Tuesday was an exciting day for my five year old son. It was the big field trip to the zoo. For the last few weeks he had talked about “zoo day.” We had spent hours looking at pictures of the different animals he would see there and learning the different sounds they made. He was excited and I was excited for him.
The permission slip was signed and his lunch was packed and the school had agreed to let his aid go with him. So on Tuesday he got up and got ready and out the door he went. I dressed our other little ones and dropped them off to preschool and headed to the zoo.
It was raining some but not enough to ruin the day. Wild man loves to play on the rain anyways so it did not even phase him. He was all smiles. He walked in between me and his aid “Ms T” and pointed out to everyone that his momma and baby sister was there. He engaged well with the questions his aid asked him about the animals and he was eager to share his knowledge of his favorite ones. My heart could not have been more full.
His class was given tickets to feed the giraffes. I was not allowed (safety measures for the animals) to take the stroller passed a certain point, so he and Ms T went with the class so he could take his turn feeding the giraffe. Pure joy came across his face as the giraffe took the carrot from his hand. He clapped and jumped and smiled from ear to ear. Life was good.
When it was time for lunch we made our way over to the picnic tables so that the class could eat together. The teacher and other staff passed out the brown bagged lunches the school sent and passed out the lunches the parents had sent. My son sat patiently ( well as patiently as he can) waiting on his lunch. The teacher asked me several times what I had sent his lunch in. I replied, “I sent his green camouflage lunch box. The same lunch box he has used all year.” They looked and looked and then sent someone to the bus to see if it was with another classes lunch. The teacher then came over and looked at my son and asked him(and me) if he had taken it out of his backpack that morning. My son’s reply “backpack backpack backpack” while clapping his hands in shear delight. She then looks at me and says, “Well if he didn’t take it out of his backpack then it’s not here. We are working on teaching him to do things like that on his own.” “We have an extra school lunch he can have if he wants.”
Mad is an understatement. First off, my son is still new to the “regular kindergarten room”. He goes to the regular room half a day and then to his autism classroom the other half and he has only been doing this about two months. He is still getting use to the idea and still learning the day in and day out routine of how things are done in a regular classroom. Second, he takes his lunch to school EVERYDAY because he has sensory issues that prevent him from eating “normal foods”. Third, I get that they are trying to teach him to be independent however if you know he brings his lunch everyday would it have hurt to check his backpack that morning to make sure he took it out especially if you know he is still forgetting to take it out of his backpack? I understand that the morning was most likely filled with chaos as the children were excited about the trip, but he is the only autistic child in the class one extra step would have changed the whole outcome of the day.
We declined the lunch from school. I am sure that the ham and cheese sandwich was delicious but my son does not eat meat. I do appreciate the teacher giving him her chips from her Subway meal she brought, I do really but I could tell she was not happy about it. As I looked at him and then looked at all the other children eating their lunch I became aggravated. This is Exactly why I was worried about him being placed in a regular classroom. He looks normal and people overlook his abilities and lack of abilities. But the truth is he is not like all kids his age. What if I had not been there? Would anyone even noticed that he did not have a lunch?
I seen the meltdown coming so I walked over to the little consession stand and paid $12 for two orders of nachos and cheese and two juices, one for him to eat and one for me to eat so he would understand it was safe to eat. As I walked back over to the table I received the “we were told to pack a lunch” head shakes and glares from some of the other parents while a few of the other kids wanted to know why my son got special treatment and got to eat from the consession stand when they were told they were not allowed. At the end of the thirty minute lunch I was ready to scream.
His aid was overly apologetic. She felt terrible that his lunch and been left at school. She was sorry and I believed her. She went as far as to text my sons other teacher (the one in his autism classroom) to let her know he would need a snack when he got back to class. She could tell I was upset because my son was upset with the events that had taken place.
As I left the zoo to pick up my preschoolers from class, my son was walking around with Ms T looking at the monkeys. He was back to his happy go lucky self and I was thankful, still mad but thankful.
As a mom I worry about things like this all the time. Is he being well cared for while at school? Is he making friends? Are other kids picking on him? Is he really adjusting to the new class or are they just overlooking him?
And while I want to be mad(I am still pretty ticked) I am going to remember this day as a day my son played with the giraffes and talked to the zebras. Yes we had a meltdown and people stared but at this point on our autism journey I don’t care. It’s part of our life. The smiles and laughs that day far outweigh the forgotten lunch.
From our beautiful chaos to yours it’s not the situations that make us it’s how we react to them that shape us.