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Why I'm Nervous About the First Day of School for My Sons With Autism

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The first day of school for my sons, Justin and Tyler, is getting closer.

This is going to be the first time in more than six years that I’ve only had one kid to take care of for most of the day (their baby brother).

The first time I’m going to have a little free time in I don’t know how long.

I’m not going to be a complete ball of nerves most of the day, trying to take care and manage three very different personalities who all want my attention and never in the same way.

To say I’m excited is an understatement.

But that also means for seven-plus hours a day, my older kids won’t have their translator by their side. They won’t have me.

They won’t have the one person who understands them like no one else. Who knows exactly what they want — well, at least 80 percent of the time, but the rest is guessing and I’ve gotten good at it — and can understand their communication through gestures.

Because my kids have autism and are nonverbal, their receptive and expressive language is practically nonexistent.

They have a language all of their own that has taken years for me to understand, while I’m trying to teach them mine.

So to say I’m apprehensive about sending my kids to public school is also an understatement.

When they get upset, I have to trust that someone has the patience to treat them with kindness and not just get angry with them.

When they’re trying to communicate a want or need and no one understands, it can be frustrating for them so they might get upset. They’re not being bad, they’re just frustrated.

Jenna Nelson the mighty.2-001

I have to trust that teachers and kids are going to be nice and not get upset with them in any way because they can’t come home and tell me, “Mommy, a kid pushed me down, but no one saw it. They just saw me push him back, and I was the one who got in trouble.”

They can’t tell their side of the story.

I’m not there to remind those taking care of them that Justin will wander away and Tyler will bolt if he feels anxious or finds something he needs to see. Sometimes even me yelling for him to come back doesn’t work.

To remind them they don’t understand how to play with other little kids, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to.

Or that Ty’s very sensitive and can get upset easily, and getting upset with him because he’s stressing out will only make it worse.

I’m very excited to finally have even half a day that’s less chaotic. I’m sure my migraines will be getting better with less noise.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not scared and worried about my nonverbal kids who can’t speak up for themselves.

Talking to the teacher and “about me” letters for my sons can only go so far and only do so much.

People don’t understand just how much trust I’m putting in someone else’s hands.

Teachers, I’m trusting you with pieces of my heart.

Follow this journey on My Crazy Little People.

Originally published: August 25, 2015
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