Sunday, January 15, 2012

Going With the Flow

If you know kids on the spectrum, you know they don't do this very well.  Ben certainly does not, for the most part.  He resists "the flow", rebels against it, rages at it, and melts down any time "the flow" doesn't go the way he thinks it should or envisioned it would.  Transitions are hard, and changes and new routines are harder.  Ben is a great kid, but flexible and well-adjusted are not high on his list of many attributes.

Last week brought many changes and new routines for Ben.  We began school again after a long Christmas break of sleeping late, playing, fun outings and a whole lot of nothin' while we wore pajamas all day.  His school and therapy routines aren't different but they did resume, and he has really struggled with that in the past.  By struggled, I mean screamed, cried, threw himself on the floor, refused to get dressed, kicked, hit himself, hit others and kicked his shoes off 20 times before we even left the house.  And it wasn't pretty at school or daycare, either.

In addition to returning to school, Ben's dad and I created a new custody/visitation schedule which we also began this last week.  Ben lives with me full-time, though his dad and I have joint custody.  The reasons behind that are complicated and personal, but we try to keep a schedule that gives him as much meaningful time with his dad as possible.  As our lives changed and the distance between us and our relationship grew, so did some of the tension between us.  We have to be able to get along for Ben, but that was becoming increasingly more difficult.  We worked together to change Ben's schedule so that they have the same amount of time together but a lot of it is when I am at work, so that the time they share is more meaningful and less tense, among other reasons.  The last time this changed, Ben had a very difficult time with it.  He didn't understand why he couldn't see Daddy when he was used to, or whenever he wanted, for that matter, and it was very, very hard, for lack of a better word.  It was wrenching to watch him and I felt helpless as he was really too little to explain it to adequately.  These new changes are positive ones, in my opinion, but still potentially difficult for Ben.

On top of all that, he began a new daycare.  Yes, all at the same time, in the same week.  It's a wonderful new daycare: sparkling clean, designed to accommodate children with special needs as well as those without, roomy, calm, includes sensory integration tools in each classroom, has teachers with BS's in early childhood ed, and charges a part-time rate if your child is there for less than four hours a day (which was one of the problems with the old one--$95 for 6-7 hours of care a week for an almost 6-year-old is beyond ridiculous).  And the new daycare picks him up from school so that he doesn't have to ride the school bus for a longer amount of time.  It's perfect.  But it's N-E-W.  New means scary.  New means meltdown waiting to happen.

Ben and I visited it together the week before.  He was nervous, even though he knew he wasn't staying and would be leaving with me, and swayed from foot to foot while gripping my hand for a few minutes, but he liked it.  He said hello to his new teachers and new class, shook the teacher's hand, and expressed some excitement over the awesome toys in the gym.  His teacher explained a few things to him, and the receptionist explained who would pick him up and showed him the T-shirt the lady would be wearing.  They allowed me to take pics of the van and sign in front of the building for his picture schedule, and he left calmly and seemed only slightly anxious about it.

At home, I adjusted the picture schedule and the Mommy/Daddy calendar we keep that shows who he will see each morning and each evening, we talked about the changes, read books about school and Mommy and Daddy leaving and coming back, and everything else I could think of to prepare him for it all.  I have to tell you, I was scared.  I was terrified he would melt down and be miserable, particularly at a new daycare where he wouldn't know anyone.  Every time we went back to daycare at his former center, he melted down but they had known him and cared for him since he was an infant.  They were able to figure out how to help him simply because they knew him.  The new center is better equipped and has better educated staff, but they didn't know Benjamin, and that makes a huge difference with a kid.  I was afraid he would be miserable and feel alone and scared, and I wasn't sure what he might do under such stress.  By Tuesday (his first day at the new daycare center), I was a wreck.

To my great relief and surprise, it went amazingly well.  His teacher reported all good days at school, the new daycare said he did well in the van and in his classroom, and he actually said he liked it (which is a big deal in itself).  He also has yet to freak out over the change in his schedule with his daddy.  We had one melt-down Friday morning over a shirt--he would pick one out, throw a fit about wearing it, choose another, throw a fit, etc.--but after he left the house, he was fine.  One freak-out at the end of a week full of stressful changes is definitely improvement, and I am so excited about it I can't even begin to tell you.

Helping Ben negotiate the ups and downs of life is a long, hard road sometimes.  Changes have to happen and that's true for everyone's life, but these things are harder on kids like Ben than most other people.  He is growing up and dealing with things a bit better, and he certainly did a good job of "going with the flow" this week.  I'm super proud of him and very hopeful that he will continue to adapt and adjust a little more easily.