Monday, April 06, 2009

Is P.E. essential to life?

Chris was sick and stayed home from school all but one day last week. Today he felt well enough to build in the dirt around the swing set but still told me he was too sick to attend school. I was a bit puzzled but decided that being the mom meant I could make the choice for him, "You look healthy enough for school. Get dressed!" He kept hemming and hawing until I finally asked him if wanted be un-enrolled for the rest of the year. Upon receiving an affirmative answer I queried whether he'd miss music? Yes, he certainly would. Library? Yes, that too would be missed. Ahhh.... I understand now..... "P.E.?"

Nope, he'd rather quit going to school altogether than go to P.E. Apparently he and "Coach" are not fans of each other. What's more, Chris once had to go to the bathroom, "really, really bad," last year and when Coach wouldn't excuse him to use the restroom Chris almost had an accident.

After being out all week with the flu Chris was not willing to risk having an accident during the one whole hour a day he attends school. We compromised. I sent a note asking that Chris be allowed to leave class and visit the restroom without explaining himself. I mentioned that he's feeling a bit anxious about the situation. When we arrived at school I spoke with his speech therapist (who facilitates everything for him) and told her about his dilemna. She found out for us that Chris had music today and so Chris went happily to class.

The therapist kept my note and said she'll talk to Coach today and get him "educated" by tomorrow. Tomorrow Chris is to report to her room where they'll role play the conversation where Chris is going to tell Coach that sometimes he needs to leave class and go to the restroom. Then Chris is going to give Coach the note and explain that sometimes he needs to leave.

It seems like a whole lot of trouble for something as simple as being excused from class to perform a biological function. I have two strong thoughts about the situation. First, why is it such a big deal to let a kid use the bathroom in the first place? Second, why is it so hard for Chris to speak up about his needs? Both individuals involved in this situation could handle things differently and have a positive outcome. Yet- here we are.

Mrs. J (SLP) thinks seeing the whole little drama out will be a good opportunity for Chris to really think about how communicating his needs helps him get those needs met. First, we have the written communication in the note. Second, we have verbal communication between Chris and his teacher. Third, we have resolution of the problem. It's all very logical. I'm sure it's a good idea. Yet- it feels like we're negotiating a hostage stand-off instead of simply teaching a seven year old how to ask to use the restroom when it's inconvenient for the teacher to comply with said request. Am I the only one who sees a molehill growing taller here?


Mrs. B. Roth said...

When I was a kid, I had the hardest time asking to go to the bathroom. I don't know why, but it was horribly embarrassing for me. (TMI) In 4th grade and even once in 5th grade, it was somehow less humiliating to pee my pants than ask to go to the bathroom. I can hold it forever, but then when I have to go, I HAVE TO GO!

I understand that it is disruptive for children to leave class and go to the bathroom, but I'm in favor of treating kids with the same respect you give an adult. If you have to go, quietly excuse yourself and promptly return.

Requiring people to ask for permission is a stupid stupid tradition. I'll start a freedom to void your bowels movement, end the tyranny.

j4luck said...

I agree that they are making this a huge ordeal for no reason. It's sad that things have to be done this way to avoid petty lawsuits (because I am pretty sure that the school avoiding trouble is what this comes down too.)
As a future teacher, I understand the idea of setting rules and sticking with them in order to keep the classroom under control and not elicit a free for all situation but there are just some things you need to remain flexible about. Maybe children wouldn't be afraid to ask if the teacher didn't make them feel like there is something wrong with having to go to the bathroom outside of the alloted bathroom breaks. I had a couple of teachers who intimidated me also. I guess your son does need to communicate his feelings better, but there is probably something about that particular teacher that just intimidates him more than the others and when your a kid, you don't feel comfortable asserting your needs to just anybody, you know?

Janet said...

Julie, I think the reason it's an ordeal is because of Chris's Asperger's diagnosis. He really does need to practice voicing his needs and negotiating with authority figures. As things are now, he will do anything a person in authority tells him to do- regardless of personal consequence. This is alarming behaviour because it leaves him vulnerable to all sorts of pressure. I just have a hard time with the whole "production" aspect of addressing the problem.

SavedAspie said...

You know what, I SO identify with Chris in this situation. As I read this, I could feel the anxiety welling up even in myself as if I was a kid again. It is good that you and the counselor are patient enough to work with him, and also the role-playing thing of how he will approach the Coach are good.

I can see how it may seem like making a big deal out of nothing, but for the child with Aspergers such social interactions can invoke extreme amounts of anxiety until they learn how to address. Especially if the AS child sees other children more at ease with the authority figure who are more able to express their needs and get what they want (for example, another child may have to use the bathroom and Coach lets her- even if the circumstances are different, for the AS child this can be puzzling and anxiety producing).

Good Post!

Jake camping in the living room

Jake camping in the living room