…and we know it.
For the past week or so I’ve had this R.E.M. tune in my head to these alternate lyrics.
For the past two weeks we’ve been managing the end of the year.
Yes, the end of the school year is certainly an exciting time – but it also comes with a heightened level of anxiety.
For our special education teachers….
It’s pure chaos. The end of the year is filled with assemblies, celebrations, and field trips. While these events are fun for most students and teachers – they are not fun for those of us in the spectrum world. While Tucker has grown in his ability to deal with the chaos, there was a time…
- A time where every assembly had to be discussed in great detail at least a week before – and then every day until the assembly happened.
- A time where special seating was required at an assembly in case it was too much (which it often was).
- A time when an aide simply stayed with him in his comfortable environment.
- A time when field trips required social stories.
- A time when celebrations created more chaos than what was manageable.
Why? Here are just four reasons…
- Alternate schedules
- Sensory overloads
- New people and faces
- Different food
I was reminded of this a couple of weeks ago. Every year the students in our middle school spend part of a day engaging in community service. They may clean up a park, pick up trash, or help an elderly person. I saw Tucker’s former Special Education teacher that morning and asked her how it was going…I knew the day simply added stress to her already stress-filled day.
She replied, ‘Oh. Okay. I think I’m ready. I have a back-pack full of chew toys so now one tries to eat a branch. I have snacks. I have water bottles. I have band-aids. I have extra clothes. I have kleenex. I have everything I think I could need.’ We laughed because this is most certainly her reality. These special education teachers go into ‘work more’ mode – more planning ahead, more putting out fires, more talking, more of everything.
For our children…
I know most children love to be done with school. My son is not a huge fan of summer break. Sure, he is a fan of not ‘learning’ during the summer – but it’s the other stuff he misses.
School provides schedule
School provides structure
School provides more adult interaction
School provides forced social interaction
School provides iPads and assistive technology
Although it’s the end of the year – to these children it can feel like the end of the world. What will they fill their days with? What will they do? What does next year look like? There is so much uncertainty.
From the National Autistic Society’s article, Change: preparing a person with Autism,“A person with an ASD thrives on being in a familiar environment with routine and structure,” While children (like Tucker) may not enjoy the ‘school’ part of school they take comfort in the structure. They know what is going to happen as well as when and where and why. This helps children with autism feel safe. When that predictable environment disappears, their anxiety rises. This rise in anxiety can cause meltdowns – which is simply a communication tool to tell us that they are not feeling safe.
I may not be like most parents, I LOVE summer break. I love having my children home. I actually dislike it when they go back to school. I love getting to spend more time with them…but it does add a certain level of anxiety.
Years ago my mom gave me a large antique chalkboard. We had no idea that it would become a central part of our lives.
Years ago the daily schedule was written on the chalkboard – what time we were waking, what time we were eating, what time we were running errands, what time we were napping, what time t-ball practice was, what time we were going to bed. We had to be careful to include any ‘special’ activities – trips to the pool, weddings, visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. If something wasn’t on the schedule it simply couldn’t happen. Writing the schedule became part of my morning routine.
By the time 4th grade came we simply did weekly schedules with only practices and out-of-the-ordinary events.
Now the chalkboard is used for uplifting messages. No more schedules – but it doesn’t mean that the anxiousness of uncertainty has dissipated. It is better, but not gone.
He has already asked…
What day school starts again.
If his locker will be the same.
If his teachers will be the same.
If he’ll use the same backpack.
If we have to go anywhere this summer.
When he’ll see his friends.
How much time he can spend in the pool.
What his daily technology time limit will be.
How many chores will be on his daily list.
If he’ll be expected to mow lawn.
How late he can stay up.
The last day of school is tomorrow…
My most used answer to any of these questions is, ‘Why don’t you go for a swim? That always eases your mind.’
My hubby better get that pool up and filled …summer officially begins in 17 hours….