Our son is on the autism spectrum (high functioning) and has the ADHD diagnosis as well. He just started back to school after a home-schooling break. And not surprisingly, he is having some anxiety from separating at school drop-off.
It didn’t help that he had a substitute teacher on his second day. But he made it through with coping aids that his school provides. But today, as I was leaving, he expressed his fear so clearly. He exclaimed “You can’t leave! I will die if you leave!”
My initial response was, "Wow, dramatic much?!”
But upon further reflection, I realize this is how deeply our kids feel. He is not unusual for his diagnosis! When he is at home, he mostly knows what to expect. He has a routine. The house is usually quiet, predictable. He has much control over his environment.
We still see some anxiety. Especially if we change things up in the routine or he hears a “no.” I think even his usual protestations over bath time or bedtime might be part of the routine in his brain.
Transitions can be tough. But at school, even on great days like hike day, which he really enjoys, it’s still new and unpredictable. No matter how long he attends. There are many transitions throughout the school day. The more people in his world, and the more stimulatory input he receives, the less control he feels.
When I’m around, he has help to regulate all this input and a buffer in some situations. He doesn’t have to remember his backpack or jacket or water bottle. Directions will be repeated a million times. He doesn’t even have to respond to his own body. He will be reminded that he is hungry or to use the restroom in response to body language! (All you moms know the pee-pee dance, right?!)
Helping him navigate and cope with the world around him has been an ongoing process since birth. I will admit that I was the mom who made everyone quiet when he slept. Because it was so difficult to get him to sleep. I was the mom who tried to keep our world on an even keel and calm. He has ridden hundreds of miles in the car in order to get him to sleep. (Thankful for my husband who loved to take back road rides with him while I took care of the older kiddos!)
Convincing a child that he will not die if mom is not with him is a tough order to fill. But I know as he grows, he will learn that he won’t die. He can cope. And there are lots of fun things to do out there without mom tagging along behind him. So I make him go to school even when he begs me not to – difficult and painful for me but necessary for him.
ASD presents many different symptoms. Here is helpful information on the disorder in children.