Don't know about you, but we had a real Monday Murphy's Law morning. Most likely as a result of waking up so early on Sunday, Charlie was wrapped up tightly in his blankets with less than five minutes to go on Monday. After a little coaxing (which is already too much for Charlie these days), he pulled himself on his own, got dressed and into the car all while saying "Barney video," a phrase that can be a precursor to him getting very upset (i.e., having a "neurological storm"). We dropped Jim off at the train and then drove quietly (except, of course, if you're listening to The Clash, Charlie's current request, it's not so quiet). We were not yet near the school when the orange "you need to get gas" light went on.
Prompting me to think, can't they make those lights blue or green, I don't need extra alarm to get me to get gas!
When we got to the school, we discovered that Saturday's snowfall had rendered the sloping parking lot a sheet of crackling ice. Charlie rarely falls but I instinctively, and as lightly as I could, held the back of his right arm as he got out of the car. He made it fine to the covered walkway and then started crying. This escalated very fast into something more like weepy howls, whereupon he threw his bookbag over the railing, and wailed as we went inside. Another teacher started talking in a gentle voice to Charlie. We both stood nearby and then Charlie took off his shoes and socks and dumped those over the rail and then his coat (but I grabbed it). Two behaviorists and an aide appeared and spoke to Charlie soothingly. At first grew silent and started walking, then he started running at top speed.
I let go a deep sigh. The other teacher told me she teachers 9-year-olds, adding "it happens to everyone." I nodded, oh yes.
We do know why families turn to treatments such as those based on Complementary Alternative Medicine like those critiqued, and rightly so, in a recent Los Angeles Times article. Things can be really, terribly tough and really just awful. But it's not that Charlie and kids like him are "aggressive" or "violent," but that they have tremendous, complicated challenges with communication and their sensory and neurological systems, and these can lead to what we call "neurological storms" in Charlie. Today reminded me again that some good teaching, and a deep dose of compassion, can go a long way.
I had to get to the second-to-last day of my Elementary Latin class so drove to the nearest gas station which charges top dollar. I pulled up behind another car, only to be informed by the attendant that the pump for regular wasn't working. So I backed out at an odd angle, drew a consternated stare from another woman (sorry, the white car's gas tank is on the right side!), turned off the engine, looked at the clock and called a student to tell the class I would be late. As I paid, the attendant said to me, "I like your suitcase, it's very nice." I presume he meant my bag---I must really carry too many books, dry erase markers, laptop, papers "just in case." (And now that Charlie finishes school later, sometimes I get to his school and have some extra minutes; nothing like working in one's car.)
I was late for class but still able to get some Latin in. And when I picked up Charlie, the word was "great day," even with a fire drill and hearing another student screaming in a high-pitched tone.Charlie was eager to get into the car, but quite fine, thank you, and so for the rest of the day, even after his hands got so cold on a bike ride with Jim that he was doubled over and wouldn't budge for quite awhile. A stop at the bike store was the answer and when I showed Charlie a nice pair of Gore-tex gloves, he put them on and didn't take them off for awhile.
I confess. Our difficult experience with the school district and the ABA program has left us saddened and unsure about how much education---which Jim and I have always believed in as at the core for helping Charlie---can do. Charlie's not yet been a month at the new school (which is ABA-based, but not as "rigid" as in Charlie's previous program) but so far it's been good and we feel that, if we drop him off anxious and unhappy as he was this morning, that's not how his day or he himself will be. His teachers at the new school show a kind of understated confidence and readiness that they've seen whatever Charlie's doing, and that it can be handled. And, that he can get through the day, and that a day, no matter how bad the start, can still be "great."