Going back to school after a two-week vacation is hard, especially for a child with autism whose routines have been completely turned upside-down by unaccustomed time at home, unaccustomed time in a hotel, and the whole Christmas ordeal.
This week has been rough for both of my kids, particularly my firstborn. George reacts to changes in his routine by not sleeping, which means I haven’t had anything remotely approaching a good night’s sleep since before Christmas. Now that the kids are back at school, and familiar rituals and schedules have resumed, the sleep issues are slowly but surely diminishing. Usually it takes a couple of weeks for the status quo to fully return.
This time round, though, there are a couple of wrinkles that are likely to hamper our return to our own odd version of normality. One of the wrinkles is actually a very positive one: for the next few Wednesdays, George will be attending a social skills program after school.
On the one hand, he gets to go to the therapy centre that was his home-away-from-home for three years. It’s a place he knows and loves, and the program is one that he desperately needs.
On the other hand, he has not set foot in the therapy centre since he was discharged 15 months ago. It is no longer a part of his daily life, and going there is a big change for him. As disruptive as that is for now, his participation in the program represents progress, and we are excited to see where this might take him.
The other wrinkle is a little more contentious in nature. For those not living in Ontario, here’s the short version of the story:
Last year the Premier of Ontario introduced legislation that would have the effect of screwing over the teachers. The teachers’ unions got involved and tried to negotiate a better deal. The inevitable happened – things went nowhere fast and the unions recommended a course of protest action for the teachers.
In December, there was a series of one-day walkouts staged by school boards across the province. By then, pre-Christmas stuff had already started to throw the routines off, so this didn’t really bother us. The biggest effect was that James’ Christmas concert had to be rescheduled to a date that was impossible for me (oh, the guilt!).
The one-day walkouts failed to have the desired effect, and now the teachers are not in a legal position to strike. They can, however, stage a one-day protest (although to be honest, I’m not clear about the difference between the two), and this is exactly what they are planning to do tomorrow.
Looking at the issues alone, my sympathies are with the teachers. They are entrusted with the task of shaping futures, and they deserve some respect. My opinion is kind of moot anyway: regardless of who’s right or wrong, the teachers have to do whatever the unions tell them to.
But speaking as a special needs parent, I have to say that I am kind of miffed at this latest development. At a time when I am trying to get George settled into the flow of a routine that’s already different, an unplanned three-day weekend really throws a monkey-wrench into the works.
That there are issues to be resolved is beyond question. I just wish this could be done in a way that does not impact the kids. I can handle the inconvenience of having adjust our family’s schedule to accommodate the kids not going to school for a day. I can live with them missing out on one day of instruction. In the grand scheme of their educations, a single day is not going to make much difference.
What I find hard to swallow, though, is the fact that special needs kids like George are going to endure an extra dose of stress and anxiety because of this.
I’m not sure what the solution is, but I cannot help thinking that there has to be a way to avoid making children bear the brunt of grown-up problems.
(Photo credit: Pylon757. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)