The thing about autism that’s so frustrating is that just when you think everything is ok, it throws you a curve. (I guess the same can probably also be said for life in general.) After lots of preparation and planning, Michael started middle school in late August. For the first six weeks, everything seemed great and the teachers and resource staff praised how well he was doing. We altered his morning schedule so he would even go into school by himself, visit his locker and get to his homeroom without me giving him a hand.
Then, the final two weeks of the quarter hit and the pressure amped up: more homework and more tests. As I have seen several times before, the wheels suddenly came off the cart. Michael became more anxious, more irritable and unable to do what just the week before he had managed without a problem. Since we have been through this before, I knew it wasn’t a time to wait and see if things would get better. I contacted his main resource teacher and we drafted a plan to provide extra support. I worked with his tutor to come in on a different day so he could spend more time with his resource teachers. That back-and-forth and communication about the changes needed literally took an entire day – and my husband wonders what I do all day. (I am lucky that as a freelance writer I am able to set my own schedule; I don’t know how I would manage working in an office with regular set hours. I half-jokingly say that managing Michael is a part-time job.)
I also tried talking to Michael about paying more attention to what is going on around him and to slow down and take his time. His particular area of challenge is handwriting; his printing looks like a first-grader’s and he is unable to write cursive at all. His teachers try to read it as best they can and sometimes he dictates information to me at home or to an aide at school. At home and school, we are working on his typing skills, but he easily gets frustrated. We’re hoping his upcoming IEP will have some solutions in this area since he’s being required to write longer and longer pieces.
As all parents know, nothing is worse than seeing your child struggle and knowing there’s little you can do to help. Yes, I can work with school to put in accommodations to make it easier for him, but I can’t make him type faster or improve his handwriting (a couple occupational therapists have tried). I guess I’ve just learned that being a mom of a special needs tween – he’ll officially be a teen in seven months – is a lesson in flexibility. Just because something worked yesterday doesn’t mean it will work today or two weeks from now. I just hope we can handle what’s around the next curve.
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