Monday, February 8, 2016

Valentine's Party

You'd think I had better things to do than to worry about the school Valentine's Day party.
Nope - it's right at the top of my list for things to figure out this week.

This, my friends, is a perfect example of random crap that pops up with autism.

So...I thought that a snow day would be a perfect time for Evan to do his Valentine's cards for his class. What I got when I asked him was a dissertation about how school parties are boring (his go to word when something is wrong; boring is not actually what he means), as his words started to come faster and faster and his eyes filled with tears.

"Okay", I said, "let's not talk about this now".

Here is what I know: school parties are very stressful for Evan. There are strange adults running "fun" activities who have no idea to speak clearly and slowly, or to give Evan time to process instructions. There is a lot of chatter and chaos in a normally comfortable setting (though, sadly, the classroom hasn't been so comfortable for him lately). There are snacks that are not during snack time. There is disruption to his schedule. My presence doesn't help; at the Halloween party (where I was a volunteer), Evan participated minimally.

Then there is this: Evan doesn't care. He has cursory interest in some holidays, but that does not extend to celebrating with his peers at school. Valentine's cards from his friends are not important to him, so there is no feeling that he should participate or prepare cards to give out.

Personally, I don't understand this feeling; I loved holiday parties at school. Having said that, ask me what I remember about my first grade Valentine's party? Nothing. Zero. Zilch. That realization made me ask this...is it really that important that he participate?

Before I answer that, let's follow the trail of what will happen if he is forced to participate:
      * He will have anxiety every time it is discussed at school or at home
          = meltdown before and after school for the rest of the week, which often means that I'm
             carrying him to and from the car and/or he's banging his head into something
     * He will not make Valentine's day cards for his friends
          = meltdown if I force him
          = meltdown Friday afternoon if I do them and sneak them to school and he finds out
     * Meltdown in the car imminently after school Friday because a normal day is hard for him, so
        a party day meltdown is a given
          = my heart breaking in pieces as Evan cries that he can't handle school and he needs a
             new life

In case you were wondering why I have to worry about the party in the first place, that should answer your question. Now, I know all about the social reasons that he should participate, which run the gamete from him needing to be exposed to unpredictable social situations to not wanting to alienate him farther from his peers. But, guess what? He is probably not going to be a party goer ever, and he is already alienated. He is out of the classroom more than he is in and eats in a separate location with one or two peers. Play date and birthday party invitations this year? None.

(I have to note here, though, that he has a small group of friends with some awesome Moms and so I don't feel like he is missing out. He does not have friends on the periphery, and I'm o.k. with that. The teachers at school call all of his peers his friends and I'm told that he is well liked, with his classmates helping him out at recess and giving him time in the classroom to answer questions. Personally, I feel like this is as good as it is going to get.)

Now I'm back to my earlier question...is it really important that he participate? I say, no. Trust me, he will remember the anxiety associated with school parties long after the memories of the actual party have faded. Since I've decided that it shouldn't matter if he participates or not, will he participate? I have no idea. I'll have my finest handwriting skills on the ready in case I'm filling out cards after bedtime on Thursday, and I've already got an email into his team to have some strategies in place for Friday. Oh, the everlasting joys of autism...happy (I really want to insert a swear here) Valentine's Day :).