When the question comes up, I want to say, “Is the Pope Catholic? Is a frog’s butt watertight? Does a fat dog fart?”
Noah usually pipes up and says, “I’ve been ready to go back to school since the last day of school in May!”
Summer vacation is challenging for kids and families with autism. When the school bus doesn’t arrive and there’s no consistent schedule, it’s nerve-racking. Socially it’s difficult. Noah and Henry were involved in Sturgis Youth Theatre this summer. Noah was involved in summer jazz. Henry was involved in track. Isaac went to summer school for 20 days. They all attended Bible School and went to swimming lessons. We remained plenty busy with family activities. Still it’s not enough – and it’s not the same as being in school.
At times this summer I almost lost my mind being with three boys who would rather have been at school. Isaac in particular wants to go somewhere every day every hour (“Go in the car! Go in the car!”) because he has a difficult time entertaining himself at home unless he watches the same ten minutes of America’s Funniest Home Videos over and over. I posted this one day on Facebook immediately after the conversation took place:
Noah: Mom, are you okay? Are you over the edge?
Me: (laughing) The edge of what?
Me: What do you think?
Isaac has a different teacher this year. Fortunately she taught him during summer school. When we got the assignment in the mail, he looked at the letter, grabbed a blue highlighter, and crossed off her name. Beside his room number, he wrote his old room number from last year. Then he got upset.
This year Isaac has a new bus route, bus driver, and bus number. So much change. God help us. I told Isaac the news, and he started to cry. He repeated “Bus 38!” about 200 times per hour, which is the bus he rode last year.
We made up lyrics last year to sing when Isaac was anxious about the bus. It was effective when the bus was a few minutes late in the morning. He sleeps with and carries around his digital clock, so you can bet your britches he knows the exact time the bus should arrive. The song goes like this:
Bus 38 is comin’
Bus 38 is comin’
It is great!
Noah and I were brainstorming about what to sing this year to calm his brother. Noah proposed this:
Bus 34 is comin’
Bus 34 is comin’
No blood and gore!
When Henry asked, “What is gore?” I knew we’d need to consider different lyrics. We welcome suggestions.
Well, I had told Isaac his bus would arrive at 8:22 a.m., and I wrote it on a piece of paper. We all know this is an approximate time, and Isaac is generally okay if the bus arrives early or a few minutes late.
Thursday the bus was late enough that I called the bus garage to inquire. The bus has THREE stops with Isaac being stop number two. How late could it be? The bus didn’t arrive until 8:43, which was a good 21 minutes late. (Insert screaming.)
While he waited, Isaac leaned his head on Chris. He sat on an exercise ball. He twirled his speech generating device around as it hung from the strap around his neck. He went inside and chewed on his fingernails while he looked out the window. My heart broke for him.
I was so irked about the late bus that I forgot to cry when Isaac’s bus pulled away from the curb. I cry every year, just for a few minutes.
When he got home that day, I asked if he liked the new bus. He said yes. Then his voice trailed off and he said, “Bus 38” as he watched his new bus stop at the corner and turn out of sight.
Isaac’s teacher wrote, “Isaac seemed to enjoy the day. I am sure he is anxious but other than being a little quiet, he seemed to be pretty much the same as what we saw this summer.” Friday she wrote, “We laughed a little when he went to get the mail and brought back mail for his old classroom. He circled ‘not so good’ on his end-of-day sheet, so he’s still adjusting.”
Henry said he was the last one in his classroom to get to school because his bus was about ten minutes late, so he felt like he was behind schedule before the day started. He wasn’t sure what to do with his Star Wars backpack, among other things.
I forgot to cry when he boarded the bus.We were all so anxious due to the late bus that we didn't have time to be sentimental. I stood outside and waved, but he didn’t wave back. I think he was too excited to notice me.
“Tell me everything about your day!” I cried, when he stepped off the bus after his early dismissal. I sat on the couch and listened. He talked non-stop for 45 minutes while pacing in the living room. He never stopped to take a breath.
He said his new shoes were comfortable. He checked out a new Roald Dahl book when he went to media, which he says will be a few minutes longer this year. He talked about the morning meeting with his teacher. He talked about the new students in his fourth grade class and where they lived before moving to this community. He mentioned the names of the students who sat near him in the current seating arrangement. He explained the getting-to-know-you exercise.
“If you don’t bring a snack you will get the option of Ritz Crackers or Goldfish Crackers because most kids like those crackers,” Henry said.
“You don’t like those crackers,” I told him.
“That’s why I always bring a banana,” he said. When he says “always” he means it.
Henry said the new principal (who looks a lot like Henry’s Uncle Chad) came into the classroom and introduced himself. One of the boys in the classroom said, “You sound like Batman.”
“What did the principal say?” I asked, my eyes as big as saucers.
“He said he would take that as a compliment,” Henry responded. “And Mom, the boy who said that was sitting right next to me.” (Henry is a rule follower. He also understands guilt by association.)
He forgot how little time he had to eat lunch, which is why he didn’t finish his red grapes. Mysteriously his dessert had been eaten.
Rating for the day: Excellent.
School started for 8th grade at 11:00 a.m. Thursday due to 7th graders having a morning orientation at the junior high. There’s been a history of Noah being forgotten by his bus driver. When it was 15 minutes late, I called the bus garage. As soon as I did, the bus turned the corner and Noah boarded.
I forgot to cry because I had a friend coming over in a few minutes to work on an essay she had written, and I needed to put a load of laundry in the washing machine.
Later that afternoon I asked him to tell me about his day. He went through his schedule, hour by hour: science, honors math, PE, Tiger Time, U.S. history, English, info tech, and chorus. He knows five of his teachers already. He’s familiar with the school and the routine – which makes it a much easier transition than last year. It all seems like old hat to this guy.
He said his English teacher surveyed students to see when they woke up Thursday morning. Noah was the earliest riser of them all – getting up at 6:00 a.m., FIVE hours before he needed to be at school. (He sets his own alarm and rises and shines.) Even his teacher didn’t get up that early, she had said. Noah said one guy in his class got up at 10:00 a.m. and still managed to make it to school on time. He is still laughing about that one.
Rating for the day: Very Good.
He said it would have been excellent if he had actually done some work.