I thought I was prepared for this year. But I don’t think anyone can be truly completely prepared.
The days leading up to the beginning of school had me on edge.
I felt very triggered by many little moments, and my emotions crescendoed when I drove past the police officer (police car ironically wrapped with “Autism Awareness” art) who had initiated my child’s Baker Act.
I took my own advice and made arrangements to meet with all of my child’s teachers before the year began. They graciously stayed through part of their lunch break in a day packed with meetings to give me an opportunity to highlight my family’s care for our child, my child’s strengths, and special concerns. The school administrator who has taken point with my family accompanied me and had already explained the circumstances of last year and why this meeting was so important.
At orientation to pick up his schedule, my son seemed more relaxed than he had been the previous year. Adults greeted him kindly and he lit up, giving special “secret handshakes” and grinning at some of his favorites. He showed me where all of his classes were, negotiated an elective with his guidance counselor and waited patiently in line for final sign off and planner assignment.
The vice around my heart eased a little.
The first day of 8th grade passed uneventfully.
The first week of school, I waited for a phone call about his behavior. And it came–from a teacher notifying me of the remarkable growth he is showing.
My son filled in his planner every day. He was doing homework. He had me sign the class syllabi and other forms. We offered him an end of the week reward to continue using his planner, and he earned the (appropriate) movie rental of his choice.
I attended his school’s Open House last night, braced for the sympathetic glances and platitudes.
Instead, every single staff person–from administration to teachers–had positive comments on my son’s demeanor, attitude and behavior.
This was such a moment of grace for me.
The relief flowed over me and as I recall this wonderful evening, I am undone.
Reflecting upon what has changed, I realize that last year was stressful for all of us. A disastrous and traumatic first day coupled with missing the first 3 weeks of school catapulted my son into daily uncertainty.
He had missed the typical instructional season of instilling routines and rules into the students–step by step building of the notebooks, navigating early friendships and use of planners. He had to learn the rules and consequences and he had to learn to trust the adults at his new school.