It's back to school and work time for aspies everywhere...
Yes, I know the schools don't go back for over a week in most places and I know some people will be off work for longer, but this post is aimed at all parents, family and best beloveds who have an aspie who goes out to school or work.
I want to explain to you why now, in the middle of New Year's Day, school and work are encroaching and feeling like they happen before they actually do. This feeling is applicable to any time the aspie is on holiday, be it a short half term or the long summer break.
I'm aiming this post at children going back to school, as I think most aspies never outgrow the feelings that were cemented in place as children, and this is especially true when it comes to the back-to-school feeling. Unless your aspie loves school or work, I promise this will apply.
This is how it works.
The aspie is filled with utter, sheer, blissful, uncomplicated relief to be away from school. It is amazing how much this can be anticipated, how much it can be wrapped up in the looking forward to being at home and feelings of safety. As far as school is concerned, there will be at least a week off, depending on the time of year. The aspie knows it isn't just a week either - it's a week, plus a weekend!
At the back of their minds, they know this time is precious and will come to an end. They have complete awareness that, at the end of the time, it's back to school and away from home again. But still, in those first few days, school ceases to exist and home and safety is the only place. Reality, symbolised by hardship and stressful feelings, is left behind and the home is everything again. For a while, it feels like the rightful order has been reasserted.
At first, the aspie behaviour may be markedly better or worse. It seems unfair, when the holiday has been so much anticipated, for the aspie to then behave like a horrid little tick for the first few days. Unfortunately, this can happen as, no matter how much they look forward to being at home, there is still so much of school in the system and it must be lanced, like a boil, until they feel better again. This behaviour can be made worse at Christmas time because it's not just home as we know it, it's home plus Christmas, which brings its own strains.
Let's look beyond the aspie tick, hopping about on the bed and ricocheting off the furniture. Let's see them as they are on the inside, or as they become on the outside - the happy person you love to be with when life is okay and it's just you and them. How you wish it could be like this all the time, without the morning fights, the after school explosion, the odd little ways which are emphasised by the aspie not coping.
It's fair to say, however awkward your aspie is, by the time they've settled into the holiday frame of mind, they are like a different person. I would go farther and risk saying they are the person you want them to be.
Now, as far as the non-aspie is concerned, a two week break is just that - a two week break. Right? To the aspie, obviously, it is also a two week break, but then, halfway through, something happens. The aspie realises it's halfway through. Their mind does a quick double take and they look back over the week they have already spent away from school. Half that week was taken up with realising they were off school and relaxing into being at home. So that means they've spent a quarter of the holiday feeling happy.
Now, at the halfway stage, they suddenly realise the holiday will come to an end and they'll need to go back to school. That is not good! If they have to go back to school so soon, then it's almost like only being off half the time. The enjoyment is whittled away from that moment, as reality nips at the heels of the holiday time.
For another couple of days it will probably be okay and the aspie can carry on enjoying their time off. Then, the despondency starts in earnest as the real countdown begins. Five days left, four, three, until you reach the stage of saying, 'This time in two days, I won't be at home anymore.'
Readers, I cannot describe to you the muddy feeling that comes with that statement. The feeling that your home, safe and surrounding you, is more of a mirage, liable to float away as you come closer to going back to school.
The reality of school is always a stronger, more potent reality than that of home. It holds more power over us, it takes more than it deserves from the rest of our lives. We may be off school every weekend, but I can promise that only part of that weekend is free of the thoughts of school - sometimes, none of the weekend is free of it.
Leading up to back to school time, it's likely your aspie will become withdrawn or obnoxious. The behaviour will change and the ones close by will be blamed for school's approach. If you loved them, you wouldn't make them go. You always say you love them, but you still make them go. How can these two things exist together?
In the midst of these desperate feelings, all logic goes out of the window. The arguments in favour of school, the good things about it, the reasons why it's beneficial to go: none of those matter. All that does matter is the beautiful mirage of home, fading around them, ready to pop out of existence as soon as they leave for the day.
Added to this is the angry feeling, understood by the aspie, that they are spoiling the last few days for themselves by reacting this way. When you, the non-aspie, says to them, 'Enjoy the time you have left at home,' this is not news, they know that's what they should be doing. It's infuriating to know that the very place an aspie wants to be is being spoiled by their inability to look beyond what is to come. Living in the moment is always pushed to one side by the feeling of dread as the new term comes into focus.
What can you do to make this better? Only so much, I'm afraid. The dread of school, or the simpler dread of not being at home, is a strong, powerful feeling which cann't be dampened by talking it through or hammering out the logic. Showing love will often feel like a wasted exercise, especially if your aspie blames you for them having to go to school. It isn't a wasted exercise, though. Secretly, they will look back at your loving words and actions and see them clearly - it is only at the moment of anger and resentment that it seems as if you wasted your time.
People, understand that while you are at home or work, worrying about your aspie at school, the aspie is sitting there, imagining home, able to feel it, to smell it, to touch it, even as they're trapped in the middle of an unwelcome place. They can hear your words and see your face and, however angry they sometimes seem, you are part of the magic of home and the feeling of safety. Take comfort in that and feel that you are appreciated, even when it doesn't seem that way.
I've concentrated on school for two reasons, one of which I already mentioned - that many adult aspies are still stuck in the feelings they had when they were children. The other reason is, school is one of those times in an aspie's life when there seem to be no choices: you must go to school.
As an adult, no matter what the consequences, there is no one who can force you to go into work. Your own determination is the only thing that can do that. This is why so many adult aspies are considered under-achievers or drop-outs - they are taking advantage of the freedom of being the grown up who can say NO.
As a child, you say no many times, but if someone else says yes on your behalf, there's not much you can do about it. Powerlessness is a friend of fear and they're never far apart.
When my own children were young, I took them out of school and home educated them. My youngest son has aspergers and became a different person once he was free of school. Even though he is sociable and loved seeing the other children, school itself was very difficult for him. I do look back and wonder how much my own perception of school influenced my decision to home educate.
This isn't the ideal for everyone, but I put it out there, for any parents who may be at their wits' end over what to do about school. It can be a lifesaver and a way to help your aspie become the person they were meant to be, without so many hiccups along the way.
As adults, there are many more obstacles when it comes to looking forward to going back to work. I hope there aren't too many of you with the muddy feelings in your stomachs as work draws closer. I hope a fair few of you have found your way and discovered a lifestyle which suits you, enriches you and makes you feel light inside.
For the parents, the families and the best beloved, I'll repeat myself a little: show them love. Speak it, explain it, be the person who is part of the safe place. No matter what, your aspie sees it and knows what it is. Don't let go and don't turn away.
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