Saturday, October 04, 2008

Miracles of the Musical Kind

Jake had a miracle happen the other day. Maybe you and I wouldn't consider it a miracle, but for a 12 year old boy in grade eight, what happened was obviously divine.

You see, so far high school has been going well. Teachers have bent over backwards to understand and accommodate his incredibly complex needs and he's doing pretty good. The only real problem is that everything is so...well...crowded.

Nobody is happy about that one, but especially not Jake.

Crowds, for Jake, are super overwhelming. For a kid with no filter in his brain to screen things out, the class becomes this mass of people moving, pencils scratching, paper rustling, a heater and computers humming, feet banging, constant chatter and oh-my-god-make-this-madness-stop-before-I-lose-my-freaking-MIND.

You may not have noticed before but 32 kids in a classroom make a LOT of noise.

The average people can just screen out most of the distractions, but Jake can't. He has no filter to do that, and everything sort of washes over him all at once, in one giant wave of sensory stimulation. Think of it as if every single noise were amplified to really loud-so loud you could hear every conversation, every pencil moving, all at the same level. Oh and those silly lights have cycles you know, and you can see them flashing every few seconds.

Plus his socks bug him.

I can honestly say that for a non-autistic person, he's far more sensitive then ANY autistic kid I've ever met.

Some kids try to cope with overstimulation by hiding or leaving. Jake has a completely different strategy which his body switches into almost immediately; he starts to move, and chatter, gets more impulsive, more distracted, fidgets with things and finally works up into this ball that is literally pinging around the room and he can't even remember what he's said or done, or what was going on.

Which doesn't work so well in high school when you're supposed to be learning stuff too.

I've been working there a week and every day, over and over, I hear, "Jake is sooooooo distractable."

*sigh* You think?

So back to the miracle.

Firstly there's one for Hubs and I. For the first time ever, Jake has started a new school with irrefutable, medical proof that he has a diagnosable medical condition (Dyspraxia). I'm not really used to that yet. In years gone by it was always us advocating for him and hoping that somebody, anybody, would believe us. Some people would, but there was always a few that didn't. Now there's just no question, you know?

I'm also not used to people looking at him and really seeing the sensory need, rather then saying it's just bad behavior, adhd, or that we just are rotten parents.

It's SUCH a nice change. Really, I can't even begin to tell you.

Jake's miracle came in the form of a teacher that called me up and explained the merits of an Mp3 player. He doesn't have one-but apparently he's been trying out the use of music and headphones in class, and the difference between his ability to focus with the music on verses off are like night and day.

"The music gives him that filter to block everything out, and he can actually focus on his work. Have you ever thought of buying him one?"

Jake was estatic. iPod! Mp3! Just like every other kid at school! Just months ago he really didn't care, but just recently he has gotten into music and has been looking at them with longing.

"Mom, I never thought in a million years that school would say that I should HAVE an Mp3 player!" his eyes were shining; he knew that he had me there because I really respect the teacher who had recommended it.

"She's like...my...HERO." Jake sighed.

You see, just a week ago he tried to hit me up for one, claiming that it would "help his education", and I laughed at him. Here for years I've taught him to advocate for himself, and..? MOM. LAUGHED.

"I'm not running out and buying you an Mp3 because you think it helps. Put it on your Christmas list. Dream. ON."

Later that evening Hubs and I began talking, and suddenly we remembered all the ways that Jake already uses music at home to calm himself down and focus on something. The school is onto something, and we'd be doing the boy a disservice not to listen this time.

I don't think Jake really believes that I'm going to buy him one; but today, Mom is going to eat a little crow and we're going to shop for an Mp3.

Any recommendations?

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