“I don’t think he needs medication. I think he needs a break….Maybe a Montessori school?”
And that’s how our homeschooling journey changed. I now have one at a Montessori school and one in homeschool.
Last fall began the roughest 3-4 months we’ve had in a long time. My older son’s anxiety kept increasing and increasing. He seemed to develop misophonia, a condition related to anxiety in which a person cannot handle certain sounds, sometimes to the point of physical aggression. So, in addition to shutting down and not talking because of his anxiety, his brother became a trigger.
My boys are opposites in many ways. My Aspie prefers quiet for the most part. He’s not one for singing. My younger son, on the other hand, is a mover and a shaker…a hummer…a drummer and a tapper…he needs movement, he needs humming. When you have this combination in a two-bedroom apartment, life can be tricky for any parent. Add in anxiety and little brother being a trigger, and well, we got to the point where neither of my boys could be themselves.
We lived in an almost-constant state of alert and stress. My older son shushing and yelling at his younger brother to stop humming, singing, tapping, etc. My younger son began to be defensive, understandably so. The triggers eventually went from being just auditory to also visual. If big brother saw younger brother flapping a pencil or bouncing his hand without noise, he’d still ask, “Please stop. PLEASE stop. PLEASE STOP! STOPPPPPPP!!!”
I can’t even express the pain all three of us lived in day to day and then my husband when he’d come home. I started asking people to take my son off for play dates so he could have a break from being yelled at. The stress level immediately decreased to almost zero as soon as he left. But how can you live like that, with each child feeling assaulted sensorily or verbally?
My younger son became overwhelmed and sullen. Depressed, even. He couldn’t focus on school work. His life stunk.
So, I took him to the pediatrician for an ADHD evaluation because of some things he was saying and doing. The pediatrician already knew we were waiting to get my older son into a new autism clinic. She listened to me, she listened to my boys. She was so kind. I cried in her office and told her, “At least my child isn’t in the hospital. I’m not calling the police on my son.”
She replied, “Just because you can be grateful doesn’t mean it isn’t hard.” And boy, is she right. But that’s another day, another article.
And so, we come back to “What about a Montessori school?” And that is where my younger son is today.
I was both excited for him at the prospect and nervous. He’d never been in an institutional school. I knew he’d love the special classes like music and gym, I knew he’d like making friends. Had I taught him enough?
It’s been a challenging transition for him. Socializing–no problem. He had friends right away, thanks in part to a great teacher. It’s the workload that’s the tough adjustment. The first seven days were rough and I wondered if this would work. Then I met with his teacher to get clarity on expectations. And she said he needed to remember he’s learning a new system and time management. So I was able to encourage him with her there, and I hope it helped.
This week his spirits improved, though it’s still a lot of work for him. We’ll see how it goes. If nothing else, finishing the school year at the Montessori will give us time to get his brother’s anxiety under control, Lord willing.
I know this isn’t the most eloquent storytelling out there. My hope is that by reading my story, those of you struggling with your doubts, your fears, your daily survival, will know that you’re not alone. There is someone else out there who has cried out for her children, who has lived in survival mode much longer than she’d care to, who can’t handle much of anything else. Remind yourself, as I do…God is Bigger and he loves your child more than you do. May you see this article as a cyber hug from me to you.
If you’re looking for other special needs moms who “get it”, I invite you to join Special Needs Moms Network on Facebook. You’ll find thousands of women there and lots of support!