Thursday, August 28, 2014

School Challenges

It's been months since I've written. We've been busy, learning, growing, and I've been writing about our adventures of all sorts on my main page, Creating Essence.
First day of kindergarten! 
One of our new adventures has been school. This year we started full time school. July 2013 G stopped receiving services for his SPD, and in August 2013 we started his kindergarten homeschooling. Most days were okay and we accomplished adequate schoolwork. Many days were rough and I tried to get him into some kind of school work purely as a matter of keeping the routine, regardless of what we accomplished. I know my guy and I know how he works, so when he was having a good day we just did as much as he wanted as fast as he wanted until he decided he was done. I was initially worried he would have regressions, because that's been his life-long pattern. Whenever his body was doing something new, whether developmentally, physically, etc, his brain would pick it up quickly, but for the first couple weeks there would be regressions in other areas while his brain seemed to 'compensate' and deal with the assimilation of that new information. I was fully prepared for spirals of madness and many tears. Thankfully this was not the case with learning. By going at his day-to-day pace, accommodating the environment and work for his needs, we were able to stay perfectly caught-up with his work year-round, to the point that we were ahead and by February he was reading very proficiently and was beginning first grade schoolwork.
This summer officially marked one year without any therapies or services of any kind for our guy, and he's doing very well. He still has bad days, weeks-long spirals of difficulty, and night terrors, but they're not as frequent, not as intense, and he is maturing which helps a lot. In October G will be six, and despite his challenges he is wise beyond his years. He has begun to understand without me, my husband, or anyone saying anything that he has struggles. He's realizing there are things others can do and even enjoy that make him miserable and send his world spinning out of control. Thankfully he has also learned to verbalize these feelings most of the time, even if he doesn't quite know what is going on or what to do with his feelings, he can tell us that he's feeling them so we can help explain and give him coping strategies. I'm in awe of the progress he has made.
Coming up on first grade this year, I was admittedly worried. Despite the success of kindergarten, I was worried that the more structured and necessary sit-down work time that would be longer than the previous year he might struggle. On the contrary, he has been doing twice, sometimes three times the amount of necessary work in each subject because I'll step away to help a sibling with an assignment and because of his advanced reading skills he reads the instructions himself and just keeps going. Again, I was worried that with the increased workload he might struggle with the regressions I feared would happen in kindergarten. Thankfully, we're 4 weeks in to the new school year and we have not dealt with any regressions.
The one thing we have dealt with has been the occasional bad day. Just like the previous year, we stick it
out but with a much lighter workload, I walk him through every bit of his shortened assignments purely for the sake of keeping his daily routine that help give him a sense of grounding and predictability that is especially important on those rough days. On those days I also have a new tool this year: essential oils. I have used EOs around the home for many years, but this past year I began studying them extensively, and was delighted to discover a handful that have been shown time and again through a multitude anecdotal evidence to be very effective in helping those with ASD, ADD, ADHD, SPD and more in a variety of ways. The two we use on rough school days are Cedarwood and a blend called Clarity. I've learned that when G is having a rough day processing his schoolwork, there's a certain way he writes- or has trouble writing, rather- during his very first subject. The struggle writing his numbers is usually accompanied by tears of frustrations, exclamations of his brain not working right, and not being able to make it do the schoolwork, and if he gets too upset he begins physically assaulting his head in an attempt to "make my brain work." At whatever stage I recognize the onset of a bad day, I stop his work, give him a glass of cold water to drink(hydration helps everything, I say. :-) ), put two drops of each oil in one palm, mix it with my index finger, then use that same finger to rub the oil into each temple, along the mastoid bone curving behind each ear, then use what's left in my palm to rub down the back of his neck, and give him a ten-minute break to do whatever he chooses. After his breather, we sit back down and work together through his work. The struggle isn't dissolved, but there is always a marked difference, and with some instructional scaffolding from me he can get through his entire workload for the day without significant issue. Some days, though, before his break his over he asks for a nap. To me, this is a good thing. It means he has been able to calm down enough and his brain can regulate enough that he can feel tired and KNOW he needs some rest. Pretty much anyone with a sensory kid can tell you that sleep can be hard to come by especially on bad days, and the goal of goals for their child is that they be able to both recognize and verbalize what he is feeling and what he needs in those difficult times. This never happened before using the oils. For that and all the reasons listed above, I am incredibly grateful for these new tools I've discovered.

Want to know more about these essential oil things? Check out my informational post them on my main page: Creating Essence