Our move back to Massachusetts and into a fantastic school system was absolutely the right thing to do. Especially for Joe. We are one month into the new school year and his teacher has already opened the lines of communication. It was an email response to a writing assignment she’d given to the parents in Joe’s class. Her response to my writing assignment titled The Care and Feeding of Joe Faherty, was, “I am wondering if Joe continues to see a therapist?”
It was a great question. One that tells me she’s paying attention. That she sees what I see and despite a fantastic summer filled with confidence and lively discussions with other children, Joe is having issues in the classroom again. It was a message that I found both encouraging and heartbreaking.
I’ll be completely honest, I knew this would happen as soon as he began the new year, but I didn’t want to be pessimistic. He did so well over the summer. He walked into camps in our new town with such confidence and came out of one with a firm “job offer” for next summer. That camp leader was so impressed with his patience and great attitude, she hired him to be her helper and has already arranged it.
During his stint at Ocean Ecology Camp, I watched him walk into a group of boys who fist-bumped him their good morning greetings. At the time, I sat in our mini-van and nearly cried with happiness over those fist bumps. At the beach, he gave impromptu talks about horseshoe crabs to groups of children and their grown-ups. He was awesome – holding up those prehistoric looking creatures and answering excited questions.
And then school started.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s still a happy guy. He gets on the bus with smiles and hugs in the morning and in the afternoon, reaches for my hand as soon as he exits. He holds on for the duration of the walk down our new street and doesn’t care who sees. I love holding his hand, it’s almost as big as mine now.
I tried to capitalize on the confidence he developed over the summer. When school started, I eased him into the social scene with daily challenges. Things like, Today you should try to have a conversation with someone new, or, Ask someone three questions and tell me what you learned about that new friend. He was hesitant, but he played along. And then one day at breakfast I said, “Trade telephone numbers with a new friend.”
Bad idea. He began to squirm uncomfortably and poked at his egg.
“Um…maybe I could wait a while. It seems too soon…I need to get to know people better.”
No amount of support or encouraging words will sway him. By now, I’m hearing all of those familiar cues that he has one foot back in Loner Land. His table mates are frustrated with him for not transitioning quickly enough, “This one girl takes “line-up” way too serious.” He doesn’t sit with the same kids at lunch – meaning, he hasn’t made any connections with another kid.
How is it that this kid who is gregarious and loving and so very smart at home is an entirely different person at school? How do I fix it? How do I make sure he’s a happy and well-adjusted human who has friends and some social involvement when he doesn’t show other kids he wants to be involved?
It’s time to find a new therapist.