So…I may have hit the panic button.

The permission slip for the kindergarten trip to the zoo came home weeks ago.  I wrote it on the calendar and promptly forgot all about it.

It’s been that kind of month.

The panic started to rise last Saturday afternoon, when Gerry looked up at the calendar and said to Howie: “Hey!  You’re going to the zoo?”

And Howie answered “I am?”

The panic hit full tilt that night when I was out with my friends, two of whom also have kindergarteners.  We talked about the fact that the kids were riding on the “big” bus (not their mini-bus), and the trip was 45 minutes each way.  With the whole kindergarten class and chaperones.  And it was going to be hot.  And unfamiliar.  And a zoo.

One friend was telling me about the social story they had been reading with her son.

We had received nothing.

I went home and laid it all out for Tim, who was packing for a business trip.

“He’s had no prep and it’s a ZOO and we’ve only been to our local zoo twice and he’s been overwhelmed both times and it’s a long bus ride with all those kids and the smells and the noises and the lack of routine and you’re going to be away and it’s a ZOO!”

I took a breath.  Tim reminded me that if I was really worried about how he would do, I could keep him home.  Do something special with him.

“Ask him,” Tim said.  “Find out if he really wants to go to the zoo.”

My panic calmed enough to sleep that night.  For two hours.

The next morning, I asked Howie if he wanted to go to the zoo.

“Oh YES!”

Of course.

So late Sunday night, I sent off this e-mail to his team at school.  Not just his teachers, but the special education teacher, the OT and the BCBA (board certified behavior analyst).

It went something like this:

I just wanted to check in about the zoo trip on Thursday. Howie didn’t know about it, so I was wondering what had been said to him or the class about the trip. I just had a couple of questions and thoughts about it, to help make it most successful for him.

Since this will be his first trip on the big bus, it’s bound to be both exciting and overwhelming for him. He and I have talked about bringing his headphones with him for the ride, and I’m hoping he can sit up near the front and with his aide. He may need a fidget or something to have in his hands for the ride as well to keep him comfortable or occupied. The noises, the smell and the crowds of kids and adults on the bus are going to make it hard for him to sit for the 40 minute ride there, and especially home.

Could you create a social story for him for both the bus and the zoo? He’s going to need the same bus visuals to remind him that the rules are the same as they are on Mini 1. He’s also going to need the story to include the rules for the zoo. We’ve been to our zoo twice and both times he’s been very overwhelmed by the sensory overload of the zoo. Again, the smells and the noises are a lot for him, and each visit we’ve had to take lots of breaks and avoided certain areas. I’m assuming that his aide will be his dedicated aide for that trip and not leading a chaperoned group so if Howie needs a break she can take him off somewhere quiet without interrupting the whole group.

If you send the story home with him by Tuesday, that will give us time to review it with him so he’s comfortable with both the zoo and bus. I assume his aides will have time to read it with him too. I’ll also make sure we look at the zoo website so he’s familiar with the animals there. If there are any that scare him or make him nervous, I’ll make sure to tell you.

I asked Howie if he wanted to go on the trip and he really does, so I know he’ll be motivated to be there. This is his first big field trip so he’s really going to need some extra supports.

Additionally, as I wrote in his home log on Friday, Tim is away on a business trip for the week this week. As you may remember, that was hard for him last time Tim was gone (back in November). He’ll need some extra love and care this whole week in addition to the help on the field trip.

Let me know if there’s anything else I can do to help make this field trip successful for him.

(note to self: don’t write e-mails to school when you are overtired, overwhelmed, and over-panicked.  Your e-mails will be twice as long and twice as desperate as needed)

Monday afternoon, Howie brought home a nice social story about the bus ride and the zoo trip.  His aide assured me that he would be fine and asked me to send along some extra chewy fruit snacks just in case he needed that sensory input at the zoo.  Both the OT and his special ed teacher e-mailed me back to tell me they had it covered and that they were confident that things would go well.

I was still on the fence.

We read the social story on Tuesday and Wednesday, and he also read it with his home therapist (who, just by chance, had been to that zoo and told him all about it).  We investigated the website and saw all the animals.  He picked out his favorites.

I was still not convinced.  I knew that the zoo trip would be a game time decision.  As everything always is.

This morning was zoo day.

His repetitive behaviors were on an uptick.  He was hitting himself in the head and babbling.

We read the story once again before school.

I kept checking in with him about how he was doing.  “Are you sure you can go to the zoo today?”

He looked right at me.  “The zoo is going to be A-ok”.

Well then.  Game time decision made.  Shoes on and out the door.

**********

My stomach was in knots from 7:40 am to 2:00pm.  I thought for sure I would get a call to come get him.  Once 2pm came around I knew he’d have to be back at school.

I was still a mess.

His bus rolled up at 3pm.  I stepped on the stairs to help him off and one of the classroom aides was on the bus.

“Howie did AWESOME at the zoo!”

And a huge smile from Howie.

I thanked the aide profusely and ran inside with Howie.  I checked his home log and read this:

the orange marker thank you is mine.  it’s all I could find around here…

So the moral of the story is…it pays to panic.

Okay, maybe not.

I guess the moral of the story is that I have to let some things go.  I have to let him try to do the things his peers are doing even if it terrifies me.  And we have to make sure he has the supports and the preparation so he can do the things that others do.  Him not going would have made him stand out more.

My kid ROCKED the zoo today.

And I may finally get some sleep tonight.

We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo
How about you, you, you?
You can come too, too, too
We’re goin’ to the zoo, zoo, zoo” – Going to the Zoo by Raffi

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