Sunday, October 17, 2010

What's in a Backpack?

A change of clothes,
A stress ball,
A plush Sponge Bob,
Happy books,
I SPY books,
A timer,
A pouch to hold certificates awarded for being “good,”
Noise canceling headphones. No, not these yet - I am still deciding if I should include them or not…

What kind of backpack is this? It's the one my preschooler carries around every day. Not a typical backpack for a little one; some of his classmates don’t even take backpacks to preschool but Frankie does and we are constantly adding more stuff to it. This is his gear for battle. Being a preschooler is not easy but being a preschooler with PDD-NOS is really hard. The noise, the rules, the schedule, the noise. Did I mention the noise? It can’t be easy to function when so much is expected from you. I know it’s not easy for me, so I can understand how hard it’s for him. I guess I can see why he is not all excited about going to school every morning; it’s not all fun and games when you are picked to be the goose at duck, duck goose game and you don’t want to run after your classmate because you are afraid of failure. It must be crushing to get up in music class and give up your spot in the rug when you have claimed it as your own. It’s not fun to have a meltdown because your hot dog bread came apart at lunch and you have ketchup on your shirt. And it’s certainly not fun to ride a noisy school bus for half an hour before you finally make it home. I keep on telling him school is fun. Now that I think about it, it really is not. When I came to that realization, I stopped trying to make Frankie like school and I just focused on getting him prepared. Here is how it goes: Frankie, do you need down time? Here are some happy books. Do you need stimulation? Here are your I Spy books. Are you mad? Squeeze the stress ball. Are you sad? Hug your Sponge Bob pal. Are you having a hard time cleaning up, packing up and lining up? Play a “beat the timer” game with your teacher and win a certificate!

Man, it’s exhausting. But it has do be done. We are lucky to count with such great professionals who want the best for Frankie. They endure being pushed, kicked, hit and lately bitten. It's not as bad as it was and he's slowly understanding school is not going away and he must find a way to cope. The strategies we are using are working and his days are not so challenging at times, but each day is different and a new situation teaches us he might need another “tool” to help him endure the the noise level getting too much to handle. Are really headphones the answer?

When I look at my first-grader's backpack and it feels so light, it makes me want to cry. It’s just not fair. I open it and I see a folder, a bottle of water and a snack. No “tools” to cope. No timer. No headphones. I pray that one day Frankie can also leave all of these things behind and take a lighter backpack to school. I know that day will come and when it does, I will blog about it. In the mean time, his backpack will be heavy but it will help him get where he needs to go.


Anonymous said...

There WILL be a day!
Teacher Erin

ORFA said...

and hopefully it won't be until he gets married!!! lol

ORFA said...

Did you see how lighter the backpack got by the end of the school year? Thank God for patience!