Hello, Doom! Welcome Back to School

John is a gentle soul. I don’t just say this because I’m his mom — anyone who has ever met him says it too. He’s so easy-going, a sweetie, a love.

This week he came home from school with the word “aggressive” attached to his day. As in “John became aggressive and needed two of us to restrain him.” 

My heart sank, I immediately went into fight mode. I knew it! I thought, he’s in the wrong placement, with a new teacher who doesn’t get him, who can I call, what can I do? Must call an IEP meeting! He’s never been aggressive, doom, doom, doom.

I rifle around for phone numbers, the teacher’s, the autism office, the principal. Oh my god, who do I call to protest this word attached to my boy? I tried to picture Aggression and John in the same thought and came up empty. Sure, there’s the body-dropping when he really, really, really doesn’t want to go in to the house/store/party. There’s the whine and the Are you okay? when he protests the potty or bed time. He’s never hit me or another child. He used to bite Sam on occasion, but to be honest, Sam usually provoked it.

I call the school, ask for the teacher. Stew, wait on the line. She’s gone for the day. I call the autism office and get a number out of order. Stew, fume, tap feet. Find number for someone in Dept. of Ed and just as I’m pondering whether to make the call, Twins Dad calls me. He barely says hello before I’m falling all over myself, The injustice! Can you believe it? WTF, who do I yell at?

Because he’s the rational one most of the time, he talks me down, says it’s very possible that John could have lashed out — first week of school with a new teacher after three months of little routine. Transitions. Hello? Suggests I send an email with my concerns to the teacher, copy autism office, ask for just a little more detail since we don’t often see this word and John together.

Oh. Well, that makes sense. I stop, take a breath and write 26 different versions of an email asking for more information and wait. And wait. And wait. I wait until 10 p.m. and decide it might be a little unrealistic to expect a response now. Go to bed and fret about John’s whole year (of course I do, because if I didn’t, what would I do instead — sleep? Don’t be crazy, people).

The next morning the phone rings. His teacher. His new teacher who I’ve already decided to not like. She tells me what transpired. He was on the computer. He loves the computer! I think to myself. And he did not want to stop playing on the computer. Oh, I think, I could see that. So we told him we’d be moving on to another activity and gave him a warning. Hmm…I wonder how that went. He body dropped. Yes, I can picture it. Then he started flailing and scratching me. He tore my badge and my necklace. I had to ask for help to restrain him. Oh, baby, were you that mad? I can see it. Almost.

And then, just as I’m starting to hyperventilate on the other end, my mind already going down a path to Behavior Modification Plan, his teacher, the new teacher I’ve already decided not to like, says “I think he’s just testing me to see what he can get away with since I’m new to him.” And I start to thaw a little. “Please don’t worry, I’m sure this is just part of his transition back to school,” and I release my breath. I might start liking her.

(Just a little bit, though)

Because this business of being his advocate, of making sure he’s getting the best, the most appropriate education, feels huge. Often. I worry that if I don’t stay on top of it at all times I’m letting him down, I’m not doing enough. I’ve always been a fight or flight type of gal, and I see now that learning how to pick my battles while letting a lot of it go is my biggest challenge.

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  • Oh, this really, really strikes a chord with me today. I had myself all wound up about the ratio in Greg’s class…what should I do to get another aide, special ed in TX is horrible, and on and on (all going on in my head after too much coffee)
    Then his teacher called me, and I feel so much better! You just get so used to fighting for everything, it’s hard to relax when things are actually going okay. Especially when they can’t come home and describe their day to you, it really is a big responsibility, and once in a while it sends me off the deep end.
    John’s teacher sounds like she has a good attitude, which makes such a big difference!

  • Oh no! That would have done me in! Not just the aggressive part of it but the idea that someone was restraining my boy. This is a very big deal to me and I can only imagine how upset you must have been!! I hope to hear more good things about John’s teacher and I’m sending him all the positive vibes for a good school year ahead!!

  • Yes. Just yes. My son is in a special pre-school, and they are great. They are totally preparing him to be mainstreamed at some point. And, I’m excited but totally terrified. Right now, he is in a place with teachers that totally “get it” and him. If he has a day where he hits or yells or won’t sit down, they redirect, they refocus, they understand. What will happen when his teachers aren’t trained to deal with autism, and his peers are neuro-typical. I sometimes wish he could just stay in pre-school forever. I worry every single day about the job I’m doing as an advocate for him.

  • I stumbled upon your blog and had to join your followers and say hello! I have autistic triplets! They are 16 years old, non-verbal and …well, you can just imagine my life, right? haha. Come say hi!

  • Seriously, I feel so not alone reading this. Andrew hasn’t started yet. He starts on Tuesday, but I just found out today that he is not with the teacher who I expected he would be, the one I observed last June and loved and was so looking forward to teaching him this year. But instead he is with a new young inexperienced teacher who has been described to me by other parents as someone who is very nice, but would be better at being a co-teacher or a regular ed teacher. I am already not liking her too. And you know the summer we have been having. I am so afraid of what his year will be now and he hasn’t even started. I am getting in fight mode already too. Let’s fight together for our boys 😉

  • We’re in that transition world now, too. And the roller-coaster of learning to trust new people, or play musical teachers until we find one that works, is enough to drive me to drink, especially since we now have new behaviors we can connect to a poor summer placement. Sending lots of hugs for you, for the transitioning fellow, and for everybody working hard to keep school a positive and productive place for us all to be. Cheers.

  • What a great beginning to a new school year — NOT! It’s so hard to know when we should jump in and when we should let things play themselves out. It sounds like the teacher is recognizing John’s need to get comfortable, but it’s so hard to know what’s right. We are also adjusting to a new teacher and are waiting to see how the transition goes. I hope things get better quickly and John gets comfortable with his new routines and people in his life.

  • I started to feel that familiar belly-on-fire, heart-madly-rushing, nervous anticipation as I read this post.

    Yup, sometimes I don’t know whether I’m gearing up to fight a teacher (or administrator, or doctor) or whether I have to fight against my own parental insecurities.

    Best of luck to you and John. XOXO.

  • Hey there,

    I was with you every moment of the post. Thanks so much for giving your internal blow by blow. Particularly talking to the teacher. I’ll admit to getting some very warm fuzzies from that and I hope hope hope she’s as good as gold.

    Incidentally, I’ve started a blog (fairlingtonblade.blogspot.com) and will be talking about our twins. We kinda think that Primo might be on the spectrum (Asperger’s if it’s true). So, it’ll be fun to talk about our experiences. I’ll link over as soon as I figure out how to do that kind of thing.

    Cheers,

    Paul

  • I so hear you. Every single word. Especially about the “what would I do otherwise? Sleep?” right… Sleep is for the… well, someone else, apparently!

    I hope it works out.

    love.

  • I’m in the same boat. And we haven’t even started yet. For the first time ever, I don’t know my son’s teachers. And I know I have to let go and trust and assume they will do right by him… but damn it’s so hard, isn’t it?

    I live in constant fear of the aggression–and I’m not even sure that’s really what it is. But my son’s first instinct is to defend his place or his needs or simply the thing he wants right then. School is our hard place. The source of 120% of my worry and concerns.

    Nice to know I’m not alone in this.

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