The First 100 Days of School
By Kellie Deloach
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High school with a diagnosis is traumatic. High school + diagnosis = TRAUMA.
High school is a big transition for all kids. Adjusting to new teachers, challenging classes, an unfamiliar place, remembering schedules and meeting new classmates is a lot. It can be overwhelming for the most well-adjusted teenager, so for those that have trouble “adjusting” this transition can be debilitating.
That was my son on the first day of high school. We rode to school quietly with the music playing softly in the background. I talked very little and when I did speak it was low and in a calm voice. I have learned that asking questions and talking a lot makes him more anxious. We had talked about this throughout the summer in preparation for today. He had even attended a summer STEM camp on campus to give him the opportunity to get familiar with the environment and meet some of the kids in an informal way before the first day of school.
I had prayed about this day for many months and it was here…. we were both feeling the pressure. I was shocked at how calm he stayed during the 25-minute ride to the school, but I knew he was feeling it by the look on his face and how rigidly he was sitting in the passenger seat next to me.
We pulled up to the front of the building, arriving early to give him time if he needed it. The plan was for him to walk in alone. No extra attention or fuss. That was the plan. He had his schedule written on an index card in his hand. Times, room numbers, subjects, and teacher names. Clear and specific so he knew what he was doing and where he was going at a glance. We went through everything yesterday afternoon and again this morning. He was ready with all his supplies in his backpack and his lunchbox. As I was stopping the car the panic started to emerge. “I can’t get out.” I responded that we had time to sit and wait. “I feel sick.” I reminded him to breathe in through his nose slowly. “I don’t know where to go.”
I referred to the index card in his hand. “You can’t park here.” I told him we were early and the only car in the drop offline, so we had time. He stiffly sat in the car, eyes darting around to each car that drove in the parking lot and the people walking by. I asked him what I could do to help him, and he quickly replied “Nothing”. He leaned down to get his backpack and lunchbox, opened the door and got out quickly. I was shocked but went with it. I was about to say goodbye when he stopped as he went to shut to door and said, “Can you come in?” without looking at me. I immediately said yes and told him I had to park. If I had hesitated or seemed frustrated that I had to park I knew that would only add to his anxiety. He jumped back in, we parked, and got out to head inside. He stopped behind the car looking down, so I just waited for a minute before I quietly told him to walk with me. He started moving forward and matched my pace. We walked toward the building and into the front doors. The lobby was almost empty. He picked up his pace and was now in front of me, so I slowed down. As he walked toward the hallway where his homeroom was, I stopped and quietly said “I’m stopping here, I love you.” He never stopped walking and didn’t say a word. After waiting a few minutes in the lobby, just in case he needed something, I turned and left the building. My drive to work was full of prayers and tears, but we both made it through the first day of high school.