autism,  COVID life,  high school,  home strategies,  IEP,  motherhood,  special education

First Day of School Take 2

Wednesday Fargo Public Schools started their first day of school thanks to COVID-19. It seems like everyone I know across the US and across the ocean (in Saudi Arabia) has already been participating in virtual school for at least a week or two already. In general, I feel like North Dakota has been a few weeks behind everyone on everything COVID related (probably because we fall 47 out of 50 in population size in the United States). And that’s okay. I (personally) need that extra time to mental prepare for all the changes that are happening, and I appreciate watching and learning from everyone else who has started the “new normal” changes before us.

About a week before “school started,” the kids’ principal sent out a video explaining how the new school day was going to look like. I was really impressed. It’s very structured. It’s only half day (hallelujah!). The kids have odd periods one day, even the next, and alternate Monday-Thursday. From 1:00-2:30 teachers are holding office hours. The kids have Friday off.

So, being me and having a kid like J, I took the above schedule and “translated” it for J. I made a table just like the one above, but wrote out the names of classes and teachers for J, the necessary tasks to do for each class (check Daily Planner and fill out the Attendance survey) because J’s brain (and mine) work better like that. I won’t post it here (just because it has teachers names on it), but trust me. It’s pretty awesome.

Just because things are so uncertain and new for everyone, J’s special education teacher phoned me up a few days before school started and we talked about what J’s days are going to look like (especially with his more individually catered speech/social skills and math classes). Can I just put a shout out out there for teachers right now!!! The amount of work and time putting their content online in a short amount of time is just insane. And special ed teachers need to get an extra extra shout out, because they’re essentially planning individual classes for every single one of their students, all while trying to honour IEP needs while at the same time realizing they physically, logistically, can’t make those IEP needs.

I finally convinced Steve to help J shave his whisker stache. It’s been driving me and W nuts, and now that I have to sit beside him and look at his whisker stache face for 4 hours every day as it shows up on a Zoom screen, I just couldn’t take it anymore!!!

So how did Wednesday and Thursday go? We survived!!! I had to take two ibuprofen and a big nap after each day, but we survived! It was a little hairy at times–everyone’s adjusting to the new technology (and I’m pretty sure all the high schools in the district are using it at the same time, so yes, Daily Planner crashed a few times both days). I’m adjusting to the new technology. In fact, that’s where my (literal) headaches were coming from. Helping J navigate where to look for Zoom links (is it Daily Planner–which I can’t log into at the moment, Google Classroom, or Gmail?) and sitting through Zoom meetings with lots of peoples’ faces on the screen and cacophony at times when all the mics were one were the biggest contributors of the headache. It’s kind of overstimulating (I don’t have autism), and I could sense it was a overstimulating for J at times too (who has autism and is overstimulated very easily). Hopefully as I figure out the technology a little better (and what options in Zoom meetings work best for blocking out extra faces and noise) J will feel a little more comfortable too. I feel like life right now is a day by day experiment in mindfulness. You look at it with openness and curiosity, and just ride the waves. That’s when you can best assess what changes need to be made for the next time around.

I, personally, am still trying to find my grove in life. After feeling really good about myself after successfully navigating the first two days of school, I was really looking forward for Friday’s “day off.” Then Friday, I found myself struggling because I had all this “free time” and (like a lot of days in this COVID adventure) I found myself battling the “maybe I can write/maybe I should be hanging out with the kids conundrum of guilt. UGH! It’s that working as a mom and being a good stay at home mom battle I think a lot of us battle daily. Except both those battles are happening in the same house–sometimes even the same room.

Making masks with the scraps of fabric I can find over the weekend (which was somewhat therapeutic). For some reason, all the scraps in my house are pink?
Lots and lots of baking/cooking (it’s sort of therapeutic for me). Sunday night I made pierogies and froze the leftovers.

My sister in Saudi Arabia (who is still separated from her husband because of closed borders) is a few weeks ahead of us. She said she’s finally feeling her grove in the new normal. She pulled out a blank canvas the other day and actually felt like painting (she’s a really gifted artist). She said she hasn’t had that feeling in a while. Finger’s crossed, we’ll be all finding our groove soon too. I think it’s funny because, I’m the older sister so all my life I’ve done all the new life changing things first. Now things have flipped and she’s doing the new things first. It’s kinda a funny dynamic between us!

Well, I better sign off for now, since I’m writing this Sunday night. Day 3 of school starts tomorrow, and my goal is to try not to have to rely on ibuprofen or a nap after the day ends at 12:15! Wish me luck, and hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!

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