The following post is from Ethan's Dad, Corey. I was planning on participating in Ethan's last day of school "Fun Day", but a terrible ear ache kept me up most of the night before....leaving me feeling exhausted & even more sick. Thankfully, Corey was able to sneak away from work for a few hours. Here is the day in Corey's words......
Please excuse my poor grammar and punctuation. I am not as good of a writer as Jessica.
When we left for school, I let Ethan choose which vehicle to take. He said my car which kind of surprised me. I figured since he thrives on routine, he would for sure associate going to school with going in Jessica's van because she takes him to school in it every day. So we drove to his school, and I let him know that today was different. Daddy was going to stay with Ethan at school today. He said "I like my friend Daddy to stay at school". I smiled really big and kept reassuring him, yes, I would be staying with him. I was feeling pretty anxious myself as I don't do well with unfamiliar events. However, I was excited to share this moment with Ethan so reassuring him....I also was reassuring myself.
We got to school, and he fell right into the typical routine of what he does every morning. I had never seen his routine, so it was interesting to have Ethan leading me on what to do and where to go. He put his book bag on the table, and then got out his daily binder & snack. He handed me the snack to hold, and placed his binder on the table where all the kids put them every morning. Then, he came back to the table, zipped up his book bag and put it in his locker. I am just watching Ethan, and so proud to see him do these things without any assistance or prompting from anyone! We then got in line to walk to the gym where all the kids eat their breakfast. Ethan took me by the hand and walked me down the hall leading the way again. The class stopped at the restrooms. Ethan went in while I stayed out. He did his business then came around and started pushing the soap dispenser to wash his hands. No prompting from anyone at all. He then got in line and waited for his classmates.
Once everyone was ready, we continued our walk to the gym. He stopped at the little cooler they have outside the gym. In the cooler, there were crates of milk and then an empty crate. Ethan went past the milk and looked in the empty crate. All he said was "No juice today". One of his teachers let him know that they would get some juice in the gym. However, Ethan didn't get upset in any way. He again just lead the way to the table and sat down. He said "Daddy, will you sit by me?" I said "Sure buddy." We sat as he ate his snack and got his juice. It was cool to see this routine that I had never been a part of and that he seemed to know so very well. I just sat and watched him. Again, beaming with pride at how my little boy seemed so grown up.
Once everyone was done eating and threw their trash away we all lined up again to go do some activities outside. Outside, they had the following stations: water table, fishing pool (numbered and lettered paper fish with magnets on them and a doll rod with a string and paper clip to "catch" the fish on), sand table, sidewalk chalk, and a station with paint brushes and water so the kids could "paint" on the brick walls of the school. Again, I started to feel anxious because kids are running everywhere. But not Ethan....he immediately went to the water table and jumped right in with the other kids! He played in it for a while...mainly with the boats and sticking his arm in it. Then he went to the fishing pool. He couldn't get the fish to stick and to be honest neither could I because the fish was heavy and the paper clip didn't get much grip on the magnet. So he improvised and just grabbed a fish. :)
Then he went to the sand table and picked up the little hand rake scratched around in it a bit and then walked away because the sand was sticking to his wet hands. He doesn't like messy hands!
Next he decided to go play with sidewalk chalk he just wrote his name and said excitedly "E-T-H-A-N......ETHAN"! Next station...
On to the last station...(yes he did them in order). 4 little buckets of water with paint brushes in them. The kids were "painting" the school. Ethan painted a little bit in the midst of all the other kids, stuck his arm in the water then was all done with that station.
I thought it was great that Ethan was ready and willing to just jump in and try every station. Watching Ethan just move from station to station and interact with some of the other kids was something I don't get to see. Then it was time to line up and go play in the grass area stations.
In the grass area there were several stations the kids could choose to do. A sack hop, hula hoops, bean bags you could toss through foam hoops, and a little putting green with flowers around it. Ethan immediately ran to the putting green which surprised me because typically (like his Dad) he could really care less about sports (we are car guys) :)
My surprise was quickly tossed out when he said "Look at this beautiful flower garden!!!" (which is a clip from an Elmo game he plays on computer). By now I am feeling a LITTLE less anxious. I think I only slightly deal better with transitions and new environments than Ethan. The Ethan I am watching at this school event seems pretty fearless to try anything and interact with his classmates. He was dealing with all the new events very well. Then he started charging at me like a bull. He would keep trying to run his head into me. Usually when he does something like this it means he is getting overloaded or tired. He is looking for me to spin him or flip him or wrestle with him. So I did just that. I spun and flipped him in the field. We laughed and had a good time and it helped him kind of relax a little...and me too :)
|Ethan & his AWESOME Teacher's Aide! (See the flowers by the putting green in the back?)|
One of Ethan's teachers came over and told me a crop dusting plane and was going to fly over the field while we were out there. So again...my anxiety starts to creep up. How will Ethan react? What will I do if it scares him? Before I even had the chance to tell Ethan, his teacher told him there was going to be a plane coming soon. Giving him his warning of the environment change. This relieved my anxiety even more than before. These teachers know Ethan very well. Awesome.
Our time at these stations was up, so we went back inside and to the library. There was someone making cotton candy and passing it out to all of the kids. There were a lot of kids in the room but Ethan still
seemed to be doing OK and in fact was sitting with his classmates while I was on the other side of the room just watching him. We got our cotton candy and went back to the classroom to eat it. Ethan tried
one bite. I said, "Do you like that Ethan?" He said, "Yes!" Immediately followed by, "No, I don't like this Daddy." We stayed in the classroom while the other kids finished eating their cotton candy, and Ethan's
teacher put some fruit snacks and goldfish in everyone's book bags. By now, Ethan is flopping all around on me. Again normally this means he is overloaded or tired (or maybe both). Normally, my own anxiety would be getting worse....looking for things to comfort Ethan in case he had a meltdown because he was overloaded. I felt pretty calm though. To notice how well these teachers deal with not just Ethan but all the kids was comforting. There is probably nothing Ethan would do that they hadn't dealt with at some point in the school year. So why should I worry about it?
Once everyone was done, we went to get book bags & line up to go back outside for the last activities for the day. Ethan's teacher accidentally put his book bag about 3 lockers to the right of where it normally is, I guess. Ethan got upset and his teacher apologized for not putting it back exactly where it was. I said, "It's not a big deal. He is OK." I comforted him for a minute, then we lined up to go outside. His teachers realized the kids probably needed to go to the bathroom one more time, so we did that. Now...Ethan lost it. He actually told me "There are too many choices Daddy". It was odd because I felt soooo happy that Ethan just told me why he was upset but at the same time felt so bad for him that he was getting overwhelmed. I said, "It is OK. Let's line up and go to the bathroom, then we will go play outside." He cried while we walked to the bathroom and while he went to the bathroom and while we waited for the other kids to be done going to the bathroom. Now, I am not sure what to do. I try to comfort Ethan and he is just not calming down. Ethan's speech teacher noticed him having a hard time. She said, "Do you want to come into my class and get a tissue?" He said, "Yes" through his tears, and she took his hand and we went into her classroom (right by where we were waiting in line). So I start analyzing and troubleshooting. Was it the noise of all the kids in the hall? Was it the book bag? Was it the change of his daily routine? Was it all of it? Before we even got all the way into the classroom, Ethan had stopped crying. She wiped his nose and talked to him for a minute. Ethan had calmed down and even let me take his picture with her! Do these teachers have magic powers?
|Ethan & his AMAZING speech therapist!|
We joined the class again and started heading outside. The kids could choose from coloring and making paper airplanes or playing with bubbles. We walked over, set his book bag down and headed towards the coloring pages. Just then there was a breeze. Ethan lost it again. The wind blowing is something he has been getting anxious about lately. He talks about it and cries about it sometimes. This time he started crying and saying, "The wind is blowing the papers Daddy." I said, "Yes but that is OK we can just pick them up...no big deal." He continued to cry more and more. So, I picked him up and began to talk softly to him telling him the breeze isn't scary and it was OK and look at the trees they move with the wind. He still didn't stop crying. So I started swaying back and forth with him. I feel bad that Ethan is having such a hard time by now. I think maybe we should just leave. He has had enough. But then I think no...we can do this. The day is almost done. He began to calm down. So I put him down and he just stood there. I encouraged him to try the bubbles or the coloring. He said, "I don't want to Daddy. I want to go home." My natural instinct is to grab him and take him home....where I know he can calm himself much easier. But I know that Ethan needs to be stretched (and so do I). I know when I get overwhelmed, I just need a break. So, why not see if that works for Ethan too? DUH! So I say to him, "It isn't time to go home yet, Ethan. Do you need to take a break?" He told me yes. So, I went to his book bag and got out the fruit snacks his teacher had put in there (thank you!) to give him something chewy to help calm him down. We found a quiet spot in the pavilion (that Ethan picked) and sat down. We just took a break and watched the kids play. I could feel us both calming down. Sweet!!! It worked for him too!!!
A classmate of Ethan's came over and asked if I could help her make an airplane. So I did...while Ethan just calmly watched. After he finished his fruit snacks, he went over to the bubbles and popped a few. Then asked again if he could go home. It was a few minutes before class was officially out but I asked his teacher if it would be OK if we went. She said that would be fine. I took Ethan's picture with her and he said good-bye.
|Ethan & his FABULOUS teacher!|
I personally felt great. I struggle with anyone taking care of Ethan except for Jessica and myself. I know that is not good for him or us...but just being honest...it is something I struggle with. I don't get to be involved with a lot of the school stuff because I am at work during those hours. However, I felt very blessed after the day we had. To see his teachers help and guide him. To see them recognize the little things that would bother him. To see them help calm him when he is upset. It was very clear that these teacher care for Ethan A LOT!
While they still challenged him they knew exactly when to comfort and when to let him continue to try on his own. I am personally very grateful for these women that care for and teach Ethan in such a way that warms my heart. Thanks so much for all you have done for Ethan!