Friday, December 4, 2009

What an Invitation After All !!!!!

What a busy week around Alex's house! Too much to write about! But all in all, a GREAT week! Kept us all running and we are pooped. Can't wait for the weekend and some rest.

A quick update...The Christmas tree has now stayed up for four days in a row. With the help of rope and a hook in the wall, of course! So we will decorate it this weekend, if the kids will get close enough to it!

Yesterday, we had the most amazing day! I was lucky enough to join Alex's special education class on a field trip. Today I can use the term lucky. For the week and a half since the teacher asked me to go, I wasn't feeling lucky, I was dreading it terribly!

The field trip was to the metro's holiday hot spot and was destined to be crowded with busloads of kids, adults out Christmas shopping and all the corporate people out lunching and meeting. The teacher "invited" me to go because of the difficulties Alex has been having recently, which happens to be the same reason I didn't want to go! But, I needed to be there to be available to bail him out if necessary.

The reason I didn't want to go with the class, though, is so selfish. I knew that there was a very good chance that Alex would be terribly stressed. I was very afraid that his social anxiety would get the best of him and that he would have some sort of inappropriate reaction in public. I haven't completely figured out how to handle those scenes. Don't get me wrong, we don't expect him to fail, and he doesn't very often, it's just that when he does...well, I guess we don't like it.

Here's an example of one of those scenes. The waitress comes up from behind Alex, and he didn't see her coming, so he throws his glass across the table. The entire restaurant turns and stares. Dad, Big Sis, Twin Sis and I immediately go into our routine of cleaning and calming Alex. All the while Dad and I know that every person in the restaurant has made a judgement on what just happened. Dad and I are horrible parents, Alex is a terribly misbehaved and spoiled teenager! While they never show it and will never say it, I know, Big Sis and Twin Sis are embarrassed beyond belief! Alex feels guilty, ashamed and frustrated. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, it is horrible. We do go to restaurants, we just try to avoid putting Alex in these types of situations and avoid the massive crowds. Of course the field trip was to chaos central!

I try to live by the theory that the uninformed's judgments don't matter. But when they are about you and your children, they hurt! And unfortunately, end up mattering! That's why I didn't want to go on the field trip. What a cop out, right?

Well, I went on the field trip. I think there was a group of about eight students, Mrs. Teacher, two Mrs. Paras and myself. Sure enough, once we got there, buses and buses, crowds and crowds, and Alex, nervous as can be. I am very happy and proud to say that he handled it all, including lunch at the restaurant, beautifully! He did, however, continuously chose to be with Mrs. Teacher instead of me! Haha! I am OK with that.

I did witness some pretty amazing things on that trip. Things I have never even thought about or considered. I have already told you how fabulous Mrs. Teacher and Mrs. Paras are, but I have never seen these students interacting with each other. At first, I was pretty aware of the public's reaction to our group. After thirteen years, stares still make me angry! My skin is thickening, though! However, it did not take long for me to forget the public! This is cheesy but let me tell you, talk about WARM FUZZIES!

Everyone of these kids knew the needs of every one of the other kids. They could "read" when one was about to get anxious and would instinctively calm the child before his stress escalated to an unmanageable level. If one started to stray or got too far out of reach, one would reach out to him and guide him back to the group.

At lunch one of the students recommended to the teacher a nice meal for his buddy who wasn't verbalizing his wishes at the time. He told her something like, I know you are in charge and are responsible for ordering for my buddy, but I know he likes Sprite and chicken nuggets, so this is just my suggestion.

One always made sure he held the door for everyone. Go ahead Mrs. Alex's mom, I've got it. Most grown men don't do that anymore!

For awhile, the class split into two groups. One of the students with Mrs. Teacher and I, became very nervous when he realized Mrs. Paras weren't there. The students in our group took care of him and calmed him. Even Alex got into the picture, rubbing his back and holding the student's arm. They knew he liked to have an arm draped over his shoulder, so the students draped their arms to calm him until Mrs. Paras returned.

It was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen in a long while. And what a concept, these kids were taking care of each other! I think the rest of us could learn a thing or two!


carma said...

I had tears in my eyes reading how these kids helped each other out. If only all kids could treat each other so nicely!

Carrie H said...

I read your posting and kept nodding to myself. Much of that is SO true. I have found that many of my SPED students (I am a para) are much more kind and sensitive to others than the mainstream kids are-though they have their difficult moments, they can be pure joy to be around. I also think that students that have situational issues (crowds, changes, choices, etc) can function well with people who can predict each individual child's reactions (although as you said, there are always those times when life just happens). Even at school, taking tests with the students or having them learn certain things, educators have to keep the environment in mind to promote the most learning possible for these kids. I know I get upset at some people who think these kids are just being "difficult" on purpose (you'd be amazed how many times I have heard that!). These students can't control some reactions to situations that the rest of us take for granted. They do need to be taught responsibility (we should not do the work FOR them as I have seen some educators do!)but we also need to realize their triggers and challenges!!
Some people with various forms of mental retardation, autism, or learning disabilities do not always look different from other people in obvious ways so they get judged easily by others. If anyone saw "Rachel's challenge" the other day at the high school, I think people should take the advice that was promoted in that presentation. Think before you judge...something may be going on in that person's life that you don't know about...bad day, physical/mental disability, whatever...give people a chance before you decide.

Sara E said...

ok... I have happy chills :)

The Lesters said...

Alex sounds like such a sweetheart. We have many things in common. I loved that post you wrote about his twin being his therapist. I never thought of my sons twin as his therapist but you're right. Peter learns way more from his brother than he does from me. Love your blog. Thank you so much for the encouraging post you wrote me about the start of my sons testing. It helps to know there are others who can relate.