If I’m honest, I have to admit that I have had a hard time writing this blog post. It has been a week and a half since the last time I saw Joey, and I suspect I will not see him in person again for a long time. I miss him, and wish it was easier to work on his AAC communication on-line.
In the last few weeks the world turned upside down. For us adults, who have some perspective, this is scary and an unsettling, strange time. For kids – it is hard to know exactly how they are taking it. At first, my own children were thrilled with the lack of schedule. The first week was full of art projects and creativity. Then the news came that in-person schools would close for the remainder of the year, and my youngest crumbled.
Even though she has all the words she wants at her fingertips, she had no words when she found out. She went to bed (it was 3:30 in the afternoon). The world and her feelings at that moment were too much for her six year old mind to handle.
Sometimes we forget that kids like Joey, who do not use oral language, also have these big feelings when they are processing the world around them. They may not be able to crawl into bed, yell “go away” or even say “I don’t know why my stomach hurts, but it does.”
As parents we never want to throw negative news on our children, and so we often watch them for cues that they are ready to process bad news. We search for ways to explain what is going on in the world and to make sense, in as mentally healthy a way as possible, of the current situation. For kids like Joey, it can be harder to find the words to explain because we don’t get the same easy cues of “I get it” or “this is too much information right now”.
I’ve seen a few social stories about the virus going around. I read one with one of my clients and he shared that it was a stupid story and it answered NONE of his questions. “I already knew all that. Why don’t grown ups answer our real questions?” He could ask that. Kids like Joey can’t. They have to take the “stupid” social stories we give them.
There are no easy answers for any children right now. I can’t be with Joey to see how he is doing, or find out if he has any questions about the virus or why people are not coming to his house anymore. I know his family is on top of it and are talking to him about what is going on. I have to do what every teacher out there is doing right now – thinking about our students and wanting the best for them.