Growing Pains

Charlie and Jim go on a really really cold bike ride  Yesterday was my birthday (I'm now just past the 4-0 mark). After he and Jim went on (yes, quite cold) bike ride, we thought we'd go to what has been Charlie's favorite diner. He sat up attentive as we drove there and said "no school tomorrow." I wondered, was he confused to be going to the diner on a Thursday instead of a Friday night?

Once there, Charlie ran to the diner and sat in his preferred booth. The busboy brought glasses of water and, within in a minute, things were getting knocked over. Charlie was crying and twisting as he got him out of the booth. He really started crying as he ran to the car. Jim sat with him and I hurried back to the diner and thanked them and said how much we had enjoyed eating there. 

I don't think we'll be going back for awhile but, as Jim and I noted to each other later, Charlie had been giving us signs that, while he has been asking for the diner, he has not really wanted to go there. Often he has only picked and nibbled at the burger and fries that he used to devour before they could cool off. There's a definite lag between what he can say and what his thinking, and I remember how, when I reached a certain age, I used to wonder why playing with my "favorite" toys no longer seemed fun. I'd grown out of them, but, especially as I got older, I felt myself grasping around for something I liked as much. 

We can all live without the diner. Earlier in the day I had gotten a not-anticipated present in the form of Charlie's teachers, aides, speech therapist, and behaviorist telling me:

  • how much they like him
  • how many skills he has
  • what a great smile he has
  • how glad they are to have him

[pause to savor all of this]

[double pause]

I was at our first parent/teacher conference. They've still be probing skills and figuring out what they'd like to follow from the programs Charlie did at his old school. They showed me the daily schedule posted on the wall and the activity schedules that Charlie does "really well" (they also noted, when there's been a change in the daily schedule, Charlie has been fine with that). As the aides were there along with the teacher, behaviorist, and speech therapist, there was a nice chance for getting a sense of how everyone who works with Charlie perceives him.

Thursday ended with him getting upset when another child did and cried. Incident Reports are written up about these sorts of things as they were at Charlie's old school. But whereas we had to wait two or so weeks to get the report and to know what had happened from the old school, we get the form on the same or next day (if Charlie gets upset right at the end of the day). Charlie recovers within a few minutes—there's not yet been one of the 30-45 minutes "incidents" he had. Both his teacher and the speech therapist have taken Jim's and my observations about Charlie's "no/yes confusion" into consideration and have found that he indeed really does want something that he just said "no" too; the speech therapist is working on ways to help Charlie with this.

Charlie having a great day at his new school means that he might still have a "moment." For the past week, he's been fine on the ride there, walking quietly in, and then, once inside the entranceway, taking off shoes, socks, and jacket and dumping them over the railing. Yesterday morning I caught all but a shoe and a sock. While Charlie had been crying and barely containing himself Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, on Thursday he stood silently, though he was clearly distressed. The behaviorist and two other staff members appeared and Charlie ran a little and then walked with them. And, once in his classroom, was ok until the very end of the day, when another child started crying.

The shorter day (for the conferences) and the presence of many more people in the building might also have set Charlie (and the other child?) off in the afternoon. When I went to pick him up at quarter to one, it took awhile to find a parking space (usually I park right up front) and the front office was busy. The whole building felt different, with more of a hubbub and buzz, whereas it's usually very quiet and still. It was a change, not of the schedule but of a sensory sort. It's a change on top of the huge change, the new school, which Charlie's not yet been at for a month, and that he's still growing into, and all while being not quite able to explain what he's feeling. 

21 Responses to “Growing Pains”
  1. farmwifetwo says:

    I’m so very envious. I want to send my youngest there. They seem to get it. It’s not perfect, but they take what you have to say under advisement. Ask you questions, and actually listen.
    The special ed guy isn’t coming next week. I have to tell the school what I want from them – communication – and he doesn’t wish to get involved. WT??? Also, I need to “get over” any past transgressions.. considering “past” has been the last few months as well. They wanted to put my severely claustrophobic 10yr old in a weighted vest to stop the fidgitting… can we say “severe anxiety attack”… luckily the OT called me first b/c certainly didn’t… nor did they listen when I mentioned it before…. There’s more…
    I’m going to the meeting next Wed. But don’t be surprised if I don’t walk out.
    Hope Charlie finds a new fav restaurant. Ours change too.

  2. Emily says:

    how much they like him
    how many skills he has
    what a great smile he has
    how glad they are to have him
    Beautiful words. You’d think they wouldn’t be that hard to find or say for your average neurotypical, but if that’s so…why don’t they find and say them more often?

  3. Linda Sullivan says:

    Happy birthday! Don’t ever stop “knocking it

  4. karen d says:

    The comments from the staff made me misty — I know when I’ve gotten similar comments about my Pete, I floated around in happiness for a day or two afterward. What a weird world we live in that we feel so surprised (astonished? I don’t have the right word to describe it) that somebody sees in our child what we have always seen in him. We really should hear it more often, and I have a feeling you will at Charlie’s new school.

  5. SueB says:

    Nice parent teacher conference! Those are the sort of comments you can get in a specialized setting like that, where the staff really “gets it.” When my son was in public school, he often seemed like more of an imposition to them. I’ve always loved, more than anything, when someone told me they liked him and enjoyed having him in their class/program.

  6. autismvox says:

    @SueB and Karen D, I was definitely in a floaty mood. Yes, what a weird world! And the staff seemed surprised when I looked at them like “whaat???”. The diner “fracas” was certainly a little reality check (but Jim insisted on getting me whatever I wanted (takeout) and Charlie seemed glad for the change of pace. — “Imposition” is the right word; I also got that feeling the staff (secretaries, administrators) at the public middle school that Charlie was seen as just that. And only that.
    @farmwifetwo, I still can’t believe it. Yesterday morning I talked to another parent whose daughter had just started in September. She told me her town kept insisting they could educate her daughter in the district, brought in “their” experts who had no experience in autism. I think we were both almost in tears when we finished talking, and on a freezing cold parking lot.
    Charlie wore a weighted vest at school from one point (prescribed by a school OT who thought that the color and scene of orange and the sound of Native American pipes and drums would help him). Did nothing—-whereas, walks around the school, those help his fidgeting. Past “transgressions,” I suspect I’m “guilty” of a few with the district from our past meetings!

  7. mumkeepingsane says:

    We’ve been trying to teach Patrick lately that one not-so-perfect ‘incident’ in a day does not mean he had a bad day. It means he had a bad moment. Now if only we (his parents) can make that connection too. I’ve gotta say, I love this school more and more. And I love hearing what they have to say about Charlie. They respect him as a person, don’t they?

  8. Hai Dang says:

    It is great to hear that Charlie is doing great in his new school. I hope that he still likes the Vietnamese restaurant. Happy belated birthday, Dr. Chew.

  9. Louise says:

    Happy birthday, Kristina! The decade of the 40s is much more interesting intellectually than the decade of the 30s, especially for women like you that keep your curiosity and philosophical openness. You may also find that you should be kinder to *yourself* – especially in terms of health and stress reduction.
    What a wonderful present to receive – good words and happy prognosis for Charlie’s new school adventure. May it be a new decade filled with just that sort of everyday joy and fulfillment.

  10. mamacate says:

    Happy birthday. What a wonderful report from the school. Isn’t it amazing when people get it? So glad Charlie landed there!

  11. Niksmom says:

    In all, it sounds like you received a nice birthday gift from school at the conference. 🙂 Still savoring those wonderful words about our beyond wonderful boy. xo

  12. Niksmom says:

    In all, it sounds like you received a nice birthday gift from school at the conference. 🙂 Still savoring those wonderful words about our beyond wonderful boy. xo

  13. Club 166 says:

    Gauisus Natalis!
    Happy to hear the good reports. Perhaps this will be a good place.

  14. Club 166 says:

    Gauisus Natalis!
    Happy to hear the good reports. Perhaps this will be a good place.

  15. autismvox says:

    thanks everyone!
    @Louise, 30s were very good, looking forward to what’s next!
    kindly reports continued today. We dropped Charlie off in the bus line and his teacher and an aide came out with smiles and Charlie walked away smiling….. let’s just keep this up.

  16. M says:

    i just love all of the tag-team insights here. jim notices certain things…you build on his insights, connect them into past behaviors. school officials make note of behaviors that you incorporate into the big picture.
    the communication involved: charlie reacting to his surroundings, expressing his feelings using HIS language…everyone else learning to interpret, adapt…it’s lovely, a perfect example of what needs to happen, the way things can work, create positive outcomes.
    i’m in awe of you and charlie and everyone else working with him on these issues.

  17. Monica says:

    Happy birthday, the day sounds like a gift!

  18. Monica says:

    Happy birthday, the day sounds like a gift!

  19. JoyMama says:

    They like him!! How wonderful to hear. That just makes all the difference in the world. What a fine birthday present!
    By the way, the just-past-4-0 year has been unusually rich and vibrant for me. Wishing this for you as well…

  20. emma says:

    Happy Birthday!!! (a little belated I know). Great present from the school 🙂

  21. beautyobscure says:

    What a different perspective for me. I am so used to falling a little in love with all the kids and young adults I’ve worked with. (When you support someone for 1-2 weeks at overnight camp you do get a chance to get to know them). I so often want to thank parents for giving me the opportunity to spend time with their child… I get to naively forget that anyone would ever think negatively about this person. I will try to remember to be extra conscientious with my positives to parents… now that I know the potential to make a parent feel good.

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