When Liam started daycare, it was a great first placement – bright, clean facility with highly trained preschool teachers. There was a waiting list, so that seemed like a great sign. Here is a picture of his actual classroom when he started.
While for many children, this room is vibrant and child-friendly, to Liam it was overstimulating, especially when you put nine other children into it.
The teacher didn’t share any concerns at first. But as Liam grew more mobile and the staff involved him in more activities, such as using play-doh, doing finger painting, and playing with the sand table, Liam’s became increasingly agitated and would have melt-downs with increasing frequency. These activities were ones that we wanted him to participate in. We didn’t realize he would feel differently.
Just before were were called in to “talk” about Liam’s adjustment to daycare, six months after he had started attending, the class had been working with shaving cream. They were just drawing pictures in it. There were photographs posted of all of the children having a grand time. Liam’s picture portrayed a child with a grimaced face, holding his hands (and body) as far away from the table as possible. He actually looked “in pain.”
We were very thankful, instead of on the defensive, to start the conversation about how Liam was feeling about such activities in his school setting. We would also talk about how he did not seem happy in general about going to school. We were very grateful for his teachers trying to figure things out, and then reaching out to talk with us about what was not working for him and them. They were not giving up on him, but knew that something was amiss.
It was the first of many conversations with teachers who were trying to do the right thing, but simply didn’t know about autism spectrum disorders, or how to ease Liam’s pain. At that time, we didn’t know what was going on either, but were glad that they had his best interest and happiness at heart.