Thursday, September 5, 2013

After-School Eruption

We made it through week 1 of kindergarten.

Ethan survived the cafeteria, including buying hot lunch one day, and even a fire drill (I heard a detailed report about how loud it was; what color the lights were flashing; the fact that the gym echoes the alarm noise more; and musings about where the special button to set off the fire drill actually IS).

According to my son, his seat has already been changed once due to poking and chatting with his one buddy from last year. I'll call him J. At the same time, he tells me his "table" (the green one, not red or blue) has 14 pom-poms for good behavior, and that means they are "ahead." I've been waiting (dreading?) a note home from the teacher about the goofing off, but nothing yet. Maybe she's trying to spare me.

Oh, and they are counting to the 100th day of school. Yesterday was Day 6. I get a report every afternoon, or sometimes even in the morning, in Ethan's anticipation of the number going up on the smart board in class. I think it might be his favorite part of the school day.

The other day Ethan ran to me after school, backpack bouncing, all smiles. He climbed in the car. And then he exploded.

Here's what you have to understand about my kids, and especially Ethan. They have tantrums, yes, but they don't usually erupt with emotion about what they're feeling deep inside. This goes for Anna, too. She will cry or complain, but sometimes it's hard to get to the heart of the matter. I remember distinctly twice that Anna "lost it." Both times left me shocked. One was in Maine where she ran outside our camp and into the woods, yelling about how it wasn't fair she wasn't a "cute" preschooler like Ethan anymore, how she wanted to be little again. The other (ironically, these days) was when she started yelling one day after school about how she was tired of her brother, how she wanted a new baby in the house, and all of her friends had sisters, and could we adopt? Both times left me simultaneously wanting to smile and cry.

Here's the thing about autism: a lot is said about the lack of expression of emotion people with autism exhibit. It's not that they don't feel it, it's more in the way it comes out or the way it's held in. There's a lot of talk about people with ASD having "blank" expressions, or not expressing a "full range of emotion." And I'd have to say with Ethan in some cases that's been true. Until this summer I realized he'd never risen his voice. He'd gotten angry, yes, but he never yelled. So the first time he did (at Anna, of course) it startled me.

He's gotten yelling pretty much down (should I be cheering for this?) but I'd rarely heard him shout out what was really bothering him. Until the other day in the car.

His sunny mood turned dark in about 5.3 seconds:

"I HATE that teacher!"

"Woooahh, we don't use that word. What's the matter?"

"I hate it! She has to let me poke J! I want to! She has to stop telling me that I have to stop talking to him."

"Are you talking during class when you shouldn't be?"

"I don't care! I WANT to talk to him!"

"Ethan, school is about learning first, not just having fun."

"NO! School has to be about having fun, NOT learning!"

"Well, it's not."

"Well I WANT to keep talking to him. If she keeps doing that, I will be very mad at her. I will tie her up! I want to talk to my friend J! She is very bad! She is absolutely BAD!"

This went on the entire car ride home...and as we gathered our things out of the car...and as we got settled in the house. I stood there with my mouth opened, trying not to laugh while simultaneously chiding him when he got too forceful with his words.

Then, like a switch flipping, he was done. He ran off to get a snack. I sat there, thinking.

The tendency was to worry first. Was he already burnt out from school? Was he being the annoying, disruptive child in class? Was his one friend already bothered by him? Why was he using the word "hate?"

But then I had another memory, of Anna coming home from kindergarten or first grade one day. She was mad about something that happened with a friend. She started yelling. Then she said she was going outside to make a "trap" for the friend. I looked out and saw her building some sort of contraption with ropes and sticks. When she returned, she was much calmer. All seemed forgiven.

I'm not going to freak out about Ethan's freak-out yet. Maybe he's just learning to get everything that's in there out. That's not necessarily such a bad thing. I guess we have to learn what's in there first, before we can help him to appropriately cope with it.

1 comment:

Floortime Lite Mama said...

it sounds totally like blowing off steam
I think you are perfectly right not to worry
Ethan sounds very expressive