The first day back to school after the Easter weekend loomed for Michael, and he did not want to go back to school. Michael was really nervous about media class. Seriously, the Mom in me that wanted a day to herself said in annoyance, but oh no, the caring exceptional parent said, why? We had talked a week before about his stress about filming a movie with his class. I had written a social story for him this weekend that we had read together and he alone, and I had assured him his fear of not coming home after making the movie was unfounded. But in the end it was not enough to convince him he would be ok. Truly. He made himself sick with worry. His blood sugar, already high over the last few days, was giving him a sore stomach and he was so stressed, so of course I let him stay home. How had I missed the mark to help him find strategies to handle this situation?
His class was making a movie in their media class. He told me about it. He was excited. He had picked a character he would be-Batman. He asked if I still had his old batman costume about a week ago. Then, this weekend it started.
“I don’t want to go to school Mommy. I don’t want to make the movie.”
“Why? You were so excited.”
“I’m scared I won’t come home again.”
Huh? I was truly thrown for a loop. I thought I understood. It’s like the kids who thought the toilet can swallow them up when they are toilet training. I could remind him he would be safe. I thoughtfully answered him.
“Honey, the camera records you, but you know you don’t go in the camera, right? It’s like when I take a picture or video of you with my phone. And you’ll be in the class with your friends.”
“But this is a big camera Mommy. Yes, I know I don’t go in the camera. But I think we will be going somewhere away from school. That scares me, even with my friends.” He was solemn as he looked at me.
“No hon, the teacher said you will stay at school. Would you like me to write you a social story and you and I can read it?”
“OK. And my friends will be there with me Mommy, right?”
And so I did. Then what went wrong, you may ask? Well, see the truth came out after lunch. The teacher showed them what he had recorded so far, the kids flying (pretend obviously), against a background and then after that there was no more film. As Michael said, “the video did not show the kids going back to school so I did not know where I would be going.” The pictures or narrator did not show/talk what would happen next. Oh man! This was about designing a story where all of it was explained, from start to finish. Michael had needed a little more of an explanation. I spent a very productive day cleaning my house, while Michael dutifully kept himself busy in a quiet way playing video games and watching his favorite You Tube videos along with doing some Lego. I also silently berated myself for missing the mark on this one and having Michael miss the experience of making this video in class due to his fear. We talked about facing fears with our strategies, and about always finding a solution and not running from our fears.
It’s so hard even when we know our kids, to always get it right. This is part of the reason why we need to always be willing to think outside the box for adaptations and ways to help our kids troubleshoot their own problems. I now know how literal Michael can be sometimes. When he told me about his fear, I simply nodded and filed it away for future reference like a good exceptional parent detective does.
Exceptional Parents, how often have you forgotten how literal your child can sometimes be? This is not a bad way to view the world, but a different one that requires a different set of strategies to handle the anxiety. Don’t be afraid to dig deeper into your child’s fear. See what could be the roadblock. If you miss the mark, that’s ok too. As long as you acknowledge your child’s fear as legitimate, you are showing them you love and support them. Encourage them to brainstorm strategies as you do. The process will help you both bond, and get closer to finding a solution to their stress, and your own. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.