Parents everywhere are gearing up for back-to-school – going over supply lists, checking their children’s wardrobes and trying to get their kids back on a normal sleeping schedule. I’m dealing with those issues too, but add one more: the pre-school meetings and conferences to educate another round of teachers and staff members about my son and his special needs.
After seven years at one school (preschool through fifth grade), we are moving on to middle school. We’re going from a place where every staff member knew my son and we knew most families to where I know maybe two staff members and now just a quarter of the families. I have so many worries about the upcoming school year that I can’t even list them all, but I’m trying to stay cool (I hope!) so my already anxious son doesn’t get more stressed about all the changes. I’ve connected electronically with the resource teacher assigned to my son and will meet her along with his four main teachers – it’s middle school so he switches classes – this week. I’m trying to prepare for that meeting by putting together a one-page “guide” to my son that talks about his diagnosis (Asperger’s), what it means (he’s not “Rainman,” but don’t expect him to look you in the eye), things we’ve found that worked (sit him in the front of the room), his special challenges (he is super disorganized) and more. I probably could have written two pages, but tried hard to keep it at one so I didn’t come off as being one of “those” moms. What I really want is to have them get to know me and my son and recognize his good qualities (he has a great imagination) and not just focus on the negatives (he has terrible handwriting).
I’ve also been busy working with school administration to see how we can make things easier for him. I talked with the vice principal about removing his combination lock and replacing it with one that opens with a key so Michael doesn’t have to stress about not only trying to remember his combination while dealing with his poor finger dexterity in trying to get the lock to just the right spot. We also asked if he could be exempt from the foreign language class this year – that way he can use those two class sessions a week to meet with his private tutor and the school speech therapist.
While I’ve been trying to communicate with teachers, there’s not much I can do about Michael’s new classmates. Bullying is something all parents worry about – and it’s an even bigger concern for parents of tweens and teens on the spectrum. Michael knows he needs to speak up if someone is being “mean” to him, but that’s easier said than done. A few years ago in a summer school program, two boys kept calling him “stupid,” but Michael didn’t say a word to me or the teacher until the class was done. He didn’t want to make a fuss. I just hope that he finds a good group of kids to hang with and that his former classmates will stick up for him if anyone points out his differences.
Sometimes I wonder if I need to do all of this, but then I look at my son and have so much love for him and know he’s vulnerable. Yes, there are some things he can and needs to do on his own, but middle school is hard. I doing all I can so it’s not any harder than it needs to be for Michael.
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