Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Anxiety (and middle school orientation)

I homeschool one child. She is on the autism spectrum. Her neurotypically developing sibs attend a school-building school of the public, government school variety.

My son, a school-building-schooler, begins middle school next week. Today is middle school orientation.

My homeschooler has a lot of anxiety. Anxiety can create the perfect storm for a melt down (what HANDLE calls a "flare up".) A new situation can create so much uncertainty that anxiety rises, "autism" shows up in a big way, and we see behaviors that we haven't seen in a long time. We parents of children w/ autism try to preview new situations as best we can, role playing, practicing, going to a venue ahead of time, using social stories, pictures, fiction about a similar situation.

We tend to think of anxiety and the need to preview and prepare as something limited to autism and individuals with special needs.

The past few weeks, I've realized in a big way that my homeschooler is not much different from typical kids.

My son has mentioned quite a few times that he does not want to go to middle school and that he does not want to attend middle school orientation. I am quite relaxed about it. We've been through MS orientation with another child who has had a positive experience at that same school. And if the experience is too much for my son, I know that we can homeschool him. (Two-and-a-half years of homeschooling have shown me that, while homeschooling sibs while homeschooling one with autism would be a big challenge, it is something we could manage, and a few years ago, I'd never have thought it was an option; now I know it is.)

So, yesterday, when he was grumpy and backtalking a little bit, (his "behaviors" are more "acceptable", but the "behaviors" are signs of stress and anxiety nontheless), he expressed again that he does not want to go to orientation OR to middle school when school begins next week. I got it. I sat down with him and walked him through what past orientation days have been like. We'll get his schedule, locker assignment, locker combination. We'll make sure he can open his lock. He's had a combination lock for a couple of months to practice with; he knows how to do the right, left, right thing; he simply needs his new combination, although he has asked me several times why can't he take his lock to school and use it instead of having to learn a new combination. We'll walk his schedule a couple of times. He'll have his school picture made, buy supplies, maybe pick out school spiritwear (will he want a giant sweatshirt hoodie like big sis did?).

ALL of us need a preview before a new situation. Whether it's a first-time scheduled c-section or going to a new concert venue, we all want to talk to someone who has been there before. What is surgery like? Did you feel anything? Where is the best place to park? How early should I arrive?

Sometimes I think my daughter who is on the autism spectrum needs a preview because of the autism. I am wrong when I think that way. She needs a preview prior to a new event because she's just like all of the rest of us.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

I hope your son ends up having a wonderful first day of school! And, yes, we all need that reassurance with new things.

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