Mind the Gap

Excuse me if I seem a little ashen-faced and shaky -- I just survived the world's longest preschooler spring break in the history of ever. TWO SCHOOLS, I send my kid to, and thanks to non-concurrent break times and extra administrative days and other slightly weird scheduling hiccups, it was a full TWO WEEKS before my kid actually had a day where he attended both of them.

And oh, it showed.

And not just in the "he's bored and missing his friends and messing up my schedule" sort of way. After just a few extra days off, he genuinely seemed to struggle with behaviors and tics we thought were things of the past.

I'm aware, as a special-needs parent, that I often make it sound like I'm parenting a plastic sailboat bobbing in the bathtub -- the slightest splash or ripple can capsize it, much like the slightest change in Noah's routine or a little Red 40/Yellow 5 in a juice box can send him into a behavioral meltdown. I'm aware I sound like (at best) I'm grasping at straws or (at worst) making excuses.

But it's a pattern we've seen, over and over and over again. Noah THRIVES in therapy, be it speech or OT, group or individual, camp or school or in our living room with the Nice Lady Who Brings All The Toys. He responds and improves and soaks it all up like a sponge.

But then take him away from therapy and it all just sort of ... sucks. Again. Some more. Speech skills and self-regulation crater. Rigid thinking and sensory issues skyrocket.

It's this pattern that led to our premature graduation from Early Intervention and his disastrous experience in a mainstream preschool. And this year it's been the reason that every extended school break or string of snow days or long weekend have been hard on all of us.

And I feel guilty, because, oh my lands, do I love this kid. I love listening to him talk and watching him play and we're very much a family that loves being together and going places together and nothing lights up my husband more than finding an activity or event that he knows Noah will enjoy. So it's not ... the togetherness, per se. I guess what's hard is the realization that for all we do and read and learn and talk about with Noah's teachers and therapists and all the sensory obstacle courses and activities we do at home ... we aren't enough. Yet.

It makes me recalibrate my expectations, every time. I want to dream of the day when he won't need services and therapy and accommodations anymore. When I can look back on this chapter of our lives confident that we did enough and it was all worth it and (most importantly) behind us. And I really, really, REALLY do believe that day will come.

But instead, for now, I'm just dreaming of the day when we can make it through spring break okay.

back to school, boys, confessions, development & growth, developmental delays, tantrums

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aiden... aidensmomma508

what's the deal my son has spring break in 2 weeks

jeann... jeannesager

You shouldn't feel guilty at all. Not to demean your experience, but look at the parents of kids without your child's special needs who complain about spring break -- if anyone should feel guilty, it's us! Point being -- it's not you being "not enough," it's you accepting that sometimes we as parents can't be as on top of everything as we wish.

nonmember avatar Mouse

We set up several playdates and handed our son off to his grandparents for a couple days. And while he didn't have any spectacular meltdowns and he loves time off from school, he was just off a bit.

I just finished scheduling his summer. He only had two weeks of camp last summer and we traveled for another--the long stretches of unscheduled time were very difficult on him (and he actively resisted what bits of structure we had at home--he does better when it's other people). For this summer there are a few weeks that have nothing, but we sought out camps in his fields of interest and signed up for as many as we could manage. He's returning to one of the places he did camp last year, which seemed like an Aspie haven, and I expect a similar experience at most of the others.

nonmember avatar Shannon

I don't know if your schools have this, but in CO we have what's called Extended School Year for kiddie like Noah. Basically, if they can prove the kids regress over the summer, they can qualify for ESY and get some kind of intervention through the schools over the summer. It might be worth looking into.

nonmember avatar Kelly

My son is going to be 2 in June. He has some sensory issues as well - we are in the Birth to 3 program and he gets OT, PT and speech. He was doing so so well and we'd discussed cutting back his OT sessions a bit, but then it got warm around here and I had to put him in a short sleeve shirt. DUN DUN DUN. Honestly, it was just heartbreaking to see him go bonkers over his bare arms. He's a twin and his brother doesn't have any of the same issues. It's just so heartbreaking. I really enjoy reading your columns here and elsewhere. Just wanted to comment that it's good to hear I'm not out here alone. Thanks.

pinki... pinkiebling

I watched moms all over the internet (SAHMs, outside-the-home moms, blogger moms, mom-friends on Facebook, moms of special-needs kids, moms of of mainstream kids, moms with one kid to moms with 6 kids) MELT DOWN over this spring break. Is there some sort of weird El Nino effect that takes over all children every four years or something? Craziness.

I'm so happy that Noah does so well in therapy. You're right, the day will come...hang in there!

nonmember avatar Karen

My special needs kiddo has to go to a sitter or a camp because we aren't home when he is off. I was crying while looking at our summer care schedule. He goes for 3 weeks, has 2 off, goes for 2.5 and has 3 off. Holy crap! (and this is a develpmental school - hello structure?) What are we going to do with him?
They feel that stress to. Their schedules are off, they see us going bonkers while trying to make it work and then there is the money - so much money. There has to be a better way!

nonmember avatar Kate

As other posters have said already you are not alone in this. I spent five years working with special needs kindergarten and preschool students and it was rare to have a kid who wasn't psyched to be back in school after breaks because being home was hard (on them and on their parents). Even if you took his school schedule and tried to replicate it at home you would not get the same result because the environment is different, the other kids from school wouldn't be there, and you're his mom.

Kids are just different around their parents; sometimes that's good and sometimes it's not (as you've seen regression and behavior issues are really common). This isn't limited to special needs kids either. One of my best example of this comes from when I was babysitting. I would always put kids to sleep in their beds (logical, right?) and about 80% of the time I would discover when the parents came home that they were never able to get at least one of their kids to sleep in their own bed(s). I didn't do anything special, I was just different.

nonmember avatar Brandi

The day will come when all of this is behind you. And the day will come when you can get through spring break ok too. Until then you're giving Noah the very best you can and that's all you can do. That's all any parent of any kid with special needs or without can do.

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