“Catelyn – your homework folder is on the counter – please put it in your book bag for school tomorrow.”
“Catelyn, please put your homework folder in your book bag before you go up to bed. You don’t want to forget it for school tomorrow.”
“Catelyn – your homework folder is still on the counter. The bus will be here in 10 minutes. Please put it in your book bag before you leave for school.”
Glare. “I’M PACKING. MY LUNCH.”
I smile at her. “Okay sweetie. When you are done, don’t forget to grab the folder.”
20 minutes later I am emailing Catelyn’s teacher to let her know I will drop the folder off at school in a few minutes.
I get Declan dressed, and we jump in the car with the homework folder.
I pull up to the school, I park, I run the folder into the school secretary who adds it to her pile of forgotten lunches and papers to be dispersed on her morning rounds.
I run back to the car, I jump in and wait for the car ahead of me to pull out. While we wait Declan gasps. His gasp startles me, and I am frantically looking around when he says,
“What? Where? What do you see?”
“It’s Bobby and Catelyn’s school! Right there!”
Oh. Whew. Nothing is on fire or broken. I guess Declan just realized where he was.
“Yep! Bobby and Catelyn’s school. Guess who else will go there next year?”
“Bobby and Catelyn go to their school.”
“Yes, but next year Declan will go to this school, too.”
The car ahead of me has pulled out and we begin to drive away.
“No I won’t! Declan goes to Declan’s school. This is Bobby and Catelyn’s school.”
At Declan’s preschool this summer, 3 students graduated on to Kindergarten. Declan told me at that time, his friend Caden would be going to a new school. So I reminded him,
“Caden went to a new school, too. He said goodbye to Declan and the teachers and went to a new school. Declan will do that, too!”
“What?!? No. That’s silly.” And he smiles at the joke and stares out the window.
I didn’t even realize we would be having this conversation today, but am glad we started the dialogue.
Transitions are tough for Declan. He will have a meltdown if he is not given enough warning that he will have to leave a preferred activity. His angry words flow. His fists flail.
We’ve found giving him a countdown helps him know a transition is about to happen. “First” “Then” gets us through at least 5 transitions a day. “FIRST we go to the store, THEN we play a video game.”
The big things have a harder time sinking in. We had 2 dogs, brothers, that died months apart from each other from different bizarre cancers. Declan loved our dogs. To this day he still says, “Yeah, I will see them tomorrow.” Eyes big, head nod.
Declan started preschool in need of a lot of love and support. And his teacher, aid, therapists have been amazing. They have helped Declan shine. Declan has made friends. He’s learning how to hold scissors, that a face needs a nose drawn too, how to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” sitting in a group. He has come so far, and will be leaving their nest eventually to take his next steps.
When my oldest went to Kindergarten orientation 5 years ago, he followed the teacher around and asked her, “Excuse me. Where will I sit for snack?” “Excuse me, where is the bathroom?” “Excuse me, where will I sit to color?” He had a thousand questions. But was excited and ready for his first day. Declan isn’t able to ask those questions. I need to ask them for him, and somehow get him to see and understand what the next step will look like.
For Declan, the first step is for him to realize he will be going to a new school one day. I just realized he didn’t know this.
I know this transition will involve a lot of meetings. We will discuss his IEP. We will see his classroom. We will meet his teacher. We will ask a lot of questions and answer a lot of questions. All hoping and working for a smooth transition for Declan. I know he will adapt, learn and shine. It may take time, but he will get there.
Declan and I started that discussion today. I don’t think he understands yet, but the seed has been planted. Change is okay. It happens. He is going to do great.