When we first started talking about sending Liam to school my biggest fear was that he would spend his time sitting in his wheelchair tucked towards the corner of the room. Somewhere out of the way. If I’m being honest I guess I just didn’t really see what Liam would get out of school. At home he’s safe. At home we can teach him. But at the end of the day, as far as children close to his age are concerned, at home he’s all alone.
Liam can fall asleep in any room for any number of reasons known only to him. Whether he’s overwhelmed or just plain bored if he doesn’t like what’s going on he can and will just shut it down and sleep regardless of how loud, or bright or crowded the room is. As a matter of fact while Liam may be globally delayed he’s still clever enough to fake sleeping to get out of interacting with people or crowds he doesn’t want to see. Not clever enough to realize that his mom and dad can tell when he’s faking by his heartrate on his monitor and respiratory rate of his ventilator, but clever enough to convince almost anyone else.
So before Liam’s first day of going to school I had visions of a sleeping kid frustrating his teachers and therapists.
Instead, after only a few weeks of therapies at school I took the day off of work to give Karin a break at home and took Liam to school myself, and what did I find?
Playing on a slide.
His first experience in sliding of course, and the first three times scared the daylights out of him but on his last run he seemed to understand that someone would be at the bottom to catch him and though it didn’t look like he loved it, he at least tolerated for my sake. He’s a trooper that way.
And if you ask me, being scared is ok, at least it’s a response. The fact that he was scared showed that he was aware of his surroundings which while not surprising is reassuring to see in such a marked way. It was exciting for all of us. His therapists (OT and PT, both in the picture) included. You know Liam, he’s a charmer, got those ladies wrapped around his finger already. (Especially his OT who he is completely infatuated with. It’s adorable, He won’t take his eyes off her and will do anything she asks.)
After his own therapies had ended Liam was invitied to participate in the autism group’s parachute playgroup! He and 8 other little boys and girls shook a huge parachute, fast and then slow, high and then low. We put Liam in his chair in the center on top and the kids shook the chute as hard as they could while the wind and noise drove him crazy in the best possible way. Waving his arms and smiling from ear to ear.
After explaining about being gentle Liam’s OT told all the other kids that Liam loves to share and that they were all welcome to touch Liam’s ventilator tubes. The bumpy texture of those plastic hoses were the hit of the playgroup. SUch a hit in fact that he was invited back to the playgroup every week! I’m man enough to admit that it was all I could to keep from crying in the classroom.
The things I see Liam doing at school are things that I doubt we would have tried pushing him towards otherwise. Those therapists make him work harder both physically and mentally then I’ve ever seen him work and it is already paying dividends in behaviors and movement at home. I’m too cynical to think that school and therapy will be this successful, will be this . . . easy, but for right now and with this team… I’m not afraid of school anymore.