Emma will be attending a new school this fall. We were given a placement by the Department of Education mid June that was not over an hour from our home. This new school seems to understand the concept of sensory issues and needs, or at least they’ve heard of the idea and appear willing to consider that this is important to Emma. They seem interested in my desire to be involved. We will be working together on a transition. I plan to meet with her new teachers and the assistant principal. I will photograph all of them as well as the interior and exterior of the school to put in a book that Emma can look at prior to her first day.
The school has a large gymnasium and a huge auditorium with a stage. There’s a roof playground and a little area filled with books. It’s a special education school within a larger “regular” public school. They seem interested in having Emma do at least some things, like PE, with the kids from the larger school, so she’s not completely segregated out. It’s by no means ideal, but we have yet to visit a school, private or public, that is.
I took Emma to visit the school in July. She was anxious, kept saying, “No, I don’t like the new school. I don’t want to go to new school.” We talked about how new things are scary. I told her that at this school she would be able to go swimming in the pool across the street once a week and that there would be new teachers and children. I could see how anxious she was, just visiting. I felt the tightness in my heart and stomach. That feeling hasn’t left me. I am as frightened as Emma. This is a big change. It is an enormous question mark. Emma has been dealing with her anxiety by saying goodbye to all her old teachers and classmates. “Lauren is gone. Charlie is gone. Soufien is gone. Rachel J. is gone…” Emma will go through the lengthy list and then always ends with, “Emma goes to a new school!” I’ve asked her whether she’d like to visit her old school to say goodbye, she is adamant that she does not. I’ve asked if she’d like to see some of her old friends, she has shaken her head no.
Emma has a new string that she loves. I’ve written about her string before. Unlike her scrap of blanket (cokie) which works like a sedative and makes her sleepy, her string seems to help her focus. She twirls it or will hold it in her hand as she runs, jumps on the trampoline and plays. Since we’ve been in Aspen she has lost her string three times now, leading to shrieks of terror and screams of “You lost it. You cannot throw it. Have to look. Mommy! I need help!” And then tears. Lots of terrified crying. Each time we’ve turned the house upside down and eventually found it, but it’s been traumatic for all of us. This last time it went missing, Richard and I began to think we’d have to place limits on it to ensure it didn’t get lost. A couple of friends suggested alternate strings, a kind of backup string. So I asked Em if she’d like to find an “outdoor” string. She easily chose a long piece of purple ribbon. She cheerfully took it out with her when we went for our morning ride on the 4-wheeler yesterday.
It occurred to me then that she could have a number of alternate strings. I thought about her new school and realized she could have a special “school” string too. I asked her if she liked this idea and she nodded her head vigorously. “How about a school string and a Saturday string, a back up string and we can find another indoor string,” I said. “Yes!” Emma replied, clasping her new purple string in her hand as she got on the 4-wheeler.
At her old school several years ago one of her teachers introduced a school “cokie” to detrimental effect. Emma would sit in the corner with her scrap zoning out. Over the years her various teachers tried to curtail her use, put limits on her cokie, but nothing they did worked. Every few months I would get a call from her teacher describing melt downs, her inability to attend, her desire to have it with her all the time. Each time my heart ached for her as I put the phone down knowing I’d been unable to help alleviate the situation. At her new school we are hoping by providing her with a school string some of her anxiety may be mitigated. I am hoping she does not latch on to a “school cokie” I am praying some well-meaning teacher does not introduce her to one. We will see. In the meantime if any of you have suggestions about how to help us help her with this transition – let loose!
Emma’s old string
Emma’s new string
Emma’s purple string