19 Nervous Breakdowns
Audrey will have 19 first days of school, assuming that she graduates from college. Doesn't sound so bad when you put it like that, does it? But when each of them represents a complete emotional meltdown, adjustments in meds, and extra hours of therapy, nineteen starts to sound like a lot. And that's just me I'm talking about, not Audrey.
She just started her 1st grade year last week, so I've now got 4 of these under my belt. I know that the harder ones are definitely still ahead of me, but here's where we've been so far:
1st year of preschool
We had just relocated from California to Chicago the summer before. Our new school district offered both typical classrooms and a self-contained classroom just for autistic kids. At that time, I was completely hellbent on a typical classroom for her. I spent all summer sniffing out scoop on the teachers, and consistently heard that one of them was terrible. I knew then and there that she would be Audrey's teacher, and of course she was. I follow a philosophy that is a 180 from "The Secret", whereby I will all bad things upon myself. I wonder what that's called? Catholicism? Anyway, it was a terrible year, and Audrey ended up spending 100% of her time in the self-contained classroom by the end of the year.
2nd year of preschool
I was determined to make it a better year, and demanded another shot at a typical classroom. The teacher was awesome, and we had a much better year.
The most stressful of them all so far. OK, parents of middle-school age children on the spectrum, I can hear you laughing from here...pipe down and give a newbie a break. I had wrung my hands about this placement for months and months, and my heart was in my throat for that first day of school last year. Our school district is the bomb diggety as far as being open to private placements and we were lucky enough to get one. Problem is that it's 25 miles away, and my #1 concern was the commute...both her tolerance of being in a bus for that long and my paranoia about her being alone with an unsupervised male driver. It was a good year, and, putting aside the distance, I think it is a great placement for her.
A honeymoon year. Same placement. The school is year-round, so the "first day of school" was just the first day back after a 2-week break.
One of these years, maybe next, we will decide to go full-inclusion and transition Audrey from her private autism school to a general ed public school setting. It may be as soon as next year, in which case I'd better start building up the meds in my bloodstream now. I worry so much about her in a general ed setting. Crowded classrooms, sensory overload, $7/hour aids that don't know squat about autism, mean girls, bullying, birthday party snubs, and social isolation.
I can only hope that with all of the kids getting diagnosed on the spectrum that perhaps they will have some strength in numbers. Audrey already has some kind of A-dar and seems to gravitate to members of her own tribe. Maybe by the time they all hit college they can form their own Greek system...Alpha Sigma Delta anyone?