This has been a rough week in the life of Nater Tater. He went from the blissful world of a two-week summer to starting Extended School Year (ESY). While there were some familiar friendsin his classroom, there are new friends, too, and his academic year teachers were replaced by his ESY teachers of last year–Ms. Pat, Ms. Pat (yup – two Pats), and Ms. Kathy. Nate still sees Ms. Mollie, his speech pathologist, every day and Ms. Julianne is right across the hall (she comes over and gets Nate cuddles each morning!) but the change of three teachers is enough to knock a boy for a loop.
But wait…there’s more.
Though ESY is held in the same classroom as his academic year, it feels different. Half the lights are turned off to cut down on light-generated heat because the sole air conditioning unit in the room isn’t cutting it. For the first three days of class, it was 90+ degrees in Nate’s classroom. The heat wave over the past two weeks turned the school into an oven. So Nate and friends spent mornings in their classroom and, when cooler classrooms participating in half-day programs were dismissed, they moved to another classroom. Because of poor air quality and the heat, the kids couldn’t go outside to play either. To keep Nate cool, I sent him to school in a tank top and shorts and gave his teachers permission to take his sneakers and ankle braces off and put his Teva sandals on, if needed. (It was needed.) I also told them they could let Nate run around in just a diaper. Sure, it’s not necessarily appropriate for school but neither is a 90+ degree classroom….
The schedule and environment changes caused Nate to put some important things on hold, like eating and drinking. On the first day of school, Ms. Susie was the substitute teacher for Ms. Pat, which was a great way for the kids to transition back into the school routine. That day, Nate decided to not eat or drink water despite the heat and his sweat. So Susie went back to the basics: one reward (a goldfish) for every sip of water, no matter its size. Nate took ten wee sips before he caught on and stopped. On Tuesday, I sent Nate to school with a toddler-sized Camelback bottle that was filled with frozen water. By around 11AM, the whole thing melted and he decided it was worth drinking. On Wednesday and Thursday, his lunchbox (mini waffles, syrup, and raisins + a snack of his choice) were all devoured. So it seems we’re getting back to normal there.
But wait…there’s more!
Yesterday, Nate was fitted for his new shoe inserts called “Chipmunks” but they’re not nearly as cute as their name. Though it’s a step down from his ankle braces (or SMOs), these inserts are really hard and very intrusive to the arch and back sides of one’s foot. Even though the orthotics specialist said Nate shouldn’t notice a difference, Nate notices a difference. At school, Ms. Pat felt that Nate was just “off” and we both attributed it partially to the inserts. He’s been less willing to walk, stops randomly to shift his weight to see how it feels, and, unfortunately, has sores on his feet from where the new inserts rub up against his feet. I’m sure he’d prefer to go back to his ankle braces (or SMOs) but these inserts will make his muscle tone stronger and help him stay cooler all year round. (When wearing his SMOs, which cover his entire foot and ankle in a hard plastic casing, Nate’s socks came home wet with sweat every day in the winter.) Nate’s private physical therapist, Ms. Kacie, said we should give them two weeks and see if the sores/willingness to walk improves. If not, back to the orthotics office we go.
But you know, there must be more change.
During the academic year, Nate has a half-day of school on Monday in the afternoon; during the morning, Nate worked with a private OT and PT. During ESY, his half-day is on Friday (and in the morning). Because of this, we had to re-schedule OT and PT to different days and different times. He now has OT on Wednesday and PT on Thursday, both after ESY. Nate performs his best in the morning; after five hours in a super hot classroom, stretching his mind to work with new friends and teachers, Nate’s pooped out. Yesterday’s OT session went okay but today’s PT session did not. Nate kind of lost it. He got really sad after I left and then started bawling, so much so that an older friend, who seemed to have limited verbal capacity, reportedly pointed at Nate and hollered, “SAD! SAD! SAD!” (Holla for knowing your emotions!) Nate’s sadness started upsetting the other friend so his session was moved into a private room. After a few tissues, a ton of cuddles from Ms. Kacie, and a big ol’ drink of water, Nate pulled it together and finished his session happily.
But things are looking up! The awesome district coordinator, Ms. Courtney, has been on site every day, keeping apprised of the situation and working toward finding long-term solutions. After school yesterday, new circuits were added to Nate’s classroom that allow for an additional air conditioner to be used and the room was a much better temperature! (Courtney’s joke is that this is the district’s wedding gift to Ms. Susie!) As tomorrow is the start of a Yale weekend for Chad, Nate and I are determined to go out and have a little fun once he’s released from school at 11:30. Ice cream? You bet! A museum or two? OK! Whatever we do, it will include some opportunities for Nate to break in his new orthotics and get used to their feel and it will involve a lot of fun. Nate’s also excited because his Auntie Anne is going to a conference in San Francisco and he’s pretty sure that he’ll be getting a life sized trolley as a souvenir….
After a day (or a week) of massive change, you just need to spend some quality time with your friends. In Nate’s case, that meant all of his friends. (He added a new friend yesterday – the dog from the Curious George collection at Kohl’s! We think it’s Charkie from the teevee series but we’re not sure.) We visited a farm after PT today where we picked up some apple cider donuts. Nate ate one on the way home and, after snuggling with his friends, he fell asleep at 5:30PM with his dinner untouched on his plate. Sometimes, a donut and friends can make a kid feel a little better.