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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Treading Water

This week, and last week and I project this next week, feel like treading water, like running in place.  Janey and I are getting by, but not going forward, not doing much of anything useful or even that fun.  I feel like I'm somehow just not figuring something out, like I'm wasting time that shouldn't be wasted, but I'm not able to do what it takes to change things.

School starts a week from today.  I must say every year the first day of school feels like a holiday right up there with the big ones. I always liked the first day of school, no matter how I felt about the rest of the year.  It felt like the start of it all, the beginning of something new and big.  I remember how it felt to have my new 5 subject notebooks, each section carefully labeled, to have a clean desk and locker, to see who was in my classes and what new faces there were.  Within a few weeks, always, my desk or locker was a horrible mess, no matter how hard I tried, and the notebook was doodled on and torn up.  But the first day---it felt wide open.

Janey and Goofy, at ToysRUs
Janey will be starting 6th grade.  In a lot of ways, every school year feels the same with Janey.  But 6th grade---that's a big one.  That's middle school.  I have a memory so vivid it's like a movie clip of the first moment of 6th grade.  We moved to what in our town was called The Annex.  It was a school built in 1900, and by the time I went there, in 1976, it had been condemned for at least 10 years.  No-one could go on the 3rd floor at all, and only teachers could use the 2nd floor.  We were on the first floor, 3 classrooms.  There were 3 other classrooms you had to go down a hill outside to get to, a shop and a home ec room and a room called "the community room" which was a standalone classroom.  It was a small town, obviously.  But that moment I walked into The Annex for the first time felt like a huge deal.  Mr. Berry was there, one of the six teachers, and he was pointing and saying "That room for 6th grade, that room for 7th, that for 8th!" and it felt like the start of something getting close to adulthood.

I write about that moment partly to contrast it with Janey's life.  6th grade will be a lot like any other grade for her.  The years don't change much, in terms of what she is working on learning.  She'll go to school until she's 22, and then, probably I would guess to some day program.

Janey at the park, before loose dogs scared her away
I feel more and more like it's up to me to make Janey's life interesting and meaningful, and I feel like I'm not doing a good job.   And as much as I tend to take all blame on myself, I know in this case my job is very, very tough.  If Janey were a typical 12 year old, there would be literally thousands of programs, lessons, camps, enrichments---all open to her and all within the Boston area.  In addition, she would have friends.  She would perhaps be riding the subway to school on her own, if she were going to a school like Freddy did.  I would be part of her life, but it would not all be up to me.  When I think about it much, I can get furious.  Giving Janey a meaningful life is as important as it is to any child, but where in heck does all the money donated to autism organizations go?  Why is there basically NO programs Janey can access?  There are a few programs for autism here and there, but when I look into them, they are for the highest end of the spectrum---not for a child like Janey.

Janey finding the Elmo crayon toy, one she loves so much we've bought it twice
So---I do what I can.  It's not enough.  This week, we did a lot of walks to the corner store.  We went to a big open park, Millennium Park, early in the day so there weren't too many free roaming dogs or little kids.  We left when more dogs arrived.  We went to ToysRUs, and Janey enjoyed looking at toys (it's one of the few stores where touching the merchandise is not a problem) but then she got upset and started toward a little girl with a look I know as "about to lunge" and I grabbed her and left.  We watched TV and took showers.  It was not a week that was interesting and meaningful.

I will stop for now, as I feel like I'm entering the ranting and rambling stage of writing.  I'll stop and try to think of something to do today, try to figure out something that is safe for Janey and those around her, something interesting and meaningful.  Good luck to me.

1 comment:

pianorox said...

Give yourself a break - you are doing a great job and it is very likely that Janey is loving all that you are doing together right now and is unable to express it.