I knew the transition to high school would be difficult, but hadn’t I put everything “in place”? At the end of the 2010-2011 school year we had the annual 504 meeting. His teachers, counselor and I made sure we had everything in writing we thought he might need to make the change easier. Now granted, he is going to a high school of only 500 students and not 1500. But as he said, “MOM! That’s irrelevant! It’s still 500 to me!”. So who dropped the ball? Did I? Did the new counselor? Did his teachers? Did he?
Before school started, I was informed there would be NO freshman orientation. I called the school to try to get a tour of the school and my son’s class schedule before the mass rush that would occur the Saturday before school started. I was told-Sorry, no can do! We’re having in-service trainings and schedules are subject to change anyway. OK…
By then my son’s anxiety was really increasing. We decided to go ahead with the Saturday mish-mash, bring your check book, get your schedule, find your locker, sign up for a plethora of activities day. That actually went pretty well, except that his locker combination didn’t work….more anxiety.
And so school started on Monday. I sent him on the bus with his noise reduction earphones and smart phone. The first text came five minutes later. However, he arrived at school safely and somewhat calm. I didn’t hear from him again until lunch time. The text said: the lunch room was loud, the schedule was confusing, his locker didn’t open, there were too many school supplies to write down. It came along with a sad face emoticon.
I could see it in his face when I walked in the door from work that first day : total and complete sensory overload. He spent the rest of the evening alone; only spoke when spoken to and in complete self-imposed stimulation free isolation.
By the third day of school, he was a wreck. SENSORY overload! Where is the support team? Do his teachers have a copy of his 504? Who is responsible for checking in on him? His locker still doesn’t work. This counselor won’t get back to me. His “advisory” (another word for home room) teacher is fresh out of college. Are they going to let my son fall through the cracks?
Countless emails, three visits to school by my Heroic Dad, two telephone calls later, I’m still waiting on answers. It’s been three weeks and progress reports have gone out. While my son is doing well academically, at what cost emotionally?
My son did NOT ride a school bus until last year and still will not ride one if it’s raining. He prefers hard back books because the texture of the paper (but does not insist on it anymore). He wears clothes of a specific fabric or feel. At 14 years old a sudden loud noise will still send him for cover crying; while noisy places make him anxious. He doesn’t go to the movies, mall, skating rinks, arcades (Dave & Buster’s) due to the noise. He also picks constantly…at anything or nothing, pours out boxes of dry ingredients to feel, holds magnets and rocks in his pockets to feel during the day, and touches his hair and head again and again.
I no longer dread the phone calls from school personnel that he is banging his head against a wall in frustration, or won’t come out from under table, or has walked home. I do dread phone calls with him on the other end crying, frustrated, and unable to communicate to the adult in charge exactly what it is he needs. For the past three years, we have working toward navigating this world as a team. Each year it gets a little better and each year has new challenges. It seems like the move to high school is the ultimate challenge.
I fully understand that high school students need to learn to advocate for themselves. Educators need to understand kids must be taught HOW to be advocates. It doesn’t happen overnight. You can’t drop them in high school and just expect them to all of sudden “function”. That’s why they came to YOUR school with accommodations.