Today's contribution is from Jen, who blogs at Living Life With a Side of Autism. I can really relate to this one....
Every Kid Hates School!!!
It's true. Most kids, at one point or another during the first 18 years of life, mutter, scream or moan these three words: I hate school. You have to go sit behind a desk for 6+ hours each day, and listen to boring teachers give boring lectures on topics that literally make you want to remove your brain from your head, and ease into a gentle zombie-like sleep.
As unappealing as the educational aspects of school are, though, you have to admit there were some pretty good times. Best friends (I can remember mine from Kindergarten, even!), birthday parties, sports (not so much for me, but I am sure some of you can actually catch a ball without using your face), and other hobbies and activities that made dragging your butt out of bed before the break of dawn not a total tragedy.
But, what if all the fun things about going to school didn't exist? What if you didn't have a friends, let alone a best friend? What if you didn't get invited to parties, and were so overstimulated playing sports that gym (and all other physical activities) were a total nightmare? What if you couldn't handle the anxiety of the day, and had crying/screaming meltdowns in front of your classmates? (what if you hit your classmates?) What if the cafeteria was too loud, so you had to eat lunch alone, with just an aide? And getting back to the educational part every kid hates, what if you actually had trouble with something like reading comprehension, and you hated doing your work because you didn't get it, not just because there were 1000 others things you would rather be doing? (and what if you were so inflexible that even if someone did try to help you, the knowledge you can't do something perfectly sends you into a tailspin?) These are just a few things Katie deals with on a daily basis that make school hard.
And what if people just didn't understand how to help you, or thought you had total control over your emotions and feelings, so instead of being helped you were punished? What if you were just a little kid, so scared about entering the building, you bolted at drop off, trying to run home.
My daughter turns 8 today, and she has Autism. She hates school, but not like every other kid hates school. All of the things I listed above, the things that don't exist in her world-close friends, party invitations, the ability to manage anxiety or have any emotional regulation at all-they are what make school a hellish nightmare. Every day it is like sending a lamb off to slaughter. I have no idea how to help her, and the only thing she is able to tell me is "I hate school", or, even better, "I hate my life". No specifics. No idea about what exactly is bothering her so I can formulate a plan to help. We can guess, but we don't ever truly know.
I get told a lot that the things Katie does or says are typical of every child. To some extent that is true. But it is important to realize, for Katie, it's just not the same. And that she isn't a bad kid, and that I am not a bad parent. I fight every day to make her life easier, and to feel less like I am making it worse by sending her to class.
I will say this, 2nd grade, thus far, has been far better than any previous year. We are finally working with a team leader who gets it. Who is bending over backwards to help Katie. Who genuinely wants to see my child happy, and who knows that she is not. Like I said, Katie is 8 today, and has been in the public school system since she turned 3. This is the first year someone other than us seemed to care about her, as more than just a number. This woman has been a gift, and I wish she could stay with us forever. It worries me that she won't.
I know it feels like the right thing to say to a parent whose child has special needs, that every kid acts like that, or says those things, or feels this way. We get that people are trying to make us feel better, but what would really make me feel better is the acknowledgment that things are not the same. That our struggles run much deeper than those with a typical child. I don't want your pity, but I also don't want someone telling me that all kids are like that, and it's perfectly normal. Trust me, that couldn't be further from the truth.