Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Wall (a.k.a. "Spring Fever")

The first time it happened was way back when Ethan was two and receiving therapy at home. While he was always a little difficult to cajole into sitting nicely attending and playing (what active boy isn't?!), about the time when the clocks changed, we hit warmer weather, and everyone started to spend more time outside, a switch seem to flip and the "sillies" hit. He wasn't really interested in therapy appointments. He thought it'd be funnier to run away laughing or get into other mischief. This went on for about a month, and then he seemed to settle into the longer days and sunshine and tone it down a little, or at least as much as a toddler can do that.

The next year at just the same time he was in school, and I'll never forget the day about eight weeks before school ended when I walked in and saw two different special ed. teachers coping with kids having epic tantrums in the middle of the hallway. Their faces looked wild, tired, but determined. "It's been like this all week," one of them said. "It's that time of year." That was the same time the physical therapist said she was shocked to see Ethan turn into a little stinker during his PT session, suddenly for the first time refusing to do anything and thinking that was absolutely hysterical.

I started to put two and two together. Spring had come. Ethan had hit "The Wall."

I totally get this. Who doesn't? I don't know about you, but when the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, I get a sudden burst of energy. Suddenly I want to take on the world, tackle projects, get up early and stay up late, eat lunch outside. It makes perfect sense that most kids during this seasonal change decide they'd rather be on the playground than at a desk. Then you take this typical "spring fever" and imagine being a person on the autism spectrum who is very effected by change and the rhythm of life. Suddenly there is light blasting through their windows before 6am and they are being asked to go to bed when there's still light in the sky. Suddenly they don't need a jacket when they've been wearing one all winter and the world is exploding into spring all around them. Talk about over-stimulation.

By the third spring I'd started to realize maybe we should give Ethan's teachers a heads-up about The Wall -- not because the behavior itself was much different than what they'd seen in lots of kids, but because usually it came on so suddenly and was so unlike the way Ethan was the rest of the year. Sure enough, by his next year in pre-K he decided to goof off in OT, PT, and speech, and this time everyone took it more in stride and saw it for the phase that it was rather than regression.

The spring Ethan was in kindergarten I decided to give him a "mental health" day off of sorts during an early release day in spring. We went to a bounce place and he bounced for hours. The experience did him a world of good and seem to springboard him through the rest of the school year. I hated the way he announced to everyone, "My mom let me skip school!" but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.

Last year we took a family vacation at the beginning of May and the kids missed two days of school. That worked well, except we inadvertently planned our days off during school assessments that Ethan had to retake, so I don't think we'll be scheduling things quite like that again.

At the start of second grade I once again this year warned Ethan's teacher that he sometimes began to ran out of steam in the spring. She's a good one (they all have been!) and remembered. The other day I got a report that he'd gotten frustrated at getting some problems wrong on an assignment, had run out into the hall and hid in his locker. When she followed him, he announced, "I have something to tell you that you don't know about me. I don't really like school, and I wish it was summer!"

She assured him that everyone feels that way sometimes -- even teachers. She got him out of his locker and back into class. We emailed back and forth about strategies for getting through the next seven weeks. Ethan of course, wants another special "day off." But with him already missing 12 days of school this year due to sickness, I'd prefer to not do that if we don't have to.

The more I think about this, the more I want to liken The Wall to pregnancy. Anyone who's had a child will understand. Things go great for a while, and then you start getting to this point when you are really, really uncomfortable (or at least, most of us do). But not only that, you still have a long way to go. So the issue is not just being uncomfortable but still knowing you are not yet near the finish line. Somehow, when you are actually at the end, I think you somehow get so used to being uncomfortable you don't care anymore. And at least you know you really are almost done. But two months out, it's sometimes, somehow harder. Like April. Almost in the home stretch. Not quite.

Deep breaths, Ethe. You can do this. Like Steve Songs sang in the Bear Hunt song at the kids' concert last week, sometimes we can't go over it. We can't go under it. Oh no! We've got to go through it!

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