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Waiting to exhale

Today is Bailey’s* first day of 2nd grade and I will literally not be able to exhale until I see her face seated safely in the backseat of my car. You see, she is starting a new school in a new town. The last time she started a new school in a new town she had a roller coaster of a year, many days of bad behavior reports, tears, and she ended up with a day of suspension. In Kindergarten. Yes, I said suspended in Kindergarten. Now this girl is such a sweet child, and I’m not saying that just because I’m her mother. It is the absolute truth. She loves rainbows and cupcakes and bunnies and puppies and daisies and everything cute. But she has a very hard time processing frustration, anxiety and change, and it tends to come out in a very explosive way. She is Dr. Jekyll and little Miss Hyde, so to speak.

This suspension from school came smack dab in the middle of us having her evaluated by a child psychologist for possible OCD, which I was pretty sure she had because she had very ritualistic tendencies. The fits that she had I attributed to her being a very “spirited and strong-willed” child. I had heard of those types of children and just assumed I had one. So after a diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome, which I knew very little about, things started falling into place. I read as much as I could on the subject and found that a good bit, but not all, of Asperger’s characteristics described her behavior. But it was frustrating because so much of the time she seemed like a typical child, just like her classmates. Then one little hiccup would surface and BAM… there it was. The psychologist didn’t offer much in the way of treatment/behavior modification so even though my insurance didn’t cover it I sought out a family counselor well known in the area for treating children with any type of behavioral and emotional issues. Several in-depth interviews and evaluations and a couple of thousand dollars out-of-pocket later, we had a formal diagnosis of High Functioning Autism (HFA). He explained that Asperger’s would fall under the umbrella of HFA in the near future so that is why she was classified as such. So with a diagnosis and an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) put in place by a team of wonderful ladies at her school, she had an awesome 1st grade year. I could not have dreamed up a better group of people working with her, who obviously cared so much for her. Even the kids in her class were amazing. They all were so interested in her quirky, loveable self. They all took part in helping her if she went off the deep end. They obviously cared so much for her too.

And then BAM… “honey, we’re moving again”.

Now anyone who knows anything about kids with Asperger’s knows that moving is one of the last things they need. I agree. However, my girl is a pro at it now. She’s originally a southern belle. We moved to New England when she was 4, then to Ohio when she was 5. Now we’re here on the East Coast again. Don’t get me wrong. Each move has seen it’s share of tears. The first move was particularly devastating to both of us because we left our home of many years (the only home she ever knew) plus my family, who we are very close with. I still have regret and sadness hanging heavy in my heart because of that move. Moving from New England wasn’t bad…it wasn’t a good fit for our family. If I had to be anywhere other than home, Ohio was a pretty good place. We were in a small, quiet town and, like I said above, things were going so well in school. But my husband was being transferred and we really didn’t have much of a choice.

I have tried to keep our summer a nice blend of free play days and planned outings. That is one thing my girl is…an explorer. She loves to see new places and she loves being outside. We have visited museums and the zoo, and she’s seen the White House. She loves to visit the local American Girl store, and even loves to just cruise around the mall. I know it’s the walking. The girl could walk from coast to coast I believe. I tried to keep things balanced for her so she could sort of settle in without too much stress. She would grumble a little whenever I mentioned school getting closer, but I tried to talk it up with excitement as much as I could.

And here we are, on the first day of school. And I’m sitting here holding my breath… I guess it feels like last night and this morning was just TOO easy. We had a relaxing evening, an early bath, a nice long chapter from her book, in bed and lights out on time. A good night’s sleep and waking up on her own. Up, breakfasted and dressed with no issues. Out the door EARLY. When I asked her if she was a little nervous before going into the school building this morning she replied very matter-of-factly, “I’m not as nervous as you think I am”. She even turned to me with puckered lips outside of her classroom and said “bye mama!” without a second glance. Just too easy…

I’ll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, I’ll sit here and turn purple…

*not her real name


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