The Adventures Of Fatherhood – July 29, 2022

Summer school wrapped up this week for Carson.

For weeks, we have referred to Summer Academy as “camp” around Carson, but the reality is it’s school. It’s held at school and involves classes, speech therapy and reading intervention for him, but there’s some fun mixed in as well as weekly field trips.

It would have been understandable for Carson to be reluctant to return to school this summer after just one full week off. Indeed, it was a push to get him happily back into the “camp” routine, but a few minutes with his new teachers – strangers to him until the first day – seemed to change everything for him. I certainly credit his teachers for making the five-week long session fun and something he looked forward to each day. He knew from day two this was not “camp,” as we called it, but the education team kept him engaged and excited about going to school each day. It was a productive way to keep school in the forefront with him so he’s not out of sorts returning after a 10-week break in September.

While we celebrate the good here, there was one day when Carson struggled bigtime. He was out of sorts and to this day we don’t know what caused him to be physically combative and nonresponsive. He’s nonverbal, shy and on the Autism spectrum. He’s also amazing, compassionate and self-aware. The reality here is there will be difficult days from time to time, but the blessing in my family’s life is the bad days are rare now.

Ninety-nine percent of the time these days he’s fun to be around, and we have learned what works for him and what doesn’t. His brain is much more flexible now than in the past, but there are limitations. The expectations are vastly different for Carson, 12, and our neurotypical Beckett, 14. The goal throughout everything is to avoid a major meltdown whenever possible because they can be traumatic situations for everyone involved, especially our boy. This one day at school fell into the unfortunate category.

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Carson was just out of control, unreasonable, physically aggressive and hysterical. The teacher called and asked me to come to school because the team did not know what to do. It happened to be a day Pam was in court for a volunteer position she holds. I dropped everything and raced to school, which fortunately is just a mile from work. Otherwise, it would have been an agonizing drive.

Carson must have heard my voice in the hall because he came flying out of the classroom, embracing me like he was frightened over something, but the reality is he was embarrassed and had lost his composure. He was a mess, and it was clear to me immediately I needed to get him out of school. His day was done, and a restart was needed. It’s been years since I have seen him in this state of turmoil. My sole goal was to immediately comfort him and get home without any more incidents. It took a while to convince him. The team and I thought we had him all set to slide out a side door, so he didn’t have to walk through the school, resulting in the least amount of attention on himself as possible. He opted instead to walk through school, bringing more attention to himself.

Though we have seen this sort of meltdown before, this situation was different. It took him hours to settle himself. He went straight to his room and cried under the covers. I just sat in his room with him and waited it out. He eventually settled down and returned to center, but it was disturbing how long it took for him to calm down.

For the rest of the day and night, he was exhausted. This meltdown and terrible reaction to something took a lot out of him. When he finally settled, I immediately start to think about getting him back to school the next day. Pam and I worried all night about it, but everyone agreed the best thing was to get him back to school the next day. I was literally sweating this walk toward school, but he was a warrior and got right back in the game.

Nothing shows how far he has come in his life than overcoming any leftover anxiety from the day before and going about his day as normal. The teachers kept his day light, and he managed to get back on track with no repeated behaviors or issues. This was remarkable. Carson always makes me proud, but especially so on this day. To bounce back was significant.  I was also relieved we were not heading down a new journey of unexplainable behavior requiring a medicine overhaul or a new direction.

We will never know what caused this latest meltdown. It’s the most disturbing part of it all. If we knew what it was, we could avoid it in the future. He cannot use his voice, or his device, to reveal whatever it was that sent him into hysterics. In time, we hope he can find his words and emotions to share so we can learn from him. Reasoning with him about it is not successful.

Nonetheless, what is known is how much has changed with him. Certainly, it would have been best to avoid the unpleasantness that came with this behavior, but the silver lining is what followed. He moved on. He was welcomed back with love and care at school. He didn’t forget whatever set him off, but he overcame his embarrassment and anxiety.

It was a tremendous sign of maturity for our rising seventh grader. It was one horrible day out of the 20-day summer academy. I call that a win, and special thanks to his team at “camp.”

About The Author: Steven Green

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The writer has been with The Dispatch in various capacities since 1995, including serving as editor and publisher since 2004. His previous titles were managing editor, staff writer, sports editor, sales account manager and copy editor. Growing up in Salisbury before moving to Berlin, Green graduated from Worcester Preparatory School in 1993 and graduated from Loyola University Baltimore in 1997 with degrees in Communications (journalism concentration) and Political Science.