Autism and Back to School

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Within the past week, we have all returned to school — for the first time in nearly seven years. My lovely wife and I to our vocation in education and our children to their elementary school.

Our special Aspie is in a new grade and classroom in addition to welcoming his younger sibling to the same school as she begins Kindergarten. Each year, we are concerned about the transition so, we make an effort to constantly mention the upcoming school year, the new grade, classroom, and teacher. We have noticed that our special Aspie functions well when he knows what to expect. Being at the same school also helps, our special Aspie knows the rules, routines, and expectations.

With our special children now in school full-time, my lovely wife made the decision to return to the workforce as a high school science teacher. This decision, supported by me and our kids, nonetheless presents a host of other issues related to change in routine. Fortunately, we have benefitted from therapies designed to train ASD people to accommodate change so the transition, has been relatively smooth.

I’d be fibbing a bit if I didn’t admit I experienced some anxiety with this new phase in the life of our family.

My lovely wife’s daily commute is fifty minutes (round trip). I know by most standards in urban areas, such a commute is highly desirable. And, her work schedule is 6:45 AM to anytime between 5:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Plus, work brought home. (I’ve always thought teachers aren’t paid enough. Confirmed. Woefully underpaid. Of course, what else is new these days in our free-market capitalist economy that works for the few at the expense of the many).

What all this means is that we have a role reversal of sort. I now drop off and pick up kids from school which, means that my work schedule has changed and with that change I know have to be much more efficient and focused to accomplish all that I must to sustain the courses I teach at university. This semester I am teaching six courses, five at my home institution and one as an adjunct at another private liberal arts college within our community. Yes, I am teaching an overload.

Research? Um, yeah, so, (I mean this modestly) I’ve had four publications this year already. I can take a semester off. Service to department and university? I’m organizing an invited speaker series, over this academic year, paid for with grant money. Think I’m good there though, I wonder how I will be able to participate as I should with my new schedule which, mirrors my kids school schedule. Frankly, neither are really a primary focus, they can’t be.

My focus, is keeping the home routine more or less the same for my kids. We (kids and I) get home after school, I finish cleaning the kitchen, get laundry started, make after school snacks, make sure kids are occupied in some worthwhile activity, start the dinner logistics (we plan a weekly menu based on what is on sale), and, time permitting, maybe hit a park or neighborhood swimming pool to assist the kids tiredness. Love them, but their bedtime is nearly the best time of the day.

Honestly, I wondered how my lovely wife did it all before this second role reversal in our marriage. Today, I wonder much more at her talent and ability. I freely admit I married well above myself. I’m cool with that.

Both kids are happy after school and enjoying the experience. Like their parents, they are nerds with voracious appetites for learning and knowledge acquisition. Now, if I could only mimic my wife with managing the morning routine, maybe I’d actually get the kids to school on time.

Perhaps, that’s asking too much of two Aspie’s in the morning – neither of whom are “morning people.”

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In my defense, they do get to school – usually no later than a minute or two after the bell. It’s a new routine for this Aspie, cut me a break.

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