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?