Wednesday, August 25, 2010

No Matter Where You Go, There You Are

The picture is the campus of son2's university.  Beautiful, isn't it? 

Well, son 2 started college yesterday.  Sort of.  Let me elucidate.

Son 2 has a pattern of being late for everything.  Literally, everything.  His social anxiety peaks and he can't make himself go in the ___(classroom, party, house, garage, store, church, choir room, place there might be a person).  I love this boy to death, but he just can't make himself. 

SO. First day of class.  We arrive at the appropriate location with 15 minutes for him to get to class.  He found the classroom just fine, no problems navigating, even with the sidewalks teeming with students.  I went off to pick corn for my mother and father in-law for that hour, thinking he would be great, it's just syllabus day, nothing major to do...he'll have lunch with his best friend from high school and they'll have a few laughs. 

Fast forward exactly 46 minutes.  I get a text saying class is out early because it was just syllabus day.  I asked about his friend, I asked what's on the syllabus, does he like the teacher etc.  I got platitudes and excuses.  He lied to me.  He did not walk through the door.  He stood outside it for 46 minutes, then texted to come home. 


We need help for him.  I could walk him into class, but that's hardly the societal norm.  When school starts for the rest of the guys, that will also get easier.  Trooping in with four little brothers would really draw the attention, and probably help him avoid ever wanting to go in again.  But what are my options?  I have nothing to pay anyone with to help him get through the door, and the high school hasn't managed to get his IEP in to the college yet, so Student Support Services is really limited in what they can do. 

I want him to hang out with his friend, and get some of the fun parts of college and not just the grim work.  I want him to enjoy this experience, but he appears bound and determined to let this one beat him.  I can't find the instructor online to email or anything.  Someone has some splaining to do.

In the two weeks before everyone else starts school he has the potential to completely louse up the semester.  Or to set himself up for all the success he can swallow.  How to make it the second one is my quandry. 

We'll try again tomorrow - and I will walk him in if I have to (which I apparently do). I will talk to his friend on Friday when he's over to celebrate the completion of their first week.  Blessedly, his friend is other type of Aspie who can't help but follow rules and do things the "right" way, blissfully ignorant of social convention and embarrassment.  When they're together, they find the "happy medium" between both approaches. Son 2 makes Friend more socially acceptable, Friend makes Son 2 more responsible.  Maybe there's a way they can meet and walk to class together, if their 10 o'clocks are close by.  God, I hope so.

So no matter where he goes, high school, college, the workplace...there he is.  He can't escape himself. 


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back-to-School Time!

Here we are, facing down September already.  The summer always goes so fast!  The kids are enjoying their last free weeks, and one is looking forward to seeing friends again.  No, not all of them.  Son 6 would rather eat broken glass, and sons 4 and 5 are asking to be homeschooled.  Son three, though is looking forward to school, though even he says he'd rather have summer school again, as it's "easy".

So the preparation (logistical, emotional, and psychological) begins.  Logistically, there are timing issues (bedtime back to normal, wake up and ready to leave practice, afternoon routines to rehearse, and teachers to meet and greet.  That's aside from the home organization component.  Emotionally, Son 6 needs some encouragement to be away from Mom's side.  He not only doesn't like school, he absolutely despises it.  In his words, "I hate, despise, loath, and abominate school." This, at age 6. At least vocabulary isn't an issue.  Psychologically, they have to be prepared to deal with the stresses, the new kids and new teacher, the new classrooms, and the new order.  We're still on a four-day week, which makes life interesting (and turns Monday into a "floating nebulus day" neither weekend nor weekday for them), and complicates a few things.

First, logistical preparations.  We will go on shopping "dates", the kids and I.  I take each one individually to get their school supplies, have lunch out, and talk about what they're looking forward to, or apprehensive about.  It is the one thing about school start-up that they all enjoy.  (Frankly, it helps me, too, because otherwise, it's a little hard to make sure you have what each of seven kids requires without losing track somewhere along the line and feeling a little schizophrenic about the whole thing.)  We will also establish our organization system for during the year.  A hook for each backpack and jacket, in and out boxes for each child's papers / notices / permission slips.  Refresh the Art Cart supplies.  I keep art supplies and extra school supplies in a rolling set of bins near the homework area (which is the dining table for most kids, the ones that need pindrop silence study in their rooms, but still access the community resource).  I keep it stocked with colored pencils, crayons, markers, art paper, copy paper, construction paper, the extra textbooks (to eliminate "I forgot my book, I can't do the assignment" syndrome), and other necessities.  The rule at my house is that after-school snack doesn't exist till your backpack and jacket are hung up, and the assignment planner/ homework is in the inbox.  During snack, we go through the assignments everyone has, and collect required materials.  After snack, they start their homework.  When the homework is done (generally) supper is ready.  We also have the rule that if you have homework in more than one subject, you have to do the homework you hate first. Given my voracious readers, reading assignments can wait, because no way will they not do the reading.

In these weeks leading up to it, they will have their bedtimes pushed back 15 minutes a week until we hit 8pm for under-10 year olds, and nine for 10 and ups.  (We get up really, really early. I'm up at 4:30am, so bedtimes are earlier for my guys than most - but you know what your kids need and how much sleep is no exception.)  We will rehearse the afternoon routine as they have their snack, to help it become a habit I don't need to nag about.  We will visit the school, and call the teacher. I will write a letter of introduction to the teachers, so they know how great my kids are, and what works for helps during meltdowns, etc.

Emotionally, it helps if you're looking forward with anticipation rather than apprehension, so the teacher and classroom introductions are important.  Son 6 will require some social stories about trusting that mom will be ok while he's gone, and so will the puppy.  He will need to hear the planned routine for the schoolday several times over, and he will be sad when school starts anyway.  We're working on it. 

Psychologically, a smooth transition is desirable.  So the Friday before the new school year starts, we will have a campfire with the kids and their friends to say good-bye to summer.  They usually make plans for what to play at recess the first day, and who's bringing the bat and ball, frisbee, what have you.  It's a lot of fun, and helps everyone get ready.

I think it will all work out, and if nothing else, we'll know we did what we could.

We're all in this together,