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.