School and Transition

It’s that time of year again. Back to school. I’m actually not one of those moms who can’t wait for summer to end and school to begin. Not because I don’t want the peace and quiet I’ll get those few days I’m actually off of work, but rather because I hate the 4-6 weeks it takes for Em to transition to a new routine.

Kids on the spectrum often need loose structure. Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? The theory and reality is that they need a routine and structure, knowing what to expect and when to expect it. The “loose” part of it is the knowing of how to shift gears at a moment’s notice due to a sensory overload or their inability to cope in that moment. It’s about knowing how to read them so that you can get them back on track quickly by bringing them to a regrouping moment and moving forward when possible.

Emelie has had a schedule this year that gave her freedom to address and adjust to changes in the upcoming school year. Seventh grade is a tough year for even the best of us. So we took lots of time discussing how the schedule was changing and which teachers we knew weren’t going to be there this year. We talked about the parts of her schedule that we did know, like we know she’s better in the morning than afternoons so we tried to keep her core classes in that time period but unfortunately her least favorite class (physical education) is either going to be first thing in the morning or late afternoon. Last year, late afternoon didn’t work. While I’m still waiting to see the finished schedule, I’m pretty sure that it will fall first thing in the morning.

Sometimes when looking at schedules for our kids, we have to pick what feels like the lesser of two evils because of the necessity of it all. We have to be open to changing the things that we find not working. It’s about fine tuning for the first duration of the transition. Seeing first if it’s defiance or if it’s truly and issue that we need to resolve. When given non preferred activities our kids sometimes act out, shut down, start to stim, or their anxiety will kick in. It can be one thing or a combination of them.

We get passionate and fight for our kids needs. Sometimes we end up with a team that is working with us. Other times, we feel our parenting has to take a proactive role and “fight” the system to get our children the tools they need. Sometimes they are temporary tools to assist with adjustment and transitions. Other times it’s long term goals we are looking at. We want our children to succeed. We don’t want them to feel limited by a label.

Labels and diagnosis’ help us get them what they need but they do not define them. Sometimes we need to remind our children. Sometimes we need to remind the people working with them and sometimes we even need to take a step back and remind ourselves.

So as I watch the pictures of the first day of school go up ~ which I will be doing too ~ in the back of my head is the reminder that this is the start of another period of reminding Em of coping skills, fatigue from holding it together and wonder as to where the year will lead her and a wonder how the transition will go this year. And I know I’m not alone.

 

Jennifer Dirks

 

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