Back to School Anxiety

19 Aug

Sorry I’ve not been on much recently, the summer holidays have got in the way.

My brother is staying for about 3 weeks – he is a builder and is doing a mammoth list of jobs in the house including installing a new bathroom! And last week we had two dear friends stay in our back garden in their caravan, so we were all very busy keeping out of bro’s way and entertaining our friends.

Anyhow, seven weeks has whipped by in the blink of an eye, and tomorrow is The Big Day. Yes, back to school. And M is not happy about it, oh no. Her ability to cope with even the smallest changes has suddenly gone right out of the window, and her temper is something to behold. I hate to say it but her brother has taken rather more punches than any wee boy should be the recipient of, but sadly he appears to like winding her up. Of course, he’s the first to come crying to me when he’s spent ages pushing her buttons and she suddenly snaps, but what two siblings don’t fight at that age? I try to keep them apart when I can but they seem magnetically drawn to the other.

I have tried to keep things fairly quiet since the visitors left, and as M finds comfort in familiarity I have been letting her watch more dvds than I would normally.  Left to choose by herself she would plump for the same film over and over until it became almost part of her life, but as I try to run a democracy there have been days when her choice wasn’t picked. 

I have noticed a big upturn in echolalia too this last week. Most notably the other day when she was quoting huge chunks of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory on what seemed a never-ending loop. But she has also started what I think of as “immediate echoing” i.e. when someone says something and she almost instantly copies them, often under her breath for 15 or 20 minutes. I think she does this as a way of keeping track of what is/should be happening at any one time, as a self-reassurance, but when she repeats big parts of film scripts I am not entirely sure why. I suppose she is gaining some comfort from the memories of the pictures that go with the script and that way is maybe even retreating into a place she feels she knows.  I hope one day she is able to tell me about this process as I find it fascinating that her memory is apparently faultless. She even gets the accents spot on.

In a bid to keep the anxiety at a manageable level I had arranged to take her into school this morning, just for a wander about to check on what, if anything, had changed over the holidays. She was reluctant to go, but once we were in the door she was happy to skip about checking out the layout of the classrooms, and the noticeable lack of artwork on the walls. She had a double check of her separate desk in the library area, and a thorough look in her “den” which is her bolt-hole for down time if it all gets too much. I enjoyed looking at her puppets which I’d not seen before although I knew they existed. There are five of them, all with different facial expressions, and the idea is for M to use them if she is having trouble expressing her emotions. She likes the happy one best – good! Aren’t they a great idea?

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She seemed much happier after our short visit.  However, my plan to take them out for “a surprise” was met with tears and complaints of a tummy ache, sure signs of anxiety, so I had to tell them we were off to the cinema. We saw Despicable Me 2 and it was excellent. I had booked seats on the back row and this turned out to be a stroke of lucky genius – with no-one sitting behind us I didn’t mind at all when M sat on the arm of her seat, on the upturned folded seat, took off her shoes and socks, and then stood on her chair. She was hurting no-one and obviously needed the sensory input of moving around a lot. Even her weighted lap pad hadn’t kept her still this time but it didn’t matter. Another autism lesson learned today.

This evening was tough. M didn’t want to be strapped in a seat belt on the long journey home, she could barely manage to sit through dinner and although she kept saying she wanted cuddles she couldn’t sit still for one. Thank goodness for the miracle worker that is melatonin. She wasn’t as early to bed as I’d have liked but as she lay down without protesting too much I’m going to take it as a win.

Bring on tomorrow! By 2.30 the worst will be over and the first day back done.

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