As a mother of a child with a disability, the start of a school year brings an additional element to the anxiety realm. All the ‘what if’s’, the ‘will she know where to go?’, the ‘will they understand her needs?’, etc.. And then there is the torture of the first day of school panic that rushes through her and the coaxing into the building or onto the bus that we both have to endure.
I am relieved, happy, thrilled, excited–ok, jumping out my skin with pride–that this year is different!! She is happy to go, she is even EXCITED to go! And in her words, “see her old friends and meet her teachers!”….now this is a girl that has been invited to as many birthday parties in her lifetime that I can count on my hand. This is the girl that has invited “friends” to her own birthday party, only to have not a single one show up! (yeah, two years in a row–we learned, no more parties). She is excited to go to school to see friends? Teachers? wow…
So in our world what changed all this? We went from up-all-night panic attacks the week before school starts and having to be hauled into school clutching my leg to this new sense of success and excitement.??
I believe that what changed this was letting go of some of the academic expectations and with that she began to feel success at school. Why push her to learn area and perimeter when she really needs to learn how to tell time and use money. Why have her work days on a literature assignment when she really needs to know how to read a map, bus schedule, list, recipe, calendar, etc… In her mind, school has gone from “torture” to a place where she can feel like she fits in, look forward to doing tasks that she can succeed at, interact with people and have opportunities to grow socially. Her school day now incorporates a job in the library as well as the cafeteria. She is a ‘circulation clerk’ in the library; she checks books in/out, stacks and most of all, interacts with both peers and staff. To me, those skills are far more valuable than taking notes on Ancient Chinese religion.
Most of all with this change, I have seen my daughter find self esteem, find value in being with people and begin to believe in herself. She will succeed. The difference is that now SHE knows she can do it. She has felt success at school and is going after more.