A handful of back-to-school drama

What the first day of school is like for an autistic kid.

Here it is folks: the first day of school report. After my post last night, I figured I owed you a collective update.

The really delightful surprise is that the day started with a very happy Peanut who woke up, got dressed, ate his breakfast and headed off for school without a moment of protest or hesitation. He made it into school, found his cubby and said hi to his new homeroom teacher with plenty of enthusiasm. All of that feels like big progress over previous Day Ones; I can’t remember making it to school without a bout of first-day anxiety.

That’s about as far as our success went, however. Before homeroom even started, Peanut retreated into the resource room that’s been set up as a safe space for him (and others), because he was overwhelmed by the noise of all the incoming kids. He stayed in the resource room during the welcome assembly and insisted that’s where he’d be spending the day. But at about ten a.m. he announced he’d had enough, and was walking home.

Even that is progress, however. Last year, whenever Peanut wanted to leave school, he tried to persuade me to take him home. It took months of desperation before he attempted to walk home (and learned that it was not worth the effort). Today he knew that if he was leaving, it would be on his own steam, and though he did briefly beg for a lift after the first block of walking, he then settled in for the 3-mile, nearly two-hour walk home.

Best of all, he invited his support worker (as well as me) to come with him, which is confirmation that he’s really bonded to her. And when he lagged a bit during the walk, he took my hand to help him keep up…and then reached out for her hand as well.

I’d hoped that once Peanut had had a break at home, he’d be willing to return for the end of the day. I even suggested stopping somewhere to pick up treats we could bring back to school so he could be the end-of-day hero in homeroom. But he was quite insistent that he’d had all the stress he could handle for the day, and needed to stay home and read.

I brought Peanut’s support worker back to school at the end of the day and picked up Sweetie, who’d had a great first day. This summer, Sweetie came out to us as agender (which means using they/them pronouns, and not identifying as male or female.) Today Sweetie came out at school, too (which is why I’m now sharing this news here, and will be using they/them to refer to Sweetie from now on.)

Sweetie was so ecstatic to be out at school — and to have faced down the anxiety involved in the process — that they were on top of the world. As we walked down the street after a brief after school visit to Granny’s, my cheerful thirteen-year-old actually reached out and took my hand…and held it for two whole blocks!

So yes, today marks the beginning of yet another fall in which it seems I am back to the job of luring Peanut into class, day by day and hour by hour.

But it was also a day where each of my kids actually walked down the street holding my hand. It’s hard to imagine a better day than that.

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