Change is hard. It usually involves having to do something differently than you have been accustomed to; like trying to eat healthy after a long holiday season filled with gluttony.
For most people on the spectrum, change can be quite difficult. I used to think it was my son’s kryptonite. But, as he’s matured, and with proper prompting he has done better with new situations. Even last minute surprises are not as problematic as when he was a toddler and we were first figuring out how to deal with his outbursts.
Now, instead of lashing out at unexpected variations in his day, I see him turning internally and spending more time alone. I think this is a typical pre-teen reaction to transformations. And I think it’s good he is trying to process. Yet, I recall Jenna dealing with “teenage things” and asking me questions or turning to her social circle to figure out the world. Ryan doesn’t do this. He doesn’t ask me the types of questions Jenna did, like: “Why won’t she talk to me, I don’t know what I did wrong?” Or: “Why did she move away, she was my best friend?”
Ryan is more a big picture guy. The things that affect how he moves through his day matter most. Like, losing his therapist that had been with him since he was four. Nothing bad happened to her (thankfully), she just moved on to a new job. But this change is big. I would consider it big for anyone who had worked side by side with someone for eight years, but for Ryan is could potentially be catastrophic. His whole apple cart could turn over. Luckily she coordinated her departure to coincide with the holiday break from school; so he had a good transition period. And we prompted him like crazy that she wouldn’t be there when he went back.
Not to say he didn’t grieve for the loss of her, but he didn’t ever ask me why she left or inquire when she would come back, like Jenna may have asked. Maybe I didn’t give him the chance because I was so afraid of what the change would do to him that I kept talking about it. Maybe he didn’t have the time to worry because I continually reassured him it would be okay. Either way, I did notice him spending a lot more time in his room.
During that same school break, also came his orthodontic braces. For any kid having a metal bracket attached on each tooth is no picnic. There are many sensations in your mouth at once: the thickness of the brackets and how they tear at your cheeks and the tightness the metal causes on all of your teeth just to name a few. Coincidentally, Jenna was getting hers off the exact same day Ryan’s came on—the irony of that was not lost on any of us. But, I anticipated she would be a good visual to show the final result. Plus I thought I needed to tell him something tangible that the braces would do, so I told him we needed to make his teeth strong so he could continue to eat his favorite snack. He did great while getting the braces on: sat nicely and stayed calm–I was so proud. It wasn’t until later that evening when I realized how long he had been in his room alone when he came to me and said. “Okay mom, I’m ready for my new teeth.” As if the braces could work that fast.
Every time he tried to eat he practically cried from the pain. Ryan is a tough kid, so for him to say something hurts, it must be really bad. Needless to say, he didn’t want to eat much. And I heard the phrase “You have to take these braces off” a lot. He spent more time alone in his room those first few days. Processing: I assumed. Then, it was time to go back to school and he pepped up. I hoped he had found his way to deal with the braces. Ryan is one of the very few kids who wants to go back to school. He loves the routine, the schedules and the predictability. Even minus his life-long friend, he went back willingly. Even with the new braces inserted in his face, he was ready to roll.
Well, that’s enough change for now—I thought. Of course it wasn’t. We received notice that his school is closing. Let those words sink in for a minute. His school is closing at the end of the year.
For those of you who read my book, there is a considerable amount of time I discuss finding a school for Ryan when the public school was no longer an option for us. There are only so many schools in our immediate area and the continual ‘no’s’ I received were just one painful slap in the face after another. So the thought of finding another place that could fit all our needs, is to say the least, daunting.
More change… Will he handle it? Can he handle it?
He has heard us say the school is closing, but I don’t think he gets the finality of it. I don’t think I get it yet either. And I’m not ready to prime him for this change. Again.
So, what we do now is: pray; keep our fingers crossed; throw coins in a fountain; blow on dandelions; and send all the positive “vibes” we can to people in charge of Ryan’s school to keep it going…somehow.
I can keep the faith, and make wishes—that is what got me this far. But, sometimes I just really hate change.