Third Time’s a Charm

When your kid starts pre-school for the first time, you take pictures. You cry a mommy tear. You hang out to help with the transition. And then, if you’re us, you realize after a couple of days that your kid isn’t like the other kids his age at the pre-school. That his needs are different. And the pre-school realizes it, too. And after two days you get a phone call about the fact that they can’t accommodate those needs.

The next school it takes one day.

The third time your kid starts a new pre-school you don’t take pictures. Instead you break down in tears (not a sweet mommy tear- a full snotty cry) in the director’s office. You hang on the sidelines, trying not to let your anxiety spill over onto your kid…

So we started a new pre-school with T a few days ago. I often don’t go into the challenges we face with T in this blog because I’m not always sure how to frame them. I usually feel like I need some more wisdom to share before I start blogging about things. But in this case, I’m just going to say that I have no idea how best to handle this school situation. Basically, T has aggression issues (he hits and bites) when he feels overwhelmed or threatened, which is often. Also- he doesn’t sit still or share or regulate his emotions. So school is a wee bit of a challenge.

T is attending pre-school with a “therapeutic companion” now. But Scott or T’s auntie or I also stay there. And there’s a therapist who’s sometimes hovering around. And I’m deeply grateful to the school that they’re putting so much time into our family and into T, but I’m biting my nails to the bone about this some nights. I want to do the best thing for him. Maybe this is it. Maybe it isn’t. I’m willing to put the time into the transition, but I’m also open to other possibilities.

I just recently talked with an old friend who’s son has sensory integration issues that manifested in a very different way when he was pre-school age. Instead of being aggressive and off-the-walls like T, her son would retreat into himself and hold his ears, rock and totally shut down. She chose to pull him out of pre-school and didn’t send him until kindergarten. Then she chose a school that was highly focused on ritual and structure and flow. He’s eight now and doing great.

The thing that struck me is that she said she wasn’t going to subject her son to being terrified every day. And even though T has a very different way of showing it, essentially I believe that’s what’s going on. My son is so scared. He loves being around other kids but all the stimulation also frightens him. And faced with the fight or flight response, T chooses to fight. He’s a fighter. It’s probably the reason he’s alive, after all he’s been through. And I love that fire in him, but I want him to feel safe enough that his fighting spirit finds expression in a soccer game and not in a school yard smack-down.

I’m not sure what the best way to do that is, but I’m committed to finding out.

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9 thoughts on “Third Time’s a Charm

  1. having no kids of my own, i feel so out of my league when i read these posts. i feel tremendously moved by your journey, but at the same time more than a little tongue-tied. sending big love to you and T and scott though! BIG LOVE!

  2. When my kids were in preschool, they had a friend who attended with a therapeutic aide. This boy wasn’t dealing with fear or aggression — I don’t really remember what the issues were — but by pre-K he was attending solo and doing great. Now in 3rd grade, he attends a school that allows kids to use “stand up” desks, which is great for those with an abundance of energy. Two of my kids (siblings from Ethiopia) used to bolt out the door of the same preschool and randomly run a few manic laps around the building…and encouraged their friends to join in. Just sharing these stories to say, it will get better.

  3. I am a random visitor to your blog, but wanted to say this post really resonates with me. My little man has been through trauma and has some attachment, insecurity and sensory issues that worry me when it comes to his interaction with other children. You probably have read everything already, and maybe already do these things, but I have found the books The Connected Child by Dr Karyn Purvis hugely helpful in seeing my kiddo’s behaviors as they really are and being a better parent when dealing with them. Also my friend recently started therapy with her 2.5 year old daughter (also adopted from ET) at a place that specializes in trauma, and they come from a place where they work on attachment and fear to address the behavior. My guess is at some point we will be paying them a visit as my little man achieves better language skills. Good luck. I hope his teachers and therapy aide can help keep him grounded and the corisol at bay. He’s so sweet.

  4. My sister (a die hard Weezer fan and reader of your blog) pointed me to this post. I teach special needs preschoolers in the public school and also understand from a parents’ point of view. I say do what you know is best- YOU are the expert on your child. That said, check out all that is out there to help your little guy too. It looks different state to state, but I’m my program for example, when kids start at 3, they can make incredible progress and it’s all through public schools (I should add there are lots of private schools that help too, but just because it’s free doesn’t mean it isn’t great and vice versa). Thanks for posting this too- many parents dealing with issues such as these are reluctant to share or seek help (for many different reasons)- your courage to share your struggle may help others. Hang in there and love on that sweet boy. 🙂

    • Thanks for this. I’m actually planning to start the process of applying for an IEP tomorrow. I’m going to post about this soon, but basically that school wasn’t right for T and I think public school might be the best option after all. Thanks for the encouragement!

  5. Hey Jillian. You know that we just quit pre-school *again* right? We stuck it out for two and a half months- things got really intense and never subsided- so we quit. Within a day or so we knew without a doubt that we did the right thing. Not to say that you should quit for sure, just follow your instincts.
    *if you want all of the gory details about our preschool fiasco inbox me! LOL! 🙂

  6. Jillian,

    I’m a visitor to your blog via your Marc Maron interview. My daughter is about to turn through and also has sensory integration issues (she’s not a fighter/biter–instead, she’ll bang her head). I haven’t read your blog therapy and don’t know if you’re already doing this, but occupational therapy has done a UNIVERSE of good for my daughter’s issues. I would look into immediately getting an occupational therapy brush–it’s small and has very gentle bristles. There’s a protocol where you brush the tops and bottoms of their arms and legs 3 times, then go back up three times. Then you brush their back 3 times and then the bottom of their feet. Sounds weird and random but it helps rewrite synapses. Anyway, I would recommend getting a consult with an OT even before you do the IEP. Best to you and your family.

  7. Hey Jillian… heard you on WTF and visited your blog. My kid sounds exactly like yours. Had the same story of multiple preschools. Tried structured, home daycare,religious-based, special ed… Just sucks going throughout your day waiting for “the call”. For us it was two or three times per week. I kept thinking he’d grow/snap out of it. Kept giving him the benefit of the doubt. Not quite accepting that he just wasn’t able to deal with his suroundings/social situations. When mine got to K, the “experts” wanted him in a smaller, contained classroom… we didn’t listen, and we should’ve. It was abysmal, now he’s in a contained class… and LOVES it. Feels like he’s among true peers now. In retrospect, if there’s one thing I would’ve liked to have done is Montessori at around 3. I’ve heard ADD/ODD kids thrive in true Montessori structures. But it was too late for us at 5. One suggestion is get the book “The Explosive Child” by Ross Greene. Talks about kids with sensory/temper/emotional issues and working with them through “collaborative problem solving”. Most teachers don’t want to hear it, but Greene says sometimes you just have to cut these kids some slack and work with them differently. His book gives great advice on how to communicate with these unique, difficult-to-label kids. Peace!

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