To some extent, I think we are all a creature of habit. We do many of the same things in the same manner each and every day. We brush our teeth the same way, starting either on the top or bottom each time. We put our jeans on the same way, one leg at a time, or both legs at once, every time. We put our shoes on, typically using the same foot first as the last time. Yes, we are creatures of habit, but a change in the routine doesn’t necessarily make or break a day for the masses. For the individual living on the autism spectrum, it very well could mean the end of life as they know it for several hours, perhaps all day.
This is why we often use visual schedules for Ben. They help him know what is happening and in what order, and more importantly, if there is something out of the ordinary coming, he has a heads up. These schedules work so well for kids on the spectrum, but we’re finding it’s helping other kids in his classes as well. Last school year, his teacher took the schedule we made for him and put it on the wall for all the kids to see. This summer, we’ve started writing the schedule on the marker board in his Sunday School classroom so all the kids can see when it’s time to sit quietly and just how many more things they need to get through before it’s snack time and time to go find mom and dad. In short, visual schedules are a lifesaver!
If you can understand this, you may have an idea of why I’ve secretly been dreading the kids going back to school. This is in no way derogatory to the school, the teachers, the kids or anything related to school, with the simple exception that it will mess with the schedule we’ve all come to love over the summer: kids sleeping until they wake up (except the one with morning animal chores), leisurely deciding on breakfast, and playing in pajamas until mom insists kids need to get outside. Yes, Ben’s world is about to be rocked. I’ve been nervous to say the least.
Tonight, he saw his sister with her backpack on as she had just returned from a weekend away and had used her school backpack to carry her stuff. He was so excited to say, “Mommy! Jaclyn has her school pack on!”
“Oh boy, here’s your chance…” Deep breath. “Yes she does! Isn’t that exciting! Are you excited to get your backpack out and go back to school in a few weeks?”
GASP! “I can sit with Mrs. Darst!” God bless Mrs. Darst. What a treasure in our young son’s life. “Mrs. Darst and Ms. Knapp.”
I kid you not, in the nine months he attended preschool, I never once heard both of their names spoken so clearly and with such excitement.
“Can I go to school tomorrow!?”
Our boy is excited for school!!!
After a quick explanation that we’d have to wait a few weeks and that Mrs. Craig will be his teacher this year, I began to realize it’s time for another visual schedule, complete with pictures of a school bus, Avon Elementary, and yes, Mrs. Craig. But I no longer dread the process, fearing a meltdown over wanting to stay home and play in jammies. No, I’m excited for our son and all that awaits him. He wants to go to school! What a blessing is the peace found in old familiar ways. Bring on August, bring on the Avon Fat Steer Show, and bring on back to school!! Our boy is ready!!