When I arrived at school yesterday to pick B up I found him with Cherie, his consultant teacher, & his music teacher, waiting for me to arrive. I could tell B was barely holding it together. While I spoke to Cherie, B's music teacher took him aside & spoke to him quietly, & I saw them high-five at the end of their chat, which seemed to bode well... Cherie explained that B had had a good morning, but as the afternoon wore on B had more & more difficulty with tics & feeling "unsafe". Things came to a head during music time (although I guess he didn't do well during Spanish lesson, right before music, either) & his tics became disruptive. Cherie had been in a meeting while the kids were in music, so they called her out to help B, but by the time she got there he had been approached by too many people who didn't know what to do & he was really freaked out. Since it was really close to dismissal time Cherie decided to wait it out rather than call me (I usually leave the house at 2:15 to go get him, so she probably would not have reached me before I left home anyway). After B finshed talking to his music teacher, he came over & buried his head in my shoulder, pushing hard (in a sort of controlled head-bang), so I knew he was feeling overwhelmed. I helped him get his things from his locker, then we headed for the stairs, but B was still really upset & overwhelmed & whacked his head against a locker on the way to the door, then swore going down the stairs. By the time we got to the car he was screaming. I got him settled in the car & we started home. The screaming stopped about half-way home. He said he was upset because he felt that talking about what was triggering his tics with Cherie had made them worse, & I explained to him that understanding what triggers him is the only way we can try to modify things, to minimise ticcing. I was worried about getting him out of the car & into the house, because he seemed on the edge of a meltdown, so when B was quiet enough to hear me I told him that what I would really like to do when we got home was to have a snack & watch a pokemon movie. I told him I'd bought ramune for snack & that diverted him very nicely. We discovered ramune ("rah-moo-neh", a kind of japanese soda) just recently & it really is fun. There's a marble stuck below the bottle's opening that has to be dislodged in order to drink the soda (it's stuck inside the bottle & can't come out) with a special device included with it. The marble makes the soda fizzier, & B likes it because he can't guzzle it but has to sip & savour it (thanks to the marble). Plus, the whole bottle is only 70 calories, a nice plus. So, B was happy to go inside & have ramune & then watch "Pokemon: Heroes" with me. After the movie I asked him what had happened at school that made him feel so overwhelmed. He explained that a kid in his class has begun to trigger tics (a friend, actually... sigh) & after lunch he & Cherie had tried to sort-out how to help B cope with the kid's presence. B said that talking about it made him feel more like ticcing, so when they all sat down for music class B had tried to sit where he couldn't see him, but somebody complained that B was in their way & he had to move. B ended up in a fetal position for most of the class, ticcing more & more loudly. The one-on-one aide for another child tried to help B, but she really had no idea of what to do (& what not to do) & just made B feel worse. He ended-up around the corner, finding refuge among some tables that no-one was using.
During the evening, when B seemed calm, C & I queried B as to how he thought things could be better, how best to help him cope. B said that he needs to find a safe place on his new floor at school. Last year, on the 2nd floor, the special ed. resource room had a "cosy corner" with beanbag chairs & books that was behind a short bookcase, so that it felt private. This year there's no equivalent place for B to go when he's overwhelmed. Plus, they are still sorting-out how to manage all of the kids with special needs in the 5th & 6th grade classrooms, & how to alert Cherie when she's needed because the rooms are across the hall from each other & not easily accessible for emergency situations.
B stayed fairly calm all that afternoon, although I noticed that he was ticcing a lot, a different vocalisation than his usual tics, even when he watches tv, & when I ask him if he's ok (or being triggered) he looks at me as though I'm nuts, so I don't think he's even aware of some of these tics... (Cherie told me the same story this morning when we spoke, & that he appears completely unaware of doing it when she asks if he's ok...). He had some trouble falling asleep, but C & I tag-teamed reading & sitting with him & he finally drifted off. Afterward, we tried to brainstorm ideas to consider at school, particularly for finding safe spaces. I was feeling pretty upset & worried that he wasn't going to be able to cope with all the new stresses of 5th grade. We are trying very hard to avoid having to get B a one-on-one aide, because it's about the only thing that he's told us adamantly he'd hate. (He's fine with OT & tolerates speech...) I was also worried about how much accomodation we could reasonably expect from school, especially if he's disrupting things (no matter how inadvertantly). It was scary seeing B so upset that he was screaming, & worrying about how to bring him back down... C wrote down some ideas for me to share with Cherie this morning...
B slept right up to the alarm again this morning- a pattern that I find worrying. He seems to really need the time before his official wake-up for down-time & getting-himself-together-time, & I wonder if the stress of the new challenges of this school year are exhausting him. He was pretty cheerful during breakfast & not at all adverse to going to school, which was a great blessing. We decided to take Paula (director of B's school & good friend) a bottle of ramune, since we'd told her all about it last week, & that made B psyched to go to school... When we got there Cherie & I sat down to compare notes. I told her B's take on yesterday's events & requested that, if at all possible, if B's having trouble, no other adult get involved but her. She explained the communication problem (how to call her when needed without disrupting classes) & told me that they're working on a solution, especially because B's not the only one that has this need. I also explained the safe space issue & she said she'd actively work on this one, too. I was kind of weepy while we talked, & embarassed about it. Cherie was very sweet about it, though. Sometimes I feel scared that, if they can't work things out for B at this school, we have no other viable choices for him. At the same time, I don't want my kid stressing this school beyond their ability to cope. B came in while we were talking & he & Cherie talked about possible safe spaces. She also mentioned that one of the other kids (another buddy of B's) was going to be making brownies that morning & would he like to help. Would he!?! :) I left feeling a bit better & spent some time hanging out with my friend Amy, one of the 2nd grade teachers, & keeping an eye on her kids when she needed to leave the room. This helped a lot to get me grounded again.
I had a meeting at church today & a lunch engagement with a friend (which was somewhat derailed by her purse being snatched on the way over to my house, but a visit from the police & many phone calls to cancel credit cards didn't stop us from enjoying a home-cooked japanese meal at my dining-room table), which was good because I wasn't worrying all day about how B was doing. When I got to school there was no sign of turmoil- nor of my kid :) Cherie found me first & told me that B was in Paula's office, hanging-out, so we had a chance to talk about his day. He'd had a few "tic attacks" but for the most part was having a much better day (the brownies & giving Paula the ramune really helped :). Cherie said that she's asked the special ed. co-ordinator for school to do an observation this coming Monday to see what she might be able to suggest to help B cope with his new environment. Paula, too, will be involved in the meeting that the teachers'll have after the observation, to share her perspectives & ideas as well. Cherie said that Paula has offered her office (which is right across the hall from his classroom) as a safe space for B when she's there, so he'll have a quiet place to read or do his work when overwhelmed by noise or intrusive thoughts. When I went to find B in Paula's office, he was playing with the cool mechanism that opens her umbrella :). She said they were just hanging-out & chatting (there was another classmate in there, too) & she reiterated her invitation to B to use her office as safe space. It's such a generous offer & elegant solution, since Paula is practically family :). When she reminded us that the all-school picnic was this evening B got very excited. So, we collected his things & went home. After snack B legoed & watched some Kratts' Creatures until dad came home & it was time to go to the picnic. Unfortunately, the crowd of people at the picnic kind of freaked B out, so C got a plate of food for both of them & they hung out in B's classroom (the picnic was outside). I got to visit with various friends & had 2 chairs to loan out, since my guys were inside. I was delighted when B wanted to come out for dessert & stayed outside to be social (it was getting dark by then & I wonder if it made all the people less intimidating, since he couldn't see them as well...).
I'm just about to go up & do the bedtime reading with B. B's having had a better day today was very heartening for me, as was all the planning to find ways for B to cope better. The thing is, school really is just beginning, & there's still time to find a good routine & ways for B to cope. It's hard to remember this when my kid is screaming with frustration & distress, but this is a good school for B & good place for us, as a family, to be.