Monday, August 25, 2008

Residential School: Structure and discipline

It has been one month to this day that Meghan has been living at school: at a residential house a few miles away from her new school. How’s it going? I think Meghan is doing great and most important—she is happy and happier!

We visit her every Saturday (a 3 hour round trip drive). The school and (residential) house components are very structured. But, of course, I knew this already—that was the whole idea in the first place. I just didn’t know how strict (or rigid) the routine and level of discipline enforced at school and house were—until yesterday.

(Incidentally, visiting the house weekly is the best way to see how things really are and to get to know the staff and other students with whom Meghan is sharing her teenage years; as opposed to having her come home right away on the weekends—it’s a great thing to do.)

Back to yesterday, we were outside in the yard playing on the swings and the kids were running under the sprinkler and were wearing their bathing suits. It was fun to watch, but we definitely felt that our presence was preventing Meghan from playing freely with the other kids—as she might have otherwise.

After a while the girls went back into the house and had to change their clothes. I went along to the bedroom as well (because I am a girl) and thought I would help. Well, help, I could not…because Meghan wanted to keep her bathing suit on and put her clothes on over her suit, as she had done before at our house. But that was not the rule—or the way of the land while living at school, and the teacher enforced the change-back into her underwear. Personally, I just had to leave the room and go back downstairs and wait for Meghan with the rest of my family.

Meghan knew that I would let her keep her bathing suit on so she was trying to get me to say yes to wearing her suit—directly opposite to what the teacher was enforcing. Yikes! I guess I’m either a very lenient mother, or this program is pretty strict and super organized.

It certainly makes sense that this level of rigidity (if you will) has to subsist; for autistic kids (and 8 under this residence’s roof), this type of unwavering structure in their daily life is considered a source of comfort and does help kids with autism feel safer and happier, at least for Meghan; and a form of security and control of knowing what to expect in her day—to a tee—via her communication schedule and books. But as a mom, it was hard for me to watch her not get her way—even for such a little thing like wearing her bathing suit under her clothes. I mean I saw that little angel face looking up at me—that one that says: oh, please…and the one that I know and love—so what would you do?

But in retrospection, I am certain that it’s for the best: I remember last summer (and the summers before that, even) when Meghan got used to wearing her suit under her clothes and then had trouble switching back into her underwear when school started; just one of many channels of frustration—for both mother and daughter. So I get it!

1 comment:

Christina Shaver said...

Thanks for the update on how things are going! I'm very curious to hear, since we're considering day placement at a residential program for my son.