This morning, the hour spent from when we left the house for school until when I dropped Janey at her room demonstrated so many of the joys and challenges of life with her that I thought I'd write about it.
Janey left the house for school with enthusiasm, as she almost always does. Transitions are not as hard for her as they are for a lot of kids with autism. She has a lot of energy, a lot of eagerness to get moving---we often joke how much she is like her father, and unlike the boys and me. She is restless. So she generally bounds down the steps, ready for the day to start.
In the car, we always listen to music from my iPod. Some days I ask her what she'd like to hear, and some days I just put it on random. If she doesn't like the songs, she never hesitates to let me know what she'd like to hear instead. Music prompts more communication in her than anything else. Today, I went with random, and she approved of the songs that came up. The first one was "Surfin' Safari" by the Beach Boys, and she liked it so much it almost was TOO much---she was frantically bouncing along and waving her arms and yelling in delight. I was worried we were about to cross the line into the over-excited state that sometimes turns dark fast. But luckily, the next song was a change of place, but one she liked too---"I'm Beginning to See the Light". She likes great tunes with a big band sound, and that fit the bill. We followed that with "I'm The Only Hell My Mama Ever Raised", by Johnny Paycheck, a favorite of mine that she liked fairly well, and a few songs later, we were at school. It was a good ride, as the morning almost always is. The car music time is probably my favorite time with Janey. We are doing something we both enjoy, and it's a wonderful kind of shared happiness.
Once we had parked at the school, I started my patter---my talk to get Janey ready for the day. The main emphasis today was that it wasn't an exercise day. Three days a week, Janey goes to a program called BOKS before school, a music and exercise program, and she loves it. Last week, on Friday when there was also no exercise, when she realized we were going in the "wrong" door, the door we go in for non-exercise days, she freaked out. So I wanted to prepare her today. I rambled about that, and my everyday spiel about how we don't cross the street until the walk sign comes on, and how we might have to wait for the bell to ring before class, and anything else I think will help her prepare for the day and keep her calm.
When we got in, we were early, so we did have to wait in the hall for the start of the day bell to ring. The drive to school takes anywhere from 15 minutes, on a truly record dream traffic and lights day, to an hour, when conditions hit a perfect storm of wrong. Today was a quicker ride, but it's impossible for me to time the drive so we always get there right at the same time, which Janey would prefer. At first, she seemed okay in the hall, but after a minute or two, she screamed---that piercing, earth-shattering scream that she has perfected. It always amazes me how little affected the other kids seem to be by her screaming. I guess they are used to it. It's more often adults that are around that look worried, and I don't blame them. It's quite a scream. After screaming, she started to sing the last song from the car, "Red River Valley" This seems like a calming technique she uses, so I sang along. I've long since lost any shyness I might have had about singing in public. After a bit, a girl from Janey's class came around, one of the very sweet girls who are so good to her, and that brought on a smile. The principal also stopped by Janey, and played a clapping game with her, and let Janey admire her shoes. I had a wistful feeling, although I'm trying not to think much about, but I gave in and thought how much I will miss the school if and when we move Janey.
Then the bell rang, and we were off to class. Janey held hands with her friend, and the friend sang a made-up song to Janey---"Janey is smiling, Janey is smiling, I like it when Janey is smiling!" It's amazing how kids instinctively get what works with Janey---singing and movement. Janey was so happy with her friend that I stood outside the door of her room and didn't even peek in as they walked in together. I felt feeling happy, overall, but also thinking a lot about that big scream, and wishing that Janey had an easier time learning in an inclusion environment. Overall, though, it was a good morning, and a fairly typical morning lately. Some parts of raising Janey are getting easier, gradually. We are figuring her out, and she is figuring us out. There are more hours that are overall good than tough, and that is hopeful.