Saturday, August 28, 2010

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.

1st grade
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.

And beyond...
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?


  1. Probably not Alpha Sigma Delta because it's not in alphabetical order and you know how our kids like "order".
    This is kinda what happened to me this summer (I totally need to blog about this already) when I freaked out and wondered if this private full-inclusion is best for the bird or if I was just doing it for my own ego and/or whatever is left of it. Still not sure.

  2. I don't know how many times a year I will say this but, "Thank God for homeschooling". You are very brave.

  3. Please tell me that Alpha Sigma Delta is co-ed, because David will be there.

  4. @Dani: I wanna see that blog post already because misery loves company.

    @j: I might be joining you before I hit that 19th nervous breakdown.

    @Kathy: I think it would have to be co-ed because the sorority would be 1/4 the size of the fraternity if they were separated.

  5. Yeah really.... I never realized all the "fun" I was missing by keeping mine at home. ;o)

  6. Alpha Sigma Delta--I love it! My daughter is starting first grade too (but not until Sept. 13th, yikes). Last year, she was in a general ed classroom with a high-falutin' behaviorist. The school district paid for the behaviorist that was provided through a private agency. She's fantastic! I think we're getting the same behaviorist for the first grade, which will again be in a general ed class. I think after first grade, my daughter will be in a general ed class without any behaviorists. For me, that will be the scary first day! For now, I know she'll be well-taken care of. Her kindergarten teacher absolutely adored her, and I know will talk her up to her first grade teacher!

  7. Ok. The Catholocism remark made me snort.

    My nervous breakdown is scheduled for Tuesday. I'm calling in sick and drinking heavily.

  8. "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?"

    This made me laugh out loud. And the answer is yes.

  9. I found you on blogfrog and am now a follower! I hope you'll check out my work in progress at Great post... I found you at blogfrog and am not a follower. I hope you'll do the same, my work in progress is www.gfinkfamily.blogspot. I'm a mommy to three little ones, two of whom I birthed an a little Ethiopian princess that was born in my heart! We're in the process of adopting twins from Ethiopia and we recently added two puppies to the family... Life is crazy but such a blessing! look forward to getting to know you!

  10. If my experience is any indication, the harder ones may not be ahead of you. We just lived through the first week of middle school which we have been dreading since second grade. It went fine. You just never know.

  11. You know, the most important thing I got from this was.... how crucial a good Teacher is. It's something I believe in too. The right placement AND the right teacher.

    My WiiBoy starts 5th class this year with a Teacher that I have heard mixed reports about. I'll bide my time though and see how things progress.

    I do hope your Audrey has a good year... and that her inclusion in a Mainstream setting can begin! How exciting!

    I've gotten behind on your blog as I was on holidays. I'm appalled at Jennifer Aniston's faux-pas... although it is just another word to some people. I am VERY appalled, although not surprised, at the use of the word Autistic :-(

    xx Jazzy

  12. My guys go back to school tomorrow and I'm about ready to start hyperventilating.

  13. Nervous breakdown? who me? No way! ha.

    We had our open house where I asked tons of program for IJ. I have probably already written, to his new teacher, a book in the communication notebook. I am freaking out by how they are perceiving him...are they being accurate? I am freaking out over the FBA, the fact that they don't know who his 2 1/2 hour/4 days per week person is. Yada, yada, yada. What does IJ think? He likes the bus (his bus driver is cool), but he cares less about the kids (think he said something along the line that he don't like them). Anyway, obvious from the comments, you are not alone in the first day of school breakdown boat.

    I wish Audrey a great year, and you too.

  14. I never thought of it like that before-19 first days of school! Wow, yeah, that can be stressful. You've got alittle more to worry about. And ANY bus ride regardless whether it's 2 miles or 25 miles sucks. In your case it's not that easy to just "let them go" as alot of moms say on that first day of school. You're worries are well warranted and Audrey is very lucky to have a mom that worries about her well being and safety! You DO have a prescription plan, right? Deep breaths Lynn, deep breaths.....

  15. i think we led similar lives in that we both moved from Nor. Cali in the same year and i am still adjusting. Our K for James was a nervous breakdown year too...we will see how 1st goes.

  16. Thanks for the chronology, Lynn. It strikes me how so many parents' mental health is dependent on a huge, highly regulated and largely out of their control system. That some parents opt-out of the system is also striking.

    In your projections of the future, I don't see consideration for the fact that your child will likely mature, at least some - meaning any or all of the overload triggers may go away, or change.

    Best, Barbara