Beginning and End of Seventh Grade

Today I want to reflect on what was our hope for Em in 7th grade. I want to reflect on how it ended. When school had begun we knew it was going to be a rollercoaster. School always makes our lives interesting. So does Autism, Anxiety, ADHD, and Sensory Processing Disorders.

When 7th grade started, Em got up in the morning. She was totally excited to go to school. She planned out her outfit and how she was going to get through the day. She couldn’t WAIT to be at school. So much so, she was even talking of staying afterschool. I hesitated and told her let’s just see how today goes.

I knew her better. I knew how to read the signs. She was stimming. She was already amped up. She was keyed up. In my heart I think I knew that she would struggle that day. Too soon did I know how right I had been. Sensory overload won another first day of school round. She came home after two and a half hours. It was too chaotic (her words) for her to focus (her words) and she had a headache (her words) to much for her to stay (her words).

After talking with the resource teacher it is chaotic (always is the first day) and loud (very loud as I could hear it was loud on the phone with them) and we think that if we had forced her to stay (as I’d offered initially to bring ibuprofen up before the true issue came to light from Em) we thought it would bring about a complete meltdown and she’d have shut down. Triggered by sensory overload and high anxiety and it wouldn’t have been a pretty sight.

That is why I always make sure someone is home all day (me for sure in the morning) the first day of school. After talking briefly with her resource teacher, future IEPs we need to consider an option that will have her there for half days on first day of school or at least taking each first day of school as it comes. She didn’t make it the first day last year either. In fact, I’m not sure if she managed any first days as full days.

We put into place a resource room to give her an option for a quiet place for her to go too. Normally her resource room IS a quiet place for her to regroup. But first days tend to be chaotic on all fronts. There are kids adjusting like Emelie and asking lots of questions. The plan offered to her was I’d bring her ibuprofen and she’d hang out in resource in the quieter areas but she was escalating. I’ve learned to listen for key words and tones as red flags and that day I heard some of those red flags and her resource teacher saw the red flags she’s picked up on from Em from working with her. Therefore a tough call was made to allow her to come home, with the expectation that she was aware that the rest of the week, she was to STAY at school.

 I’m just fortunate that we have a school and teachers that overall work with us. Yet her resource teacher is one of the few that understands how it all seems to Em on days like that. The lights. The noise. The incessant chatter and lockers slamming. Kids yelling to other kids they haven’t seen all summer. New routines. New classrooms and teachers. And that’s what I can think of off the top of my head. It takes so much out of her to hold herself together and cope with these things. It saps her energy. She is mentally and physically and emotionally drained. And it shows.

Frankly, I’ll be honest I HATE the idea of her having to coming home. Yet, I’d rather have her here than in a meltdown or more where it’s something that has escalated to a fight or flight situation. Transitions are always hard. Eventually it slowly comes to a point that she will thrive. It’s just an adjustment time for her at school. And at home too.

We had a hope for the year. Then enter in the teachers. Most of them she found a way to work with. Some of them she even came to utilize as a great resource for her. Some of them, made the year so bad, that we didn’t know how to move forward. Going into the summer we were discouraged. Em had 2 teachers that crushed her spirit and another 2 teachers that she struggled to communicate with. She hated school. She felt alone. She felt like she had very few friends. She spent more time crying and sleeping than interacting and laughing. We missed her smile, a lot.

The last semester was fraught with migraines and stomach aches that were brought on by the anxiety of certain classes and teachers. There was an insecurity that none of us could bring her out of. We even tried to up her anxiety medications. She didn’t like how it made her feel so we had to back them back down.

Emelie walked out of school early on the last day, missing the 8th grade promotion ceremony for a few of those few people she deemed as friends. One she really had wanted to attend. By the time school let out, we were concerned for what this year would bring.

This summer we expected chaos. We knew change was in the forecast. What we didn’t expect, was the change that happened and the catalyst that caused it. Emelie still has a long road ahead of her. But there is more hope now than ever before. We’ve never given up HOPE for more, for better, for help for Em. We just sometimes lose sight of that hope for a moment in the foggy moments of life.

Life threw us a curve ball and we were still swinging. Always swinging. 

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