Autism. Worries and how to talk about them
Despite getting the class award at Assembly this week (see previous post), Bright Eyes has not had an entirely happy week at school. We missed Monday due to the long weekend, and on Tuesday he was highly anxious and refused to go. (I didn't mind too much, because we had a very productive day together doing RDI and some bits of schoolwork.)
He said he would go on Wednesday, and went off happily, but this morning, Thursday, again, he was anxious and worried and protesting.
I gave up all concerns about time frames and things I wanted to do, and said to him, "Well, today is a school day. If you stay home, you will just be sitting here on the couch with me. It's school, or being boring at home."
Eventually, after a number of protests about how he was going on Sunday, not Thursday, and how I was stopping him from doing other things, he calmed down a bit and sat quietly with me. After some time, I asked him what he was worried about at school.
"The muddy top field," he said, almost straight away.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"The top field is muddy," he said. "And I'm worried about villains*."
"Are you worried you might have to go up to the top field?" I asked. "I'm sure if we tell Mrs S that's a worry of yours, she can find a way to work it out. And we can talk about the villains too."
"OK," he said, fairly happy. "We'll go and tell her."
I'm pretty sure that he thought we were just going up to tell the teacher he wasn't coming today, but I wasn't going to let that happen, so I took a favourite toy with us "for you to play with if you feel worried at school."
He had a good chat with Mrs S and K, the aide, who used her magic therapist calm voice to try to get him to tell her how he was feeling. He managed to say a few useful things like, "I'm having a bad feeling day today," and, "I'm not feeling great about this." Big steps for a child who has always just used irrational protests instead of accurate, real language.
I tried to leave, but he ran after me in tears, so I decided to stay in the classroom for as long as it took. I sat and wrote a letter at an extra desk, while he sat on the edge of the group and began to feel a little more comfortable. His friend J was fantastic and invited him to participate at every possible opportunity, being so kind to him. Eventually, the spelling books were handed out, and he took his and went to his desk and got into his work. At that point, I faded into the background, ran home to get his bag, and started the rest of my day.
This is the same point at which things became quite difficult in term 1. It's almost like 8 weeks of school is about as much as he can handle. I'm prepared to let him have week 11 off school entirely if he continues to not cope. And maybe I'll just have to resign myself to sitting in class every day next week?
*The villains issue is from a game that he has instigated with two little girls. He and J are the heroes and the girls are the villains. As things escalate, he gets scared and worried and feels the need to run.