We all know how children with SPD need routines. Add an Autism diagnosis, and those routines become even more critical. My son’s special education teacher, Ms. Jones, is AWESOME about the routines. And he’s thriving in her classroom. But this week a lot of routines got messed up, and we are dealing with it big time now that the weekend has arrived.
I’m not talking about the meltdowns, although those are plenty. I’m not talking about the running, screaming, jumping off of things, hitting the sister, pulling the cat’s tail, tackling mommy–although that is rampant too. No, what we are dealing with is a little more sinister and a whole lot more amusing.
Let me back up to the cause of all of our issues this weekend. Last Monday, Munchkin’s bus never came to pick him up for school. I drive my daughter to her school, and usually we have exactly enough time to get him on the bus and get her to school on time. Because she’s in a private school, they actually charge the parents a fee when the child is late. So we operate by a pretty strict schedule because I refuse to pay that fee! When the bus time came and went swithout said bus, I forced Munchkin (kicking and hitting and crying) into his carseat and drove both kids to school. Then I half-dragged/half-carried him into school and handing him off sobbing to his teacher. Who, incidentally, was looking pretty frazzled already, and her class hadn’t even arrived yet (the whole class rides the same bus.) Who also made a comment to me about the bus throwing her whole routine out the window. (See? She KNOWS how all-important that routine is.)
Tuesday…the bus still did not show up on time. Not wanting a repeat of the day before, I dragged my husband out of bed and made him wait with Munchkin for the bus. It came 35 minutes late. Turns out there was a substitute driver for the week, and she couldn’t figure out the route. Munchkin reported to me that Ms. Jones told the class the driver would be late every day this week, and they would have to skip Circle Time because they wouldn’t get to school in time to do it. He seemed ok with this arrangement, so I figured Ms. Jones had done damage control there.
Wednesday, the bus was only 10 minutes late. Thursday, 5 minutes. Thursday afternoon, Munchkin happily reported that the class did Circle Time for the first time that week. Friday, for whatever reason, they skipped it again.
And…that brings us to our current situation. Somehow, in all of the missed Circle Times, something got messed up in Munchkin’s internal calendar. I should have realized it when he came home Thursday saying “We have a no-school day on Friday.” But I just calmly corrected him, saying his no-school day was actually on Monday. He seemed really confused, and I thought that was strange–the kid lives and breathes the calendar. He can tell you the date today and what day of the week it will be 9 days from now. He knows every holiday, birthday and day off school each month by date and often by day of the week as well. (I don’t know how he does it. I can’t even remember what today is. )
Then Friday, he came home telling me he had a four-day weekend. I corrected him, counting off Saturday…Sunday…Monday. Three days. He had a meltdown. Boom! Just like that, he was on the floor, crying and insisting that he knew it was only Thursday and tomorrow was Friday and then he had four days off of school and that Friday was March 4th and that was tomorrow and… I stood there flabbergasted. And quickly soothed it over by saying, “Ok! Mommy might be wrong! It’s ok!” He stood up, wiped his tears, and told me, “I KNOW you’re wrong, Mom, because I KNOW my calendar days.” (sniff, sniff)
So, today we got up and I reminded him that Grandma was going to babysit him this morning. He got upset again, because Grandma was not supposed to watch him until SATURDAY. But this time I was prepared. I got the calendar off the wall and showed him where it was written down for Grandma to watch him on Saturday, and look! That’s today! I then showed him that Friday, March 4th WAS a school day, and he went to school yesterday. I thought I was explaining it all pretty well. Munchkin, on the other hand, looked more confused than ever. And when I finished, he explained to ME exactly how wrong I was. I sighed, and said, “Well, we’re going to Grandma’s anyway, so get your shoes on.”
Throughout the day, I have tried to help him understand that it really is Saturday. I told him tomorrow is his cousin’s birthday party–on SUNDAY. I reminded him tomorrow is a church day. I reminded him that Monday–in two days–is a no-school day. I’ve shown him the calendar on my phone, on my computer, and on Grandma’s wall. All to no avail.
Even now, as I type this, he is telling me, “You guys are confused on your days in your head. It is Friday. I only knocked 3 days off of my chart in my head for March. Today I knocked off 4 days. And tomorrow I will knock off five days. And Sunday will be the sixth day. And we always go to church on Sunday. Not Saturday.” Accompanied by several versions of the months of the year and the days of the week set to song. (I asked him what he meant by knocking the days off in his head–was he using his imagination? He rolled his eyes and told me, “Days of the week are for real. They are not in my ima-ji-gation.” Yes, that makes it much clearer. Thank you for explaining that to me.)
I do get it, though. I have long understood that this child has a visual calendar of the whole year in his head. And somehow, by not doing his Circle Time routine at school this week, his visual calendar is off by a whole day. He still can tell you the date nine days from now–it’s simply one day off. I get it–but how do I make him get it? I’ve tried. My husband has tried. My daughter has tried. ”I don’t know why everyone is so confused about what day it is!” he says. We are all cracking up. And yet, we don’t know what to do. So we are humoring him, hoping his teacher can help him figure this out on Tuesday.
And in the meantime, I just took a break from typing this to tuck him into bed, and told him we’d be going to church on “Saturday” this week.