Ten days to Start of School

Before GenCon we’re in the midst of summer. After GenCon, everything is propelling us toward the onset of school. This is true most years, but feels particularly true this one. I’m still wading through GenCon laundry and accounting, yet my schedule begins to fill up with school things. I filled out school forms, paid school fees, and set up appointments to meet with school counselors. I know that last one isn’t on the list for most parents. There is a part of my brain that wonders if doing it makes me helicopter-y. Except the universal response from the counselors is “Oh yes. We definitely need to meet.” School counselors are very busy people who are not shy about dodging meetings if they think the meetings aren’t necessary.

Tomorrow is the meeting for Patch. We will examine every class to determine how the teachers will affect him. Last year he had one teacher in particular who loved him very much and wanted to help, but the ways that she approached trying to help made him more anxious and shut down. We went several rounds of trying to help her help him. Ultimately we just muddled through. Sometimes it happens that way. There is a limit to the amount of change I can ask of another person in order to accommodate my kid. I can absolutely say things like “write down his assignments for him.” I can’t really say “Make sure that you aren’t projecting anxious concern when you speak to him.” It is easy to define “don’t corner him” when you’re talking about physical space in a room. But unless someone has an instinctive understanding of his internal landscape, they can emotionally corner him without even being aware they have done so. The school year will be much easier if we start by placing him in classrooms where student/teacher affinity already exists, then we can use the affinity to help education flourish instead of spending all our energy trying to create affinity.

Gleek’s school counselor is going to be more difficult to track down, which is not surprising for high school. She’s answered my emails enthusiastically and would have been happy to meet with Gleek today, except that today began with getting Gleek’s wisdom teeth removed. She’s not coherent enough to be out in public quite yet. The teeth removal was a last minute, lets-get-this-done-before-school-starts effort which was triggered by her complaining that her jaw hurt. She’s a teeny person with big beautiful teeth, so I was pretty sure that the removal of the teeth was inevitably going to be necessary. The other school preparation which was important to Gleek was refreshing her blue hair dye. I’ve been assured by two different school personnel that blue hair will not cause her disciplinary problems on campus, but until she’s been on campus for a week without problems, a little worry will linger in my head. Fortunately we already know exactly what classes Gleek has and which teachers. We tuned it carefully, but the rubber meets the road when she actually attends class.

Next week will be Kiki’s packing week. She has to decide which of her things need to be transported to her college apartment and which things can continue to live here until she returns for Christmas. She and I are both getting weary of this nomadic two-location existence. She has 3 semesters of work left, so we probably only have four relocations left to do. I’m feeling how much I’m going to miss having her around. That feeling has varied from departure to departure. This time is a bit stronger than most. Tangled up in the packing week is some frantic scrambling to help her pound a story into shape before she goes. It is getting there, but unfortunately she ends up waiting on me for feedback. Often. Because my brain is full of all the things.

Link is not headed back to school this fall. We’re entering a gap year for him. None of us feel like spending the money or stress pushing him into a college education that he isn’t emotionally ready to handle. Asynchronous development is very common for people with autism. Link is more advanced than his peers in some ways and less advanced in others. He’ll be hanging with Howard and I at the house, taking an evening class, working for me, and pursuing some personal projects. We’ll also have him doing some of the family cooking, life skills for him, dinner for us.

I would like to be super optimistic about the coming school year. I remember that beginning-of-school rush when I looked forward to all the cool things my kids were going to get to do and learn. The past four years have leached all of that out of me. Yes there have been some wonderful teachers, some beautiful moments, but they feel like flickers of light. I’m entering this year with plans already in place for adjusting schedules, pulling back from stress, and partial home schooling as needed. I’ve laid groundwork with allies, and I know who I need to talk to in order to make adjustments happen. I’m braced for emotion. I don’t know what emotions I’ll have. I don’t know when they will hit me. I just know that I’m afraid that the coming months will reveal even more hard things. I refuse to stand helpless if the school system that is designed for typical children begins to wear away at my kids. They are not typical. This is both a wonderful and difficult thing. Of course I’m also afraid that I’ll be too quick to declare “this isn’t working.” So I’m sure I’ll spin in tight stress circles trying to decide what to do.

For today, I’m working to not borrow trouble. I’m consciously recognizing that Patch is going to get to have a couple of computer classes, which have the potential to be amazing for him. Gleek is getting to take a health sciences class which will let her explore possible careers in psychology, therapy, and other medical sciences. I don’t know if she’ll ultimately move that direction, but I think she’ll find the class interesting. There are going to be good things. I need to consciously remind myself of this instead of just stewing in all my fears.