Search This Blog

Thursday, July 9, 2020

The summer of the virus

I'm thinking of all of you this summer, especially those earlier on in the whole autism journey.  Every day, I picture how hard it would have been to have a summer like this one if Janey was still as unhappy as she was for many years, and if her behaviors in showing that unhappiness and pain were still as intense.  As it is, it's not totally easy, of course, as it isn't for anyone on Earth right now, but it's nothing like it could have been.

We chose not to "send" Janey to summer school.  I put send in quotations as summer school was going to be totally virtual, all Zoom meetings, for THREE hours a day.  It was a no-brainer to turn it down.  Zoom meetings quite simply don't work for Janey.  We tried our best during the school year, for the hour a day her class met.  At the best, she would sit still and watch the screen, and perhaps participate with a word or two during that hour.  At the worse, she would scream, cry, turn off the computer, close the screen, run away constantly and then be in a terrible mood for the rest of the day.  Either way, it wasn't in any way worth it.

I don't think Janey understood at all that her teachers and fellow students were at the other end of the meetings.  I think she saw it as a TV show or movie,one that for some reason we forced her to watch, one that sometimes strangely called out her name specifically and tried to get her to respond.  This wasn't the case with all the kids in her class.  Some of them participated eagerly, and almost all the other kids at least were more engaged than Janey.  That surprised me.  But as we all know, every kid with autism is different.  I did think there were more kids similar to Janey at her high school, but perhaps those kids just weren't participating at all.

One thing that struck me is that Janey has much less liking of repetition than the other kids like her seemed to.  Or at least she has less liking of repetition she hasn't herself chosen.  She will watch the same movie day after day after day (Toy Story 1-4 and Coco and The Emperor's New Groove, I'm talking to you!) but that's her choice, and she does move on with movies or music after a while.  She'll eventually get bored and cycle in something new.  But the Zoom meetings featured the same songs and videos day after day---greeting songs, days of the week or months of the year or seasons videos---and Janey was not interested. This got complicated by technical problems when the audio or video wouldn't work well.  I felt for her teachers very much.  They had not signed up to be virtual teachers or educational technologists.  They are hands on, great teachers, and they were being forced by circumstances to teach in a totally different way.  And it just didn't work for Janey.

A typical scene this summer, watching videos outdoors
So---the lack of school this summer feels like a huge relief, truly.  I have no idea what I'll do in the fall if schooling is still virtual.  I don't think Janey will be going to that kind of school if it is, one way or another.  We will have to explore our options.  I also just don't know what will play out if school requires masks all day, and 6 foot distancing.  I know that Janey would not be able to comply with that.  She will wear a mask for very short time frames, just to be able to go to the 7-11 and get ice cream or chips, but all day long---that will not work.  I worry especially about the bus---there is no way it would work there.  I worry about her getting COVID, about her teachers or bus drivers or paras or another else getting it from her or giving it to her. It is hard to picture how it's all going to play out.

How are we at home, aside from all this?  Not bad, overall.  Janey has been fairly happy and content.  She is spending her days like a lot of teenagers do---sleeping in, staying up a bit later than usual, watching a lot of YouTube and movies, eating a lot, things like that.  We actually started having a bedtime for her, not to sleep, as no-one can make you sleep, but to be on her bed at 9:30.  The good thing, in a way, about her not knowing how to tell time is that 9:30 can be a bit flexible.  If we can tell she's not tired, it can be more like 11, if she's exhausted, it can be more like 8.  But the amazing thing is she is actually mostly staying on her bed once we say to.  The result is Tony and I are actually having some evenings mostly to ourselves, to watch TV or talk or whatever.  It's nice.

It's been a little tough this past week, as for the first time since she was 11, Janey actually got her period.  The only other time she has was when we gave her medication under the supervision of a specialist.  This time, it just occurred. She mostly seems fine with it, not really much noticing it, but she has had what I think are cramps off and on.  It's awful to see her crying in pain, and knowing she doesn't really get why it's happening.  I've done my best to explain it to her, but I don't know how much she understands.  We have been lucky that for whatever reason, she usually doesn't get a period.

I hope all of you are well, and surviving this tough time.  I'd love to hear how you are coping.  Is there summer school where you are?  How do things look for the fall?  How is it going with masks, with the isolation, with the general tension a pandemic brings?  I hope very much you are all healthy and hanging in there, and I send our love.