It's official--the school year has begun. I spent the entire day with my phone in my hand and my stomach in my throat, wondering how Ben was going to do and whether I was going to get a call from the school.
I had another meeting with the school psychologist, the principal, and Ben's teacher earlier this week. It was the first time I'd met with his teacher, and so after the psychologist told her that Ben was going to have an IEP for Autism, I started to explain to her some of the struggles that Ben had last year (and the year before). Before I'd gotten through my list, this wonderful teacher stopped me and said, "Now, I don't know if you already know this, but my second son [who is now grown] has Asperger's [a form of Autism, for those of you who don't know]." She continued, "So, I know that every child is unique and Ben's situation won't be exactly like my son's, but I just wanted you to know that I understand." I could have started crying right there. Fortunately, I'm not much of a crier, but you have to imagine the wave of relief that rolled over me when I realized that she's not going to think Ben is just a strange, difficult, "bad" little boy. Better yet, she understands that when he's acting out, he's just trying to communicate that he's in overload mode. Over the course of about 1/2 hour, we strategized all kinds of interventions that we think will help Ben when he's struggling, and as the meeting ended, she encouraged me to bring Ben in early to the school Open House the next day, so she could show him around without the extra chaos of other parents and children.
At the Open House, Ben took to her like chocolate to milk--he immediately asked her to show him all the things in the room that she could. She had the lights at about 3/4 brightness in the room so that the atmosphere was calm. She had created a special spot on the story rug for him that would allow him to have some space away from the other kids if he needed it during rug time; she had his desk set up at the end of the row, nearest her desk, and away from all but one other child on his left--a child she knew would be relatively easy to get along with. She showed him how he can slide his desk to another spot away from the other kids if he starts to feel upset by them. She showed him his special spot to stand (on the top step, in front of the other kids) when lining up in the morning after recess. He heard every word and it was awesome.
And then we went down to my other son Joey's classroom. Bright florescent lights, echoing walls, and loads of other people. Ben sat in the corner with some blocks for about 5 minutes, and then he began throwing chairs onto their backs, slapping strangers on their bottoms and laughing, spinning the teacher's big desk chair, pushing papers off her desk, blowing and spitting in my face when I tried to hold him--total, complete meltdown. And all my euphoria and hopefulness that we'd make it through this year vanished like dew from a too-warmed lawn.
And then it was today. I made sure Ben got his meds, which sometimes work and sometimes don't, plenty early this morning. I got Ben dressed and made his breakfast--the wrong breakfast, he yelled--and then I made the right breakfast (some battles are not worth fighting--not on the first day of school). He shouldered his backpack and dad drove them to school. And I waited, and waited, and waited... and when the school's number showed up on my caller ID about an hour before the school day ended, my heart sank. False alarm--the principal needed some help with the website. To his knowledge, Ben was doing fine.
My dh Chris (who doesn't work on Thursdays) and I drove over to the school and waited for Ben outside when the final bell rang. He appeared, ran into my arms, and exclaimed, "My teacher is funny and crazy!" We went inside and his teacher confirmed that Ben had a great day.
One down, too many to count to go.