The playground can tend to be problematic as well. The noise and movement are often too much for James. He finds it hard enough to cope in the classroom with the noise and he is expected to sit amongst a couple of hundred other children and eat lunch. It’s just too overloading. Most times, he goes to the library or up to the office where he sits sometimes by himself and sometimes with another student, depending on how he is feeling. He has some special activities on his iPad for this purpose. Some days he goes out into the playground with no problems, but many times he removes himself. I have always found this a little devastating as I don’t like the idea of him missing out on yard time and fun with his friends. Nor do I like the idea of him being by himself. However, this is probably Lesson #1 in being an autism parent. You can’t look at their world through your own eyes, rather you need to look at it through theirs. If he’s happy to sit by himself, he probably needs that quiet time. It’s just hard to watch sometimes.
The same challenges happen on Sports Days, Discos, Fun Days etc. These occasions equate to hell on earth for James. When he was in Prep we gave these things a go but it was so upsetting to him, we gave it away. It’s sad because he loves the idea of being in a ‘house’ and barracking for his team. The lack of structure at these events and the unfamiliar noises and volume of people is just too much for him. One evening last year he begged me to take him to the school Disco – Years Prep to 3! Of course, it HAD to be a costume one! We got dressed, got all the way there, he walked in and within 5 minutes (no exaggeration) he said he needed to go home – hands over ears and with mounting stress! I went home via the Southern Drive Thru that night!!!! I now like to explain to him fully what environment he’s going into, what to expect, how he needs to behave and how long we’re going to be there. He’s getting much better at letting me know if it’s something he thinks he can handle or not. There is actually a disco on at the school tonight. We had a chat about it. His response was, “I think I better stay at home, Mum. OK? Yeah … I’m going to stay at home!”
James is getting better at coping with relief teachers. The school has made this easier by generally placing the same person as relief teacher in his room – bless them! He is always more stressed on days when his teacher is away and doesn’t enjoy having to switch gears with another person. He is sensitive to someone’s tone of voice, use of voice, the way they complete the routine of the classroom, the way they smell … all of it! This year, his class is attending more specialist lessons like PE, library and Music with different teachers. He has struggled with transitioning to these subjects with different teachers. Moving from one sensory environment/state or energy level to another has always been challenging for James.
As you can see, there are so many seemingly little things which are a part of everyday life that cause distress for those on the Autistic Spectrum. With support, James will find it easier to cope with all of these challenges as he gets older. He has shown so much courage and strength in confronting all he has up to now. I’ve no doubt that he’ll continue to tackle it all, head on just as he did this morning! I am so proud of him! xxx