Back to School is probably one of my favorite times of year. I love back to school posts and pics on social media. The memories of this time of year are glorious gut punches. It is such an amazing time to take inventory on how fast life moves and how much life has changed; but also look forward to growth, potential, and new beginnings.
I personally crave a routine, but Everett really, really needs a routine. Everett thrives with a schedule, but he enjoys breaks that include fun and different experiences. Routine and autism go together like peas and carrots.
Everett is like all kids during the summer. He loves to do nothing. He really is fine not leaving the house or doing anything productive. We’ve had to drastically reduce any TV or screen time. And when you have nothing to do all day, it gets more and more difficult to keep him entertained. Boredom for Everett can bring on his worst behaviors. He is bossy and demanding with people he knows he can get away with it. And one of those people much of the time is me. There are a couple of times a year that you can bet on Everett’s negative behaviors becoming harder to handle. The worst time of the year is hands down the end of summer vacation. He basically just wants to sit in his underwear with his Roku remote, eat Cheetos, and scream at anyone who tries to get him to do anything besides those two things. Babysitting position open if anyone is interested… (Just kidding, we have had the absolute best babysitting help ever. Shout out to Leanna, Miranda, and the OGs Veronica and Angie).
If you have ever asked Everett if he is ready to go back to school before the actual first day of school, please take this as an official apology because there is no doubt he violently screamed the word “NO” in your face. I try and bring up that school is going to start back a week before and then again the day before. Any more talking about it than that is me just glutton for punishment. The morning that school starts, he miraculously gets out of bed and heads back into the morning routine as if we never stopped. Everett isn’t good at understanding time in terms of verbal labels. Days, weeks, months, years just don’t have any connotation with him. If we are counting down before a trip or a holiday, I’ll say its 30 days until Christmas and then I’ll say its 4 weeks until Christmas. He then chooses to say the week’s amount, because he thinks it’s less time because the number is smaller.
Everett has always known his weekday schedule to a T. Within minutes of waking up, he is confirming what he knows the schedule should be. Where are we going? Who is going to pick me up me from school? His schedule is intricate with all of our therapy appointments. And in general, there are at least 4 different people who pick him up from school in a week’s time.
School for us is complicated like most of our life. Having parented both a neuro-typical child and one with autism. There are pros and cons to both situations. I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t sad moments and feelings of grief when I see kids the same age as Everett living a “normal” life as a 12 year old, but I am very grateful that I did the “normal” life with Wheeler. It was wonderful in so many ways, but it wasn’t easier just different. I have to say that I love our school system, because what they may lack in teacher’s behavioral training for kids with autism (which is not meant to be a knock, it’s a resource and availability of training problem across the nation, not our specific district); there is a huge amount of love, care, and eagerness to do whatever they can to help design a school experience for Everett that best meets his needs and help him reach his potential. I am grateful for all of his teachers and administrators (past and present). They show up everyday with love, compassion, and an eagerness to make a difference in the lives of all of our children.
I also appreciate some little things about autism. For instance, I love that Everett is never going to be too cool for me and that he will always be joyful in his excitement over simple things. I love that there isn’t a lid on his potential, but also no expectations of society’s definition of success. A few months ago, Clay and I were talking about Everett’s future and he made the comment that sums up the situation perfectly. He basically said that he wants Everett to be able to function in our world in a way that will allow him some independence, but some of the areas that Everett will need to progress in will probably bring him out of his own little world. Getting to experience Everett’s little world brings us so much joy and losing even a little bit of that would be sad. In my close group of friends, we play The Glad Game from Pollyanna when difficult situations pop up, which happens to be one of my favorite childhood movies along with anything else Hayley Mills was in. I think it’s so important to find the specific things that are good and acknowledge them to help us bring perspective. If you have no idea what I’m talking about with the Glad Game, here is a clip to fill you in.
In the spirit of the Glad Game and just to make you a little jealous, we have no homework, ever.