Autism & Summer
Today is the last day of school! It's crazy!
I cannot believe that Caleb will be heading into grade 5 next year! Oh my, oh my, oh my.....
Ever since Caleb started school, summer has been a time that worries me (worries is a poor word, it made me feel sick to my stomach is what it did!). He really loves the structure of school, and the summer would tend to be unpredictable which would equal more meltdowns.
On one hand, all the experts say "structure, structure, and more structure for kids with autism!". It's a valid point. Kids with autism have such sensory problems that they generally thrive on rituals, schedules, and sameness, and have a hard time with how chaotic the world can be. Procedure can give an element of comfort to those who find our world more confusing than most.
But on the other hand, even though they desire order, creating it at all costs can create a child even more obsessed with order. I know that for many with special needs kids in their care, they may be unhappy with that last comment, but it's just my thoughts from this past year.
If a child who has a hard time handing change gets to perpetually have things just-so, they will only learn that things will always be just-so. Which can't be the case. No matter how hard someone tries to create a predictable environment, change is inevitable.
It seems like I've gone off on a tangent, but what I am trying to get to is this: summer can equal torture for lack of routine, but summer can also equal torture because of a routine!
In the past, when summer had no routine, Caleb would be on his very worst behaviour. Fighting, meltdowns, poor eating, bad communication......Oh, summer fun.
But, summers with a must-stick-to-routine created a lot of grief in the family because if someone invited us over last minute, we would have to say no because Caleb hadn't been warned first thing in the morning. If we needed (or wanted) to run into town for something suddenly, but hadn't let Caleb know when he woke up, it wouldn't be happening (well, unless we thought him having a jumbo fit in a store would be fun!). So, routine worked for him, but not the rest of us (well, I sometimes liked it), and no routine worked better for us, and not for him. Summers sucked.
But something has happened in the last year...Caleb has learned that as much as we try to plan and create a structured environment, life isn't a routine maker! In fact, I think if life had a best friend, it would be change! Caleb has come home from a school day of dis-order, and has a great and happy evening still. Before he would have a chaotic school day, and get through it, then get home and fall apart!
We very slowly started to blend the two worlds together. We had routine in that we have a predictable day in some elements (wake up, get dressed, then breakfast, etc.), but no routine in that we may be staying home, or we may be packing up and heading somewhere.
Caleb (despite his autism, and us reading and being told that he will only thrive on routine), has managed to grow leaps and bounds this year with a routined and non-routined life. Not only has he grown in his communication skills, school work, eating habits, and relational skills, but he can easily switch gears, and cope with the (sometimes sudden) changes in his day.
I am still feeling a bit of a knot in my stomach about the summer, but I think this year it has more to do with the 4 and 5 year old girls and all their bickering!!! Sheesh.
In this last week of school, Caleb has had some pretty different days, but has done so well. We even went away for one day to visit my sister at a cottage near-by, and at the end of the day Caleb said to me, "School is all done and summer for cottage", and I said, "nope, you actually still have 2 more days of school". A year ago this conversation would have ended in a complete, full on flailing meltdown, but this time he thinks about it and says, "Caleb will go to cottage later". That was it! What a kid!
I sometimes get cranky and unpleasant about changes in my day, and what I thought was going to happen, and there's my son, my autistic son who needs "structure, structure, and more structure!" shrugging his shoulders and getting on with the day. I have said it before, and I will likely (hopefully) say it my whole life, but I need to learn from Caleb. He can still get bent out of shape if things change, but even in those moments, he gets over it faster than he used to. I can be grumpy all day because of a last minute change to the day, but man, I see Caleb and he is working so hard, and trying his best to see that we can have order and disorder, and things can still be alright! There are so many adults who get upset when things don't go as planned, but guess what? Life happens! If my son with autism can struggle to accept that, I feel that the rest of us should be putting in some effort too.
Happy summer to those with kids in school who are wrapping it up, or to those just excited about the summer! Plan some fun things to do, but also leave some room for summer surprises; last minute bbq's, trips to a splash pad or beach, getting a freezie and heading to the park, whatever! Stay calm, and summer on. :)
6/26/2014 01:43:26 am
You never cease to amaze me with your writing abilities! And you're right. Caleb has matured tremendously over he years and has given himself great coping strategies to help deal with change - love that kid
6/26/2014 03:29:01 am
Aww, thanks. :) I honestly couldn't believe today was the last day of school....this year flew by because of how much he has accomplished and grown! I seriously am learning a lot from him and how well he has learned to cope!
6/26/2014 11:51:04 am
Well written Amy Lyn! Caleb is awesome and I know he has taught me so much this year as well : )
6/26/2014 12:22:36 pm
Thank-you again for all the hard work you've done with him!! I can't believe how he re-grouped this afternoon when we showed up, and he had a little cry, then turned around and went back to the classroom. Amazing. He is amazing!
6/29/2014 08:40:21 am
I can not believe summer is here already! This year was truly the best I've ever had. I have an amazing support staff and students to thank for that. Teaching Caleb was an experience I will never forget and can not wait to experience again in the upcoming years. His passion and inquiry amaze me. He rolled with quite a few punches as our days often got off track. School trips being cancelled and redirected mid trip, school assemblies popping up, you name it. I am missing the class already and it is only Sunday. Thank you for a great year Caleb, have a great vacation (with your shoes off!)
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Hi, I'm Amy-Lyn!
I am the lady behind this here blog! I live in the sticks with my animals, my super handsome husband, and my
3 amazing kids!
Here you'll find things from recipes (gluten-free, paleo, and strait up junk food!), DIY ideas, thoughts on raising a son with autism, and whatever else pops into my brain! : )
Read more about me by clicking here!
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