Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Little Engine That Could

Maya on her first day feeling a little bit unsure
We are through the (dreaded) first week at Maya's new school.   We are one week + 2 days, unless I do not get my act together tonight to post this.   I say dreaded because I think I was dreading it much more than she was.  A new school, new methods, new people is always hard, but when your child is autistic, these kind of things can be devastating both to you and your new child.  The experts tell us that transitions are tough for a lot of autistic kids because they are less equipped to deal with them and you should expect an increase in your child's insecurities and an increase in acting out.

I must say that Maya handled this past week extremely well. There wasn't a real change or slide backwards in Maya over this week.  She was more or less her usual self, no increase in tantrums, emotional outbursts or clingyness, her usual signs of distress and insecurity.  She was very excited to go back to school and knew very well that she would go to a new school and that might be a little scary and I think that has helped her handle the initial change extremely well.  She was well prepared both by her father and me but also her former school, which made a difficult but good break with her and explained very well that not only would she go to a new school, but that she was ready for it.  She went enthusiastically each day and every day she said that she had a good day and she was her usual self at home too.  Last week she went for half days and was picked up by Leo each day and spent the afternoons with him (which is a treat for her).  I am quite curious how this week will go when she is going for full school days, plus she will get picked up and dropped off by a driver rather than us taking her each day.

Her new school uses a lot of the same teaching techniques and principles as the school she came from, so a lot of things are familiar to Maya already, although I do notice little things which make me, as a mother want to bite my nails a little.  The children there are older (anywhere from age 6-9) and Maya has gone from being the oldest child her in her former school to being one of, if not the youngest child in her group.  Some of the boys in her group just tower over her and when I see them walk to their class together in the morning, Maya again looks teeny tiny.

I also have the sense that the idea is that Maya should be a little more self sufficient.  For instance, her school is actually a small campus of 4 buildings, one is the main building, where the reception area is, but that is also where children go for their various therapies, where meetings are held, etc.  One building is where the 'school' classes are and the other two buildings are where the 'groups' are.   Maya spends part of her day in school and part of the day in her group (this was the same structure in her other school as well).  The only thing is that children are brought in the mornings to the reception, and then they are supposed to tell the receptionists who they are and what group they belong to, the receptionists call the group and then one of the teachers comes and picks up the child (or children if they arrive at the same time) and takes them to the group.  Even though last week I walked in with her and went to the receptionist, Maya just ran over to the children's play table, so I don't see this happening for her for a while.  The more likely scenario is that the receptionists will need to take notice when Maya comes in and just call her group.  I have discussed this with her group leaders and they do not think it will be a big problem.  The kids arrive at the same time each morning and the teachers take all the kids together so they are sure that Maya will get where she needs to go.  Still, this sounds pretty grown up to me, particularly because on most days Maya goes to school by bus and the driver only brings them as far as the door.  At Maya's old school the entrance door was manned by teachers each morning so they saw the kids coming in and Maya would run right to her class.  Still, my husband assured me that Maya would soon catch on and that probably within a couple months she will be announcing herself like the other kids.  I am opting for the glass half-full so I am looking at this as something for Maya to aspire to.

So, a week and two days in, things are going pretty well, although I can tell that Maya is affected.  Her expression in this photo which was taken on her first day in front of our house kind of says it all.  She's also clinging to Thomas (the train) much more these days, which I notice she does when she feels nervous or scared.  But, what's important is that even though it is new and scary for her, even though she doesn't know the other kids and bonding with the other kids seems a long way off, what's important, fantastic and new for her is that she is HANDLING it.

So, still lots of unanswered questions but still brimming over with pride at how far she has come.

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