Today was the last day of school! The grades are in and we officially can say summer break is here, now we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Being a parent is no simple thing, but parenting during a pandemic is incredibly challenging.
Our son Collin has gone to an ABA school for the past 5 years. Not a typical school like most children go to, but a school all the same and that’s where he received his ABA therapy. Jonah, Collin’s twin brother, attends a local elementary school.
Once we received the word that the kids would not be returning to school, after Spring Break, we kinda went into panic mode.
All parents felt this way… Everything radically shifted. No school, no playing with friends, parents working from home. How were we going to balance all of this? How was I going to step up and provide the education my 10-year-old autistic son needed to thrive?
The first few weeks we (parents/teachers) were all scrambling to find a new way of teaching, a new way to learn at home.
It was like being pulled in all different directions at once.
Parents were posting amazing school work stations in their homes, all thumbs up from their kids and I couldn’t get the neurotypical child to sit for more than 3 mins at our dining room table.
You see, Jonah was struggling through 4th grade.
Not that he couldn’t handle it, he just didn’t want to do it. At least that’s what he told me almost every day.
This will be a long haul, I thought to myself, but I was committed to getting Jonah through this.
Not aware it was happening, but I took on a lot of guilt. I was so busy working with Collin’s twin brother Jonah on his schoolwork that I could see Collin slipping through the cracks. The only sense of comfort I had was that ABA in-home services started almost immediately for Collin. But Collin’s school hadn’t touched on the virtual school part. Collin’s school didn’t provide distance learning, they sent an email with suggested worksheets that we could work on from home. We were on our own with zero guidance.
I would tell myself, don’t worry, you will get to Collin. He’s happy right now, and that made me happy, and the house was happy. If you have a special needs child in your house, you completely understand that statement.
While I was knee-deep in with 4th-grade math, ELA, and trying to keep Jonah sitting at our dining room table, out of the corner of my eye I see Collin. He is on the couch rocking back and forth and content, watching Toy Story videos on his IPad. This is not good, I’m failing him.
I knew Collin wanted to be back at school with his friends and learning. He can’t verbally tell me that, but I felt it. Every day… every day I would beat myself up that I wasn’t sitting down with him and doing worksheets, not providing what he needed.
But I couldn’t break away to help him because my other guy needed me too. On many occasions, my husband had to break away from his work to help get Jonah through Common Core Math. Quite a few times we had to throw in the towel and teach Jonah “the old way”. There was plenty of yelling and arguing.
It didn’t seem like it would end. There were assignments due, logging onto Google Meet to check in with teachers, downloading pictures of his work, and the teacher parades. The new normal they would say and I’m praying this is not our new normal.
And all the while we were trying to process that we would be on lockdown and all other services are moving to teletherapy. Seriously how is Collin going to tolerate having services via Zoom? We received the word that his school was closing indefinitely. They explained to us that ABA would continue, but all school services would not resume in the fall.
Really not thinking I could take much more change myself, I had to wrap my mind around that we needed to find a new school for Collin. I knew I need to rally myself and our family, we couldn’t allow this news to disrupt what it’s important for Collin. I knew there had to be a light at the end of this tunnel. And I found that light in Collin and Jonah.
During all the disruptions and changes in his routine, Collin continued to shine brightly. Because of having in-home services, Jonah could take part in Collin’s therapy. They played board games, hopscotch, catch, and sang songs together. What I was failing to see was that their relationship was growing. Instead of worrying about the future, we were connecting, building, and strengthening relationships. This is a whole new reality for us and so it’s important to be compassionate and patient with each other, especially our children.
Hi, I’m Deana. A stay at home mom of twin boys Collin and Jonah. Collin was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2 and a half. It’s my life purpose now to advocate for Collin and other families affected by Autism. You can find us on Facebook and Instagram @sevenyellowbananas