Friday, March 22, 2013

Ms. B.'s Song

Our town has always been awesome about offering playgroups every weekday in each of the elementary schools for kids ages birth to 5. It's a great opportunity for parents to meet other local parents, kids to get to play plus get used to a little structure before they start school, and for both parents and their kids to be introduced to the town's schools and some of their staff.

Just five months from now, Ethan will graduate from playgroup age when he officially begins full-day kindergarten (sniff! sniff!).

Our playgroup experience started out quite rough. That first day I brought him to Ms. B's playgroup, an ABA therapist in tow, it was really just to prep him for starting school in a few months. I had to drag him in the door. He hated it. I was drenched in sweat by the end, built up from the stress of attempting to prevent an all-out meltdown. Over the next several weeks Ms. B. was endlessly patient and kind, always doing just the right thing to include Ethan without overwhelming him.

When Ethan started school, he was no longer available to attend Ms. B.'s playgroup since he was in class, but her room was just down the hall from his classroom. We often walked by and peeked in to say a quick hello.

Last year, with Ethan switching to afternoon pre-K, we branched out and tested the waters at several other town playgroups. Some were fun and others not so much. Some had their "mom cliques" already formed and it was tough to break through. At each one, Ethan did not transform and become Mr. Extrovert, but he did learn to adjust, enjoy himself in his own way, and not hide out in the hallways or smush himself against the floor with stress the way he did those first few times.

This year they've restructured the town's schools and we no longer see Ms. B. I'd heard she ran the playgroup at a nearby school on Friday mornings, one we don't usually attend due to other commitments. We decided to drop in today.

It was probably the worst of all the days to "drop in." Ms. B. had planned an Easter egg hunt and most of the parents who are regulars to the group had forgotten to bring in plastic eggs to help out -- never mind me just showing up with Ethan. The room was chaotic as people kept going in and out -- apparently some dentists were setting up a "mobile dental lab" for kids in the school for later in the day. Ms. B. seem uncharacteristically distracted, and Ethan responded to all of this by sitting down at the bead "roller coaster" toy and getting a little lost in his own world.

Then circle time came. We all sat down on the rug, and then Ms. B. started singing her song, the one I'd forgotten she starts every playgroup with, the one that goes

Open, shut them, open shut them
Give a little clap, clap, clap
And suddenly as we were singing and doing the hand motions we were no longer here in this school in the almost spring-time, but back at the other school on a dreary fall day as I begged Ethan to inch closer to the circle of kids sitting on the floor. There in a rush were my fears and frustrations and stresses and the thought of the Great Big Unknown which was school, starting for him in just a few months, and how would he ever cope?

Open, shut them, open shut them
Place them in your lap, lap, lap

Two and a half years had passed since that day. Could it really have been two and a half years? I looked down at Ethan. He was smiling and singing. He remembered this song. He never forgets a song. I looked down and saw a boy not cured, wiped away of any trace of autism, but changed. I saw less anxiety. I saw his love of music and yes, his fascination when someone turned off half the lights in the room. I saw the way he retreated with the toy earlier but also his subtle peeks at the other boy playing with Star Wars Lego guys. I saw how he didn't want to do the craft (oh, how he hates them!) but how he forced himself over to the table to paint with Ms. B. I saw the way he uses his smarts to cope in this complicated world.

Creep them crawl them, creep them, crawl them
Right up to your chin, chin, chin 
Most of all, I saw not perfection, but progress. Just like any one of us.
Open up your little mouth
But do not let them in, in, in...
I thought of the blog post I'd read the other day over at Diary of  a Mom about the mother of a sixth-grader with autism who was told, "She's not the kind of girl who will ever go to the prom. It's just not possible" and how perhaps what is more painful than any diagnosis is for the experts to become The Great Prognosticators and find it their duty to strip away hope.
I thought of our story, of how far Ethan's come and how in reality we don't know exactly where he's going. I thought of those bitter truths that there are some on the spectrum who make painfully slow progress, and that I don't know the answer to many whys and sometimes not even the answers to the hows.
I thought of how there will always be unknowns, and how Ethan will always be Ethan, and that for every struggle he has, there will be times where we are living in the now and my breath can be taken away, thinking of where we once were.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love that you always celebrate Ethan right where he is, I love that you always stop to be thankful for the progress.