Tomorrow is back-to-school day for Bear, and I have a headache. No, really. I have a headache. Granted, I get a lot of headaches, but I'm pretty sure the fact that I have a knot in my stomach as well means that my headache is stress induced.
Why so stressed, you ask? Um...did you miss the part about tomorrow being the first day of school?
Going back to school can be difficult for any kid, but it is especially difficult for kids who don't deal well with change. For kids like Bear, who have conditions like ADHD, ODD, SPD, ASD, or anxiety, the first day of school (or week, or month...) can be pretty traumatic. A new classroom, a new teacher, new sounds, new smells, new people in your class, old friends not in your class, a new desk, new rules, new work, new expectations -- these things aren't sources of excitement for kids who fear change. Rather, they are a source of major stress, and stress tends to manifest outwardly in behaviour problems.
So what can parents of alphabet-soup kids (kids with ADHD, ODD, SPD, ASD, etc...) expect on the first day of school? We never know, and that's the source of our anxiety. Perhaps there will be meltdowns at home, before school. Or perhaps all will go well until we get to school, at which point the dam will burst and all that fear will come out. Or perhaps we'll get a phone call half-way through the day, asking us to come get our overwhelmed and out-of-control child. Or perhaps he'll manage to keep it together until he walks in the front door after school when, safe at last, the slightest trigger will set off a major incident. Or perhaps the first few days or weeks will go fine, lulling us into a false sense of security, until something -- that dreaded, unexpected something -- sets her off, releasing all the stress the poor little thing has been building up.
As parents of special needs children, we know something is coming...something bad...but we don't know what or when. That's why parents of alphabet-soup kids dread school starting up again. Can you blame us?
So what can other parents, teachers, family members do to help? I found some advice on Four Sea Stars that, although it refers specifically to autism, is appropriate for all our special-needs kids.
I promise to smile at you if you promise to smile at me.