Each school year marks a new beginning filled with excitement as well as a bit of anxiety. As we are about to embark on yet another school year, I am reminded of my previous teaching days. During the summer & especially those weeks just before school opened for a new year, my mind was filled with ways to keep my teaching fresh, ways to keep the classroom organized & inviting, and ways to keep my students to reach their fullest potential.
Now that I am a play at home mom of a child with autism, my mind is filled with similar thoughts. How can I keep our routine consistent yet exciting? How can I provide "down time" in a very full yet much needed school schedule? How am I going to reinforce the skills he is working on at school?
For over a year now, Ethan has spent most of his days at home with me. Though he has participated in therapy and an early intervention program since we "knew", most of the hours in Ethan's day were at home under my care. Because of that, I tried my best to provide additional at-home therapy, DIY techniques given to me under the direction of our therapists & the resources provided to me as well as give Ethan many opportunities to interact & play with his peers. It has been a lot of research & work done on my "mommy free time." But it has been very enjoyable for me to be able to do this for Ethan as I learned more & more about him as well as seeing how it has been able to carry over & help others.
However, this school year is going to look very different for Ethan & me. I will be less of a therapist/teacher and more of a taxi cab. Two mornings a week, Ethan will attend the Easter Seals Autism Program, and every afternoon he will attend our school district's Early Intervention Program. Both of these programs have been so vital in helping Ethan achieve his best, so we saw no other way but to continue them both. After next summer, neither of these programs will be available to us anymore. So our opinion is to do it while we can!
During the work week, Ethan will only be home with me 3 mornings. (insert sad face) So, my role this year will be more "typical" of that of a play-at-home mom. I won't need to do as much therapy but instead provide ways for Ethan to rest & rejuvenate. Not that we won't be continuing our sensory play or discovering more DIY therapy & tools that will help Ethan & others, but I don't feel the majority of the pressure for ME to be doing these thing with Ethan. Does that make any sense? Almost like a promotion from lay person to coordinator!
So as our life is about to become VERY busy, I am also VERY excited for all of the opportunities that have been sent to Ethan. He has been doing so amazing this summer due to his participation in these programs. Because of these amazing teachers & therapists, this summer Ethan has.....
1. Began talking so much to the point of me telling him to shush! Something that I NEVER thought I would ever tell this child (who we once upon a time thought would never talk).
2. Done more activities than ever before! This summer we visited the Children's Museum (a very loud & frenzied but fun place), and Ethan thoroughly enjoyed it for 2 hours...and not one meltdown! We also visited our town's Splash Pad (a bunch of fountains that spray & kids can play on them), the library, the movie theater, the drive-in movies, the Fourth of July fireworks, birthday parties, and so many more!
3. Extended his time at church! For the past year, Ethan hasn't been able to handle BOTH Sunday school & Children's church....a total of 3 hours with about 20 loud playing preschoolers. But this past Sunday, Ethan did both! And his teachers said he, "Did AWESOME!" YEAH!!!!
4. One of my favorite things that Ethan did this summer was......jumping off the diving board! Because he watched the Olympics with me, he knew HOW to do it. He also had been "practicing" by jumping off his indoor trampoline & jumping onto the floor. When we went to his cousin's 3rd birthday pool party, Ethan saw many family members going off the diving board. He turned to me, and said, "What's that called?" I told him it was a diving board, and then he said, "I want to jump off the diving board." Well, I wasn't about to say no, so we found Uncle Chris (who was already under the diving board waiting for his kiddo to jump in), and he agreed to be there for Ethan too! Ethan jumped without any hesitation! He just climbed up on the diving board, went to the edge & jumped to Uncle Chris! After Ethan got his bearings, he held up his right arm & said, "USA! USA! USA!" It was AWESOME!!!!!
As we approach this new school year, I am once again filled with excitement as well as a bit of anxiety.....a bit like jumping off the diving board for the first time. But just like every school year, we will come out with some highs & lows, but mostly......progress. And that fills my heart to see my child growing up surrounded by teachers, therapists, family, friends, and a church who not only love Ethan....but are rooting for him! Our cheer is not, "USA!", but instead....."ETHAN! ETHAN! ETHAN!!!!"