The Kindergarten Assessment From Hell

This is going to be a bad post. It’s going to be honest and ugly. So judge away judgey-mcjudgers.If you are a friend or care about Cooper and I please be kind. It’s a dark day over here.

I just came from Cooper’s Kindergarten Assessment. It was terrible. It was actually beyond terrible. I try and look at the bright side and figure out how it could have been worse. No one died I guess. He didn’t pull the fire alarm.

Other than that…it couldn’t have been worse. And we even prepared just like we are supposed too. We talked the whole way to the school. 15 minutes of talking about his new teachers and his new school and all of the fun things that were going to happen.

And 45 minutes later here I am…spiraling. Wondering why. Wondering why me? What did I do wrong?

Let me start by saying I didn’t want to go. Cooper can’t handle assessments or evaluations. They are true stressful on him. But I felt shushed when I tried to speak up about it. So, against my better judgement, we went.

I truly, really, deep down thought I was past this. I thought I was past driving home and truly hating autism. Thinking about how I did everything right when I was pregnant. I didn’t drink alcohol. I didn’t smoke or do drugs. I exercised. I did it all right. I decorated the nursery. I prepared like every other mother.

This is what happens when you are beyond stressed out. You spiral into a pit of crazy and analyze everything. Or, more so, over-analyze.

I thought I was past those feelings.

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Photo Credit: Melanie Houle Gunderson

I thought I was past looking in the backseat at him playing on his IPad and wondering what  I did wrong. Wondering why everything academic is so hard for him.

I thought I was past being heartbroken as I  watched the little girls and boys walk into the school carrying their backpacks and laughing and watching their parents snap pictures. I thought I was past this level of jealousy.

This is my third damn year. We did 3K and then 4K and I felt all of those feelings. Feelings of despair towards Cooper for being so different and making my life so hard. (I DO NOT HATE MY SON. I LOVE HIM MORE THAN LIFE.) Feelings of hating the teachers because they make us do those damn assessments when I told them it wouldn’t work. I told them it would be terrible. And most of all the feelings of being so utterly alone with this kid and having no one to talk to you. Because no one understands. They will never understand.

So what happened…he screamed from the second we pulled in the parking lot. He walked in screaming. Everyone stared. We walked into the cutest classroom that I could tell had been meticulously decorated by an uber excited teacher. And I watched Cooper tear it apart. He knocked over bins, chairs, cleared off whole tables. He ran, darted, rolled, kicked and screamed. He turned into an absolute maniac.

Within seconds I was drenched in sweat. Partly from chasing, partly from feeling the eyes on me and partly out of full blown stress because I didn’t know what to do.

If you are a teacher…or a medical professional…and you are watching a parent struggle….tell them what to do. They want to know what to do. Do they intervene? Do they watch? Do they help? Just tell them.

At one point Cooper knocked over a bin with thousands of crayons. No lie. I have never seen so many crayons go flying.  And then ripped decorations off a wall. I couldn’t stop him.He ran and I chased.  I know these teachers hate him. I know they are giving knowing glances to each other behind my back. I know he is acting terrible.

I want to scream…this isn’t him. This isn’t my sweet boy. It’s these assessments and evaluations that make him act like this. Give him time. Get to know him. You will love him. I promise. He is the sweetest kid.

But I couldn’t say anything. I was too busy chasing.

He kicked both the teachers in the stomach. He hit one in the face with a basket of glue.

And then I started silently crying. The kind where the tears leak a little bit and you can’t actually talk.

Once he began hitting himself repeatedly in the head we all knew it was done. We weren’t accomplishing anything.

And we just sorta left and I swear to God I felt a collective sigh of relief from the room.

Cooper even turned, smiled and waved.

We walked out past the typical kids and their parents. We got into the truck. Cooper requested his kindle and settled in for his ride home. And just like that he was happy. My kid was back. It’s like a case or split personalities. Except very few people see the joyous happy side.

And I cried.

And here I am again. Spiraling. Hating myself. Knowing I need to pull it together and get to work. Knowing I need to print off his visual schedule for tomorrow and figure out if the bus is set up home and wondering how I can be such a horrible person. And always wondering what I did wrong to deserve this.

And wondering if I should pull him from school. I could home-school him. We could avoid the stress. I could try something different.

Do I quit my job? Do I take his education into my own hands?

I know this is hard for him. He’s a happy kid. He wouldn’t act so wild and out of control if he felt comfortable. I know that. That’s not lost on me. It’s hard on him.

But God it’s hard on me. It’s hard on the parents. I’ve yet to figure out how to describe it. A broken heart I guess.

When we pulled in the driveway I sat there and watched the rain and thought all my depressing thoughts. Cooper unbuckled and hugged me. On his own. Un-requested. He just did it. And that’s pretty much a first. He even touched my tears. How’s that for empathy.

And I wonder…is this it. 5 million terrible moments followed up by 1 hug and 1 kiss. Is that what I get? Should I be thankful for that?

I don’t know the answer.

What I do know is that he starts school tomorrow. And picture day is Monday. And it’s all going to be terrible. And I am going to wallow in my own self pity for a few days and grieve the first day of school I wish we could have had. I’m going to be sad and push people away and be alone on pity party island.

And I am going to bitch about filling out questionnaires about Cooper because no, I can’t describe my severely autistic child in 5 sentences. And yes I STRUGGLE TO DESCRIBE MY KID IN 3 WORDS when they aren’t ‘autistic, nonverbal, and frustrated.’  And yes, I don’t know what his likes are beside trains. And I don’t care what you work on this year. Just help us.

And I am going to cry as I pull out baby pictures of Cooper to create his ‘about me’ board for school.

I’m going to allow myself to be sad for a few days.

And then I’m going to pull it together and fix my shit. In the meantime though you can find me in my bed with a glass of wine binge watching Gilmore Girls.

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24 thoughts on “The Kindergarten Assessment From Hell

  1. Crying silent tears for you. I’m sorry it was awful. And you’re allowed to feel all those bad feels. It sucks. It really, really, really sucks. Hugs…..Wish there was more I could do.

  2. I’m so sorry. I’m really not sure what to say. As a fellow blogger, I feel kind of an unspoken connection to you. You’re also one of my first memories after I found out that my daughter had apraxia. I remember looking up apraxia two years ago and finding your blog. I was so excited to find another apraxia blogging mom. At the time, Cooper only had an apraxia diagnosis, but about four posts after I started following you, he was put on the spectrum.

    Now it’s my turn to be honest…I felt a weird sense of guilt over Cooper’s autism. Like suddenly I couldn’t relate and couldn’t understand, but I wanted to. All of the sudden you had this much bigger hill to climb with no end in sight, and I felt almost remorseful that I wasn’t making that transition with you. Apraxia became the least of your worries, and here I was, hanging back with my daughter’s ‘fixable’ diagnosis. It was a weird feeling and I’m not even really sure how to describe it. I still it from time to time. But really, it’s not that I wish I had made that transition with you, it’s that I desperately wish that you could have ‘hung back’ with me.

    You were robbed, and I will NEVER judge your honesty about that.

  3. Those goddamn school assessments…WHY must they insist on doing those on special needs kids when the parents tell them over and over it won’t work? WHY must they make you go through all that in front of the neurotypical kids and families? I know the school thinks they’re helping the child by properly assessing them, but they don’t understand how this mentally breaks parents down.

    I cope reasonably well until I read those f’ing school assessments and then all the grief comes flooding back. Does any parent need to see and read about how their child is an utter failure (when compared to neurotypicals)? I think not. I suppose they have to inform us for important reasons where our child stands on the ladder of life, but I just wish they’d keep it to their damn selves…we already know and are trying to make the best of it.

    Sorry for all the swearing in this comment, but this pain you’re feeling is very damaging to a parent’s ability to cope and move forward. I’m so sorry it didn’t go better for you and the Super Coop…my heart breaks for all your family has sufferred.

    Keep on truckin’ mama. Your path is a different and more difficult one, but it is an important path nonetheless. The judgy mcjudgers can go f themselves, because there are those of us know where you’re coming from.

  4. I had two very different thoughts while reading this. The first was, your son may very well be able to read this one day. That thought is why I’ve never been as honest as you, in regard to writing my ‘hidden’ feelings about raising my son on my blog. The idea of him ever reading my thoughts absolutely terrifies me. BUT trust me, I’ve wanted to and sometimes we must just for the sake of our own sanity and who’s to say I wouldn’t have done the same had the resource been available years ago. So, I understand and there’s no judging here from me.

    Second, I felt exactly the same when my son was younger. There were so many days when I had such evil thoughts racing through my head, thoughts a parent should never have. From running away and letting the state raise him, to getting rid of us both. It’s awful and just writing that brings a sense of guilt over me, even now, all these years later. My son was horrible when he was younger. A true living nightmare until the age of 8. But, he’s unrecognizable now. He’s grown into a tall, handsome, gentle and extremely calm 17 year old young man. He still struggles with communication; forming proper sentences, initiation, low volume, response time, etc. But, he knows enough to get him by. The beginning was beyond tough, but I finally realized that he just needed time to grow out of his behaviors. In our case, the simple process of maturing was the key.

    Please never give up hope. Also, you don’t hate your son. You hate his behavior. You hate that life is not what you planned. You may even hate life itself most days, but you don’t hate your son. You wouldn’t do all that you do for him if you did. Deep breath.

    • I don’t hate my son in any way. What I am trying to articulate is that Autism makes me feel extremely trapped. I watch my son hit and kick his teachers in the stomach and face and I don’t know what to do. Do I smile and nod? Do I discipline? Do I stand there? Do I peel him off? It’s the scariest feeling of my life. Someday Cooper may read this. But probably not. Cognitively I don’t believe that is going to happen. But if he does I hope the love and devotion I have given my son day and night shines through and he will understand that every day I tried. I don’t hate my son. I love him very much. But I do hate what autism has done to my life, to me and to my family. And that’s that I guess.

      • I understand. Really I do. I so badly wished that someone, anyone, could have told me what to do with my son when he was young. How to make him stop his melt-downs. To stop destroying everything in sight. To stop painting the walls with his feces in the middle of the night. To stop making life so incredibly difficult for me, himself and everyone around. But, no one could. Everyone, even the professionals, were at just as much of a loss as I was. It’s a very helpless, hopeless, lonely feeling to have. The sad truth is that no one knows exactly what to do, because every child is so different from one another. All we can do is to do what we know to do, which may not be much most days, and to take every day one day at a time. It’s a long journey, but from experience, I can sincerely and with confidence say that it will get easier. Love, patience (I know…haha…) and a lot of deep breaths.

  5. Praying for you my dear. So many of your posts are things I have thought, things I have experienced and things I hope not to. Hugs!

  6. I wish I could give you a hug..I don’t know exactly how you feel but I can tell you that reading this, I read about a mom who loves her children so very much..no matter how difficult days can be. It’s OK to cry over what we don’t have..remember that. What makes you so amazing is that you keep getting up after bad days. **big hugs girl!!**

  7. I’m so sorry. I have too gone through what you just went through and I’m embarrassed to say we go through it a lot. I fear taking my child out alone because of his behavior. He is 6 yrs old. What’s worse is that he behaves this way only with me and not with my husband and I feel like crap. Like I can’t control my own kid. Having a nonverbal child who is violent sucks. And you’re right, when your kid is having a meltdown in front of professionals they don’t help and you feel so helpless and they silently judge you. Hang in there. We will get through this we are doing the best we can.

  8. From one Autism Mom to another, I know it is tough. *HUGS* Some days just require wine and comfy pajamas, that’s for sure!

    Also, I homeschool my kids. My son has moderate/severe Autism. If you ever think you may want to homeschool, feel free to ask me anything! I don’t mind helping or telling you my experiences with it.

    Hang in there! You definitely aren’t alone!

  9. So sorry for your sadness. But I will tell you that when my kid is going into any assessment I let him act bad and I lowball his abilities. It’s the only way he gets the help he needs. Let them hate you. They don’t matter. When my son acts like he’s got bees in his pants, I just look at the teacher/clinician/therapist and say–“That’s all you need to know. I’m not sure why I have to answer any other questions.”

    It’s not you, it’s not your son.

    Hope your week gets better.

  10. Thank you for your honesty about autism. My son is 2 and some days are so scary, and lonely, and dark. I feel horrible for my feelings. And I have no outlet. Reading this makes me feel like im not horrible or alone.

  11. I left a comment but it disappeared… I wanted to say from one Autism mom to another, I understand how you feel.. Some nights are definitely for wine and pajamas!

    I am a homeschooling mom. If you ever think about doing it, feel free to ask me anything. I always like to help!

    Hang in there! *hugs*

  12. My son isn’t in school yet but I am dreading these sorts of situations. I have felt so many of the same feelings towards autism. I feel guilty about it all the time. But I can’t help it. I hate it. Autism sucks. It has definitely robbed our lives in many ways. It makes me angry way too often. I don’t know how to change the way I feel but basically no one wants to be around me anymore. I fear it will only get worse. And no one seems to have any answers.

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