Watch out for mauling Momma Bears

Yesterday was a day from hell. My son, Casey, had a sub teacher in his class. Usually, he does well with subs. In fact, he usually gets along well with everyone. But yesterday when I picked the boys up from school and Kerry comes running at me at full tilt, telling me breathless, “Casey is crying”, my brain immediately kicks into “Protect Bear Cubs” mode.

You see, my son Casey has Asperger’s Syndrome, which some believe is a higher form of autism. Others believe is a form of autism all on its own. I’m not going to get into a debate on what kind of autism Asperger’s is here. What I want you, the reader, to know is that Asperger’s makes socializing and expressing emotions very difficult when one is overloaded. And, when the Momma Bear also has Asperger’s traits, it makes for interesting interactions.

To give you a little bit of background information, my childhood was filled with being a bully target, crying on my part, and loneliness. I was put into special education back when special education was just starting out in the ’70’s (yes, I am that old) because my kindergarten teacher and I just didn’t get along. I could already read when I was three years old, already knew my colors, shapes, etc. I was labelled emotionally impaired and put into special education from kindergarten up to 7th grade.  My mother did nothing to defend me. Nothing. I can remember her constantly telling me “stop crying”, and “get over it”, things along those lines. I don’t ever remember her going to one of my IEP meetings or defending me against the bullies.

When I became a mom, I swore that I would not be like my mother. I would be better. I wouldn’t just leave my kid off to his/her own resources to have him/her raise himself/herself. So, I guess in a way I am overcompensating. But, that’s the background into why I did what I did.

I spoke with the sub teacher, asking her what happened. She was perplexed and did not really know, stating that it was “a bunch of little things” that led up to Casey’s meltdown. I asked her “Did you know that he is autistic?” She said “No”, then I snapped back, “Well, now you know.” Casey was totally inconsolable, just sobbing and barely able to catch his breath. I was to the point of my own meltdown, and when she walked away from us, I let it rip.

“YOU. SUB. COME BACK HERE.” Right there in front of the school; right there in front of everyone, including the school board president’s wife (oh yes, I heard about it at the school board meeting last night. More about that later.)

She said “My name is Karen”, and I said, “We’re going to talk right now. Come with me.” I was met with rolling eyes, and I snapped at her, “You don’t roll your eyes at me. Come now.” I stomped into the office with my kids in tow, her trailing behind me, and I asked, “Where’s Mr. S? We need to see him now.”

We all got into the time-out room, and I was so upset. She started in with her “I really didn’t know what was going on. I thought he was just an oversensitive boy.” Casey was crying, saying, “I made everyone late. It’s all my fault. I was doing everything wrong.”

I was still seething, but could tell that she really didn’t have a clue how to work with autistic children. I apologized for my outbreak to her and the principal, but told her, “I don’t like coming to school and having my child crying. I want to know what is going on and I want it fixed.” We had the boys step out of the room at that point and we talked some more about what happened, again the “it was a bunch of little things that piled up throughout the day” comment. During the whole time, I could hear Casey’s wails in the hall. I pointed out to both her and Mr. S. that “Asperger’s kids want to follow the rules and please the teacher. When they feel like they are disappointing the teacher, they take it to heart and get very upset.”

So we called the boys back in, and she apologized to Casey for upsetting him. Casey started crying again, saying “You don’t need to apologize”. We finally determined that when she is going to make a comment about behavior, she is not going to make a blanket statement, but will address specific kids BY NAME. That way, Casey won’t feel like he’s to blame.

We finally left, went to the grocery store (where more battles ensued over who got to drive the grocery cart), then off to Poppa’s (their dad’s) work. I had a school board meeting that night. I’m the PTO president, and I’m the school Parent Advisory Committee representative (the PAC is a group that advises the Intermediate School District on special education issues. We’re like the liaisons between the ISD and our local school districts.) Plus, I’m on the school board education committee and the library committee. So, I need to be present at the school board meetings to give my reports for PTO and PAC.

I saw the school board president first. Remember earlier that I saw his wife during my meltdown/ mauling session? She is a substitute teacher at the school, too. According to her and her son, my son “cries all the time at school.” Well, gee, doesn’t that make me feel so much better now. I’m having flashbacks to when I was a kid. Luckily, the school board president wants to learn more about Asperger’s so we can help Casey out more. I mention that our school is receiving more autistic students, so we as a whole need to be better educated about autism, and he agreed.

So, my day yesterday was just down right stressful. This morning proved to be just as stressful again. Casey woke up with a huge attitude, back-talking, arguing every single little detail, and just plain being mean. I told him, “we’re going to have a better day today.” I actually had to send him to his room for his back-talk and disrespect.

I’m praying that his day at school today is going to be better, because I don’t want to be picking up another crying boy at the end of the day. I’ll be crying right alongside him if that happens.

Fellow moms of autistic/ Asperger’s children- what do you do? How do you deal with meltdowns?

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12 responses

  1. *hugs* I have AS, one of my children may. The meltdowns are definitely the pits. When my son gets wound up, especially about school, I have him take some deep breaths and find his words.

    Fun, upbeat music seems to help both of us as well.

    Hope this helps.

  2. Sounds like it was a crummy situtation for everyone involved.

    It’s so hard to see your kids upset, isn’t it? I don’t have any advice on how to handle this situation (or how to handle yourself in this situation). However, I do want to point out what a shame it is that the school put your son and this teacher in this situation by not letting her know of his special needs. Even if she hasn’t been trained to teach autistic kids, surely just that kernal of knowledge (that Casey is autistic) would have helped her gain a little perspective on the situation.

  3. Oh, upon re-reading my comment, I realize that it sounded a little snotty. By “point out” I didn’t mean that you hadn’t already considered the school’s role in this situation.

  4. OK, don’t read this if you’re still feeling really sensitive about it. You’ll probably hate me for it. I’m just coming from a different perspective. But you know that I can sympathize with you on a lot of things.

    I don’t condone the rolling eyes, because that sounds disrespectful, but having been a sub, it sucks not knowing ANYthing about your kids each day. You don’t really get to see IEP’s or anything. And being an EH teacher, I won’t call out kids by name on purpose if I’m disciplining them, it escalates things and kills their self esteem. No one else needs to hear about it. And if I’m in the middle of a lesson, I won’t stop it to go tell each kid privately what they’re doing wrong. If we’re working individually, and I can walk up to desks, that’s different. I of course do that then, as often as I can.

    I know we usually agree (except for politics!) but this is why I’m so afraid of parents, rather than kids. We get yelled at for things that we may not have done wrong. It’s not always our fault. And for me, at least, having someone yell at me only makes me mad, it doesn’t make me want to work any harder. You may not like going to school and seeing him crying, but that’s not always the teacher’s fault. Sometimes it’s a combination of people, sometimes it is actually something the kid needs to learn to deal with (note I said learn to deal with, not just deal with).

    That being said, I’m sorry he had such a bad day. I have a student a lot like him and it has been a painful and hard journey to figure out how to work together. I’ve had to adjust things, but he’s also had to adjust things. He luckily has gotten to the point where when I say, hey, pull it together or I won’t be able to send you to lunch with your class (he’s transitioning out of my room) and he does, and moves on quite happily. That didn’t happen immediately though. My homeboy Chris has worked very hard, and I’ve given him some accommodations, and we’re doing well. And I talk to his mom weekly to discuss how he’s doing.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents.

  5. I agree with Bookmama. I think that while it’s hard to deal with the situations like this (and I deal with them often myself), it’s not a sub’s fault if she’s not prepared. I’d personally have walked away if you spoke to me that way, too. We can’t expect a teacher to know about autism if they are a sub and not told they have an autistic kid in the class. The school should always prepare your child for a sub, when possible, and the sub should always know about your child. To not do so is unfair for everyone involved, and unfortunately the kid and the sub pay the price, with it being hardest on the poor kid. Are they going to come up with some plans to alleviate the frequent crying? Crying is often such a common part of autism, along with the meltdowns, so I try not to get upset with the school without knowing if it’s one of those times that my son really did exacerbate a situation or if someone else did. Tough call, my claws come out whenever he’s crying. Good luck!

  6. None of my 3 kids face the challenges that you and your family are. But, we are both mom’s and when your kid is crying, you want to know why.

    I’m not a teacher or a sub, so I don’t know why they didn’t know that your son has special needs. That stinks!

    I’m just sorry you had a rough afternoon and your son was so sad. I hope you are both ok!

  7. I’ll play devil’s advocate for the sub… substitute teachers are not child psychologists. Nine times out of ten they’re college kids working on getting hired full time. Had it been me, and you came at me how you did, I probably would’ve called the police. I’m just sayin…

    It’s also important that you stick up for your kids due to their condition, however, you, I’m sure realize that if you are always jumping to their defense, it’s going to have a negative result on their socialization as they get older. My advice is to know when to pick your battles. If your children are truly wronged, then by all means jump to their defense, but for something minor, I think it’d do more to the child’s learning process to deal with the situation head on for themselves.

    But then again, I’m no expert.

  8. Wow, I just…wow. It’s hard for any parent to pick their child up from school and see them crying, and it happens to every parent, not just parents of autistic or Asbergers kids.

    The key is, have a plan so that you know how to respond when it does happen. It probably will happen again, either with the regular teacher or another sub, so what will you do?

    Your kids are watching you intently and picking up their cues on how to handle difficult situations from you. From this, they’ve learned that it’s okay to be rude and overbearing if you feel wronged. But that’s not going to help them when they face the same situations.

    Put yourself in the sub’s shoes…everyone has a story. Her day was most likely very stressful, even if your son hadn’t been in her class, and she was feeling overwhelmed as well. You completely, totally overreacted without finding out exactly what happened first and then approaching her as someone you could partner with to make sure it didn’t happen again.

    It does sound like your school needs to do more teacher training on special needs, and I do blame them for not telling the sub about your son’s issues. But we can’t control what other people do or don’t do, only how we respond.

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