As I mentioned previously, Sara has started at a new school (grade 7) and the transition has been more difficult than we ever expected. She was bedridden the first weekend. The following week was not much better and we started having conversations about reducing her days. She was bedridden the following weekend also. When I woke her on Monday she was nowhere near rested enough to be in school but I sent her in anyway knowing the school needs to see how depleted she becomes. I sent her in tired and confused and she came home more tired and more confused.
The week just went downhill and discussions with her team at school centered around skipping Gym class and Music class. These two classes are particularly difficult for someone with Dyspraxia as they are, at their core, subjects that rely upon the ability of the Left and Right brains to communicate with each other. Eventually we applied for a full exemption in Music as it also became a source of anxiety for Sara.
The following week was even worse. The decline in her ability to function was alarming and at a level that we had never seen before. Historically she does very well the first term, sees a slight decline in energy and abilities in second term, and then crashes and burns in third term and is essentially unteachable. Her attendance drops dramatically and she usually misses (or is late) about 50 days during third term. We were aware that we needed to have a conversation about reducing the length of her days so that she can sustain her attendance for the full year. But we did not think we needed to be discussing it in the second week!
Then I finally realized what was happening! She had been at her previous school for SEVEN years. It was as familiar as our home. Everything in this school was new. And she was overwhelmed. It was new walls, new patterns on the floors, new colors, new sounds, new faces, new lights, new art work, new floor plan, new lockers, new playground, and new desks, on and on and she was not able to dial down.
The following week she only made it one day and was bedridden the rest. Then there were days that I brought her to school (shaking and crying) and she never actually made it to class, instead spending the day in the SERT room, unable to tolerate the busyness of the classroom. Eventually we hammered out a plan that includes Sara temporarily missing first period (Math) everyday so that she can get the additional sleep she requires. She also misses Music and some Gym classes and some Science classes (if they are in the wood shop where she is easily overwhelmed)
I am often picking her up for B12 shots and therapy sessions, and overall she was missing a LOT of school that first month. And understandably her peers were confused about WHY? Why is she never there?? Why does she get out of Music class? Why does she often sit and draw during Gym? And they started asking. At first there was some speculation that someone in her family died. Then the new kids began asking some of her old classmates why she is never there and they were stuck trying to explain something they barely understood themselves. Eventually they began to ask Sara directly. And do you know what she answered? That she has a “cloak of invisibility” and that she is actually REALLY THERE! Ha! I was impressed and depressed all at the same time!
She admitted that she just was caught off guard and didn’t know what to say. Typically she is great at advocating for herself and loves the opportunity to educate others about her challenges…but I think she was struggling just to be there and was not able to speak intelligently about the topic so she deferred to the next easiest thing – making up an OUTRAGEOUS lie and hoping it would go away! Immediately I knew we had to do something to spread awareness.
So we arranged to have Sara do a speech about S.P.D. and Dyspraxia for her peers as a chance to educate them and explain why she is missing so much class time. Together we created a slide show and tomorrow she will stand in front of her class, share her story and answer their questions openly and honestly. And I am very proud of her! Her teacher invited some staff to come watch and both Principals will be attending. I am nervous for her but I know she will be fine. I asked her if I was allowed to come watch and I got the “Uhmm…no?” face as a response. So I guess the only way I am going to get to watch her presentation is if I manage to get my hands on her cloak of invisibility!