Last year, Bright Eyes went to the school Athletics Carnival. He lined up for his race, started running, saw someone overtake him and promptly turned around and ran right back to the start, crying his eyes out.
It was a bad day.
This year, he was not happy about going at all. All week, he said, "I'm not going to the Athletics Carnival. I'm not an athletics boy." When I tried the tack of encouraging him to earn points for his house team, he said, "My team can win without me." I didn't press it too much, but when this morning he got dressed in red, instead of the necessary green, and flatly refused to go to school, I figured he really didn't want to go.
Proceeding on the basis that a child can learn nothing when they are overanxious, and seeing all the signs of overanxiety and panic about the school carnival, I allowed him to stay home and have a day off, but on the condition that he come with me down to the oval to watch later on.
"I have to watch JJ and Max," I told him, "and dad is working, so you'll have to come with me. And I don't want to hear the words 'I want to go home' at all."
We went down for about 2 and a half hours. He watched everyone, talked to a few people, hung off the edge and took it all in, all the while dancing his moves. I think the dancing was an anxiety response. He saw his friends run their races, waved to his teacher, and generally had as relaxing and pleasant experience as possible at an athletics carnival.
Based on the principle in Doidge's book (see previous post) of neurons that fire together wire together, I figure that by being there but not being required to race, I was helping him associate carnivals with fun. It's all small steps. Next year my aim is that he will attend school on the day of the carnival, even if he doesn't go up with the children or run in any races.