Brooke had a hard morning. The kind of hard morning that left me tempted to write a four word post reading SOMETIMES AUTISM JUST SUCKS and leave it at that. That kind of hard. The kind if hard where there are simply no reserves. Where nerves are frayed even before their limits are tested. The kind of hard where the simplest questions feel like impossible demands. Where each step of the morning routine is more taxing and less tolerable than the last.
The kind where school feels like the promised land. Where I have high hopes that the routine, predictability and familiarity of her school day can bring my girl back to center.
The locker routine is harder than usual. Library books always throw a monkey wrench into the process, but this morning they’re insurmountable. She cries out in frustration when she drops a book, picks it up and drops it again. I hear a kid down the hall say, ‘Brooke’s crying.’
I help more than I ‘should’. I shut the locker for her and help her open the door to the classroom.
She drops her entire load of books on the floor – her communication binder, her homework folder, her library books – all scatter in a chaotic heap. She seems not to notice as she stretches a finger toward the woman greeting the children just inside the door. ‘Good morning, Ms L,’ she says without looking at her.
The woman – who is decidedly NOT Ms L – checks for something on her clipboard.
I search the room. There’s not a single familiar adult face there. Not one. How is that possible? There are three adults assigned to Brooke’s room – a teacher and two individual aides. How are they ALL not there at the same time?
There’s a second young woman sitting at a far table. The woman with the clipboard tells me both of their names, neither of which I remember twelve seconds later. She explains that both Ms N (Brooke’s aide) and Atlas (her aide from last year who works with another child in the room) are both absent, as is Ms L.
I momentarily consider turning around – taking my girl the hell out of Dodge and coming up with a plan B. I don’t.
Instead of running for the hills, I call her back to pick up her books. She puts the folder in its bin, the binder in its box and the library books into their crate. Then she wanders out into the mix.
I watch her following her morning path throughout the room. She stops to confer with a group of kids at the calendar. ‘Amorial day,’ she says to a boy next to her. She must have asked him which holidays are coming up. It’s a comforting script, naming the holidays in order throughout the year. ‘And what comes after that?’ she likes to ask, again and again until she’s sure we’ve covered them all.
I explain to the substitute that she’s had an anxious morning. That she’s had trouble with transitions. She very sweetly asks if there’s anything she can do. In two minutes or less, I offer suggestions. I ask her to make sure that Brooke always knows what’s coming next. That she keep her apprised of the next three or four things to expect. I ask her not to be too wordy with her, to keep her instructions as clear and concise as possible.
I repeat what I’ve said to the substitute aide. She assures me that she’s already spoken with Ms N. I wonder why she has yet to say a word to Brooke.
I kiss my girl and walk out of the room. I wonder if I should have talked to someone – firmly told the administration that she needs to be a priority. But I’m pretty sure they know that. I hope they know that. Yes, I’m sure they do. I trust that they’re doing what they can to effectively shuffle the day’s ridiculously limited resources. Right?
I worry about my girl. I carry her angst with me as I leave. I wish by sharing it I could take it away, but I know I can’t. I want to wrench the ‘real world’ and all its unsettling unpredictability into submission. I want to make it better.
I sit in the car outside the school and I write. I’m torturing myself, wondering if she’s OK in there. I look at my watch, shocked to realize that nearly an hour has passed since drop-off.
I guess I could have stuck with the original plan and saved a lot of time.
SOMETIMES AUTISM JUST SUCKS