African Overload

Things have been going well at our house.  We had a wonderful Easter, despite my TBP’s uncertainty with an outdoor egg hunt.  If you remember from my previous post, he was concerned about the eggs being contaminated by animal urine, dirt or lawn fertilizer.  In addition to Easter, we received his report card and was very happy with his grades.  We were especially happy with high grades in “effort” since this wasn’t always the case.  Yes, things were better…and then there was Friday.

My son’s class has been studying Africa and as a culminating activity, family members were invited to watch a performance.  I first learned about this event through an email from the classroom teacher.  I wasn’t sure that my son understood what was planned, so the night before, I explained what was going to happen.

The next day, I left work in time to pick up a coffee for my TBP’s teacher before going to his school.  When you have a kid like mine, it never hurts to bring a latte!  As I walked by the windows to his class, I saw all the kids were sitting on the carpet and mine was sitting at his desk.

This can’t be good.

The hallway filled up with parents and grandparents and I began to worry.  Often, my son’s anxiety occurs at the most inopportune times like holidays, dinners in fancy restaurants, or trips so why would it be any different at school.  Soon, the classroom teacher opened the door and the waiting adults swarmed as if there were free Starbucks cards being passed out.

“He doesn’t want to participate in the Reader’s Theater, but he picked out a special place for you to sit with him.”  The teacher led me to a table that was off to the side and my boy joined me.  Instantly, he began to nuzzle me and try to hide his face from the strangers.  To onlookers, this behavior seems unexpected for a boy of his age and height.

You could have heard a pin drop while the other kids spoke their lines; but once the performance was over, the room grew louder and louder.  As this happened, all of the color drained out of my poor son’s face.  It was obvious that he was struggling so his teacher came over to help. “Why don’t you take mom to your desk to show her your work and your art?”  My son couldn’t answer her or focus; when I looked over to see the crowd near his desk, I knew that was out of the question.  Seeing the discomfort in his face, his teacher went and got his work.  It was clear that we needed to leave.

Once in the car, my son burst into tears and explained how hard that was for him.  After talking more, I learned that the third grade buddies had joined their class earlier and that the lunch room had seemed especially loud as well.  As he cried,  I cried.  It was hard to see him struggle and I was fearful that school felt like this everyday.

Do we need another meeting with the school staff?

Maybe he should eat in the office again instead of the lunchroom?

Should we pull him out and home school him?

An hour went by, and slowly my son returned.  He asked for a snack and started up a conversation.  Although he was feeling much better, I was still concerned about what I had seen.  “Is that how school is for you all the time?”

“No, but today was especially hard because of all the noise and the people.”  He continued, “But I feel better…don’t throw away my Africa stuff because I want to save it.”

“I won’t throw it away…I’m wondering if we should think about homeschooling?”

No! I don’t want to do school at home.  I like my school and I want to see my friends and when I’m home…I want to be able to relax.”

Quite frankly…I thought that he would jump at the chance to be homeschooled.  I was surprised and relieved that he felt so positive about school.  That was the last day of school before Spring Break and honestly…I think the timing was perfect!  I hope that he still feels so positive about school when it is next Sunday night!

6 thoughts on “African Overload

  1. Your son is a trooper! He managed himself so well in a chaotic situation and it was great you could be there to support him. Thanks for sharing these stories, it reminds me that my son is not the only one who refuses to participate in class activities.

    • Wendi-
      Thank you!
      I know there are lots of kids that experience this type of anxiety and sensory overload. It’s crazy because before I was a parent, as a teacher I thought all kids would live to perform in front of their parents! I know it wasn’t about me but honestly, I was a bit jealous when I saw all the “typical” kids enjoying the attention and all the iPhones taping the performance. That is not for my son to worry about and I’m not nearly as sensitive about this as I used to be. Twice-exceptional kid means twice as thick skin! 🙂 thanks for the support and comments!

  2. Thanks for sharing your stories – I think it sounds as if everyone involved – your son, the teacher, you, all handled the situation exceedingly well. I am still working to get to a situation like you describe : ]. This morning I couldnt get my son to school, he was refusing to get dressed and kept kicking me when I tried to get him into his clothes. Turns out he is worried about wearing a T shirt that the whole class had to make for an open day on Friday. It took several hours to even get out of him what might be worrying him. I also endured total embarrasment last week when I was supposed to be chaperoning at a museum field trip and my son just ran off and basically refused to be part of the group …… I had to abandon the other kids I was supposed to be watching and had to endure embarassing questions from the other parents – plus all that judgement that its because you are a bad parent and cant control your child …… talk about needing thick skins and needing to work on our own egos ! : ]
    I am a more sensitive and compassionate person than I was before I had my son and I am learning slowly to be stronger and more thick skinned. It is really nice to know that there are others out there…

    I also like hearing about your twice baked potatoes teacher – My son endured two years with teachers who hated him and refused to accept / couldnt understand any anxiety issues. The second year [kindergarten] the teacher was so bad the class was totally out of control, there was rampant bullying and my already anxious son ended up traumatised. It took me too long to realise what was going on and to pull him out. Your sons teacher sounds sensitive to his issues and a support for you both. you sound like a fantastic mother – despite the ups and downs you are obviously doing a great job

    I homeschooled my son for a year – he really needed it but I found it exhausting and lonely. Its also hard to be both teacher and parent. But I expect I will be homeschooling again in the future …..

    • Rachel-
      I totally understand and feel your pain!!
      Our journey started when my boy was four years old and kindergarten was terrible!! First grade (for the first 2/3 of the year) was a nightmare!

      My son’s 1st grade teacher said mean things and I found her conduct extremely unprofessional.

      Here’s what I can say… it does get better! We saw therapists, a neurologist, and a specialist who’s thing was gifted kids w/social & emotional issues. We did lots of research and read countless books. If you read the earliest blogs you will see the hardest times.

      I still struggle with worrying about the onlookers and gawkers! I am also super sensitive because of being a teacher and knowing what “typical” kids do.

      I am currently very interested in research that speaks to the fact that some ADHD kids and oppositional kids are actually struggling with social anxiety. I believe that this is a huge issue with my son.

      Feel free to email me if you have any other questions
      and I would be happy to try and help!

      Blessings to you and yours!

  3. I think your son (deep down) realizes that he must overcome his anxieties and that to homeschool would be to run away from that which he must conquer. I think he is very brave for doing this. As he matures…he will find appropriate coping strategies.

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