Nathan goes "chewing" and the kid said, "but why do you have it?" and Nathan said "because it helps me feel better."
And that was it. The kid didn't bat an eye. Like totally normal interaction, not a big deal, it's cool that you're chewing in it.
I was pretty impressed with what I had witnessed.
Because my son had a verbal exchange with a kid he had never seen before. And they went back and forth several times in the conversation. It's like THREE sentences for my kid. Which, before we had several major life experiences in the last 18 months, my kid would have looked at me to answer the kid. Would have looked at me to say whatever variation of "it's ok to talk to him" not because he's scared...but because he lacked the confidence. And seeing a child's confidence build...amazing.
And the other piece that was awesome was that the kid was cool about dealing with something different. And this gives me hope.
On both days, Nathan and I went out to recess at the same time as Isaac's class. It was one of the things I discussed with both of the boys; and it's important to me as a parent that my kids are together, and have access to each other during the day. I've made special requests on behalf of my ADA kid, and they are being met. On Friday, Nathan chose to stay until 2 pm also, which was really exciting, and really exhausting, too. Because I'm in a heightened state of awareness while I'm with him; I can only imagine the amount of cortisol running around in our brains...I try to not perserverate on it.
Labor Day weekend was ok...we mostly laid low and tried to just be together. We tried to help Daddy feel better...and give him as much space as he needs...as he recovers from his own Cancer Adventure.
On Monday evening, I was starting to prepare the boys...Isaac would be going to school the next day, and the plan was that Nathan was going to stay home and go to Hapkido. The plan changed very quickly when Nathan said, "Mom I want to go to school tomorrow." And, I'm not gonna say no! RIGHT?!?! So, I emailed his teacher and the principal letting them know the change of plans, and they were completely supportive. So, he went all four days the second week; and he stayed from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. He ate lunch; he played on the big playground for morning recess and for recess after lunch, he plays on the special needs playground, and I'm fine with it because Nathan will have a foot in the neurotypical world, and a foot in the disabled world. Inclusion is a HUGE issue in the disabled world; and of course I want my kid to be included...but I don't want it to come at a cost that is exhausting for him, or me or the other members of my family. We've been through enough.
Nathan's doing great. Seriously better than I ever expected him to. He's enjoying himself. He's happy. He's learning. He's making his own decisions. He's tired. He hasn't really melted down. I have. A lot. But Sweet Jesus, I'm a hot fucking mess on a good day...but I'm also doing the best I can. Isaac has rolled right back into the routine. I am thankful that he loves everything about school: learning, being with friends, recess, math, library time, math, music, math, math, and more math. And, it helps that his teacher, Mrs. N, has Legos in the classroom and that they get to create written stories using the Legos.
The only thing left to do is prep for my own class; school starts for me on Monday. I'll be teaching my basic Health class online. Yes, Randy will be teaching two online math courses. He needs to keep his head in the game.
This weekend, we'll go to the annual picnic that PDMA has. And after that, we are planning on laying low. The first rains are coming...and we'll likely bake some chocolate chip cookies with pecans and watch movies.
*AFA: Ain't fucking around