I’m having a “heavy” day. It didn’t start out that way…as I crept up the stairs quietly this morning after my treadmill work-out, I heard Tate and Jake playing in their room. There were giggles. There was playful banter. It made me feel light, airy, and as if things were all right.
We all came downstairs, and Tate started to script about his teacher. He spent most of the time as he tried to fall asleep last night doing the same thing. She’s out for another 3 weeks due to medical complications/condition/crisis. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for her to be dealing with whatever she’s dealing with. And as a special education teacher, she has the added stress of knowing how much her absence impacts each of those kids…all differently. Tate is working through it. He did great the first two days back at school, but I think the reality of the absence of his teacher is really hitting him. I let him script, and I started to lose that light, airy feeling from earlier.
As we ate breakfast, Hubz started to chat up the boys about Science Night. See, our PTO is sponsoring a Science Night at the school. Hubz is planning on taking Jake and Cole. Tate might be up for it…or might not. He’ll be a game-time decision. Hubz was trying to talk it up to the boys this morning. My engineer husband lives for science. Jake, who typically loves science, started to poo-poo the idea of attending the science night. A cloud covered his face. His body language changed. He started to put up a few barriers. For Jake, Friday night means putting on pj’s, watching a bit of TV and eating some snacks with all of us at home. Hubz tried a different approach…showed him a few pictures of some of the experiments that will be done in the presentation. Jake conceded to going, but he’s not excited about it. He then perseverated on it the rest of the morning. Tried to convince us that he was excited to go. (More like trying to convince himself that it’s going to be fun.) Cole is game for anything. I know he’ll love it. I felt a bit heavier.
During car pool this morning, the kids were talking excitedly about being able to get outside and enjoy the snow over the weekend. Depending on how much rain we get, there should still be enough snow for the kids to fashion into forts and snowmen and snowballs, etc. Jake made a little squeak sound that he tends to use when he’s genuinely excited. Upon that squeak, the neighbor boy fished for Jake’s attention. He made sure to tell Jake that his sister (who was sitting next to Jake and is Jake’s age), yelled at him (the neighbor boy) the other day in their mini-van for making “weird noises like Jake”. Our neighbor boy made sure to tell Jake that his sister said it is annoying and very weird. Jake got quiet and started to ramble, as he does when he’s embarrassed. Our neighbor girl turned a nice shade of crimson and hit her brother. She tried to back-track with Jake, and he mumbled that it was ok. (But I know it wasn’t.) I asked them to all be considerate of each other and be nice. I wished them a good day and as Jake kissed my cheek goodbye, I had to look away so he didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The heaviness started to weigh on my heart.
Once I dropped Cole off at preschool, I did a quick Target run. I needed a few toiletries, and wanted to get a couple “active” clothing items while they were still on sale. As I was checking out, my phone began to ring. It was the school. As I answered the phone, the boys’ school social worker first let me know that there was no emergency (so that at least calmed my heart-rate down), but also wanted to know that she had Tate in her office. He was using A LOT of “potty” talk AND was echolalic with the word “guns”. It had been going on since he was in bus line this morning. My heart sunk…ugh. She said that the moment he walked into the school (where there is a picture of a gun with a “ghostbuster” sign over it because of the new concealed-carry law in our state that allows people to have concealed weapons on their person…just not in a school), he started saying, “No guns” constantly. Every time he said it he got a reaction. It was a vicious cycle. They took him to see the principal. He had to talk with her. (I can only imagine how that went.) Then he went to the social worker’s office, and they did his social story about expected language at school..and expected behavior. He calmed down and regulated, so she wanted to call me to let me know what had happened, and to let him talk to me.
Tate struggles with the phone and conversation. But he did tell me he was sorry he said potty words. And then he said, “Mommy, I can’t say “guns” or “no guns”. I need to try something else.” Well, at least the social story stuck with him. I asked if he was feeling ok. He said, “Yes I am.” I asked if he wanted to stay at school. He said, “Yes I do!”. So, I chatted briefly with the social worker. We agreed that the absence of his teacher is really hard for him. We also agree that he REALLY, REALLY wants to have the attention of his peers. Unfortunately, social situations and interactions are difficult for him, so when he’s already overloaded (as he is with the absence of his teacher AND the getting back into school routine), he falls back onto reactionary measures to get any type of attention. And it works.
Thankfully the social worker gets it. She is going to work with the class a bit more closely. They are all out of sorts. She’s going to work with Tate on conversation and attention starters that have some more positive connotations…and hopefully he can use those in his toolbox to interact with his peers. She’s also trying to figure out how to get rid of the signs..or a work-around them because we know that they have to be there legally.
And now, I feel quite heavy. I’m pushing through the heaviness…I am. But I am also allowed to feel it and to let it speak to me. I am using it to try to understand the “why” behind my children’s behavior. And it is helping me formulate some reaction to today’s events. It really is.
P.S. The more I think about it, the more I am irritated that Tate had to talk to the principal. Seriously, he’s not saying the word to be naughty or to be a menace to society. He is anything but that. He is truly using the words to provoke reactions from his peers so that he can interact with them. He needs guidance with navigating the social waters at school. And they need to take those damned pictures of guns down. Because, really, when it comes down to it, my autistic son, and others, have been taught to respond to visual cues their entire lives. You can’t put a picture like THAT up on EVERY.SINGLE.ENTRANCE of a school and expect kids NOT to have a reaction. For seriousness’ sake!!!!