I was awake most of last night. Every time I thought about Derek starting kindergarten in the morning, I had to fight the urge to vomit.
Trying to explain what it is like to have a (mostly) non-verbal child on the spectrum to strangers is difficult. Everybody gets nervous about their child starting kindergarten, right? And most mothers cry. Why? Because our children are growing up. They are becoming independent. They don't need us anymore. I remember being a little bit nervous when Tyler started school. But it was nothing, and I mean NOTHING, compared with how I felt this morning.
Why do special needs parents worry? And cry? Because our kids do still need us, but they have to start school anyway. It is terrifying to hand over a child that cannot use the bathroom independently or eat with utensils to a kindergarten teacher. And what about a child who cannot tell you how their day went? We have to rely on communication books and trust our children's teachers and paras to be honest with us. It's not as easy as it sounds, especially when we hear more and more horror stories about our kids being bullied on the playground. Or worse yet, being bullied by the teachers themselves. I honestly don't think that will happen at Derek's school, but I never expected to have an autistic son, either.
I worry about more than that though.
I worry about anything and everything. Like whether or not Derek will make friends. Whether he'll eat anything at school. Will he be able to tell the teacher when he needs to use the bathroom? Or will he have an accident and get made fun of? Will he spill something on his shirt and have a meltdown? Will he bite himself out of frustration (yes, he does this) or end up hitting a teacher or a student? Will he be able to keep up with his peers academically? Or will he continue to fall further and further behind? My worries are endless.
It doesn't help when I read about stuff like this happening, in Omaha, NE (3 hours away from me):
My ex calls me in a panic this morning saying that he put Jeremiah on the bus this morning, and that they couldn't find him. I freaked out when he called.They found him in a different classroom with a different Jeremiah name tag on him. When they did roll call Jeremiah just said his first name and not his last name. He's 5 with Autism, he didn't know what was going on. I'm just glad he wasn't scared and that they found our little man.
Jeremiah is ok. But his mom (my friend) is probably not too excited to put him on the bus tomorrow.
Derek no longer rides the bus, so this won't happen to him. But he rode it to preschool. And he'll ride it on field trips. I have a paralyzing fear that someday my son will be overlooked somehow and left on a bus. Especially if he happens to fall asleep.
When I picked Derek up from school today, he was near tears. I'm pretty sure he was just tired and overwhelmed. 8-3:30 is a very long day. Everyone I talked to (teacher, paras, aids, etc.) said he had a great first day. But I can't get two words out him. If I ask how his day was, I get no response. If I ask if he had fun, or if he liked school, or made friends, I get nothing. Silence.
Whoever said "Silence is Golden" didn't have an autistic child.
I know it will get easier as the days go by.
As I sit here with my son, who hasn't left my side since he got home from school, I fight tears every time I hear him say, "Snuggle, please."
The only thing that makes me feel a little bit better about repeating this entire process again tomorrow, is the fact that Tyler played with Derek at recess today. (He did this voluntarily!!!) He told me he wants to every day this year. I didn't expect Tyler to like having Derek at school with him. I was worried he'd be embarrassed.
Sometimes small gestures make a big difference.
I don't think Tyler realizes how much it helps Derek to see a familiar face.
But, I do. And knowing that Derek has the best big brother in the world in his corner eases my mind just a little bit...