Lessons from the pandemic

No Pain, No Gain…the things we learned in the pandemic. My teenage son has struggled in school since the day he started. We have done three rounds at an outpatient program, behavioral therapy, occupational therapy and regular therapy. He was referred to a special limited program in a small setting but all with kids who struggle in behaviors. When at school, he was belligerent and completed almost no work. I would receive calls daily on issues and need to pick him up. My son is on the Autism Spectrum, so he mimics behaviors. These programs offered him nothing worth mimicking. We decided to go mainstream.

We were possibly, too late. He was already getting into trouble with the friends he met in his “program” at school. He had learned terrible language and behaviors in this program. We were doing all of the things, therapy, medication, social coaching and skills class. None of it was working. Then it all ended.

When we started this Pandemic in March 2020 my son had been running away from home since early January whenever we enforced a rule that he did not like. He would be gone for days at a time. It completely paralyzed me. Functioning on two to three hours of sleep, trying to work and wear my professional game face. I was scared, tired and felt like a failure almost daily. This pandemic has allowed us to test the water in not going to school. I can limit my son’s access to those who want to hurt him. He is very vulnerable to kids who pretend to want to be his friend.

I prayed to keep my son safe. I prayed for God to make him invisible to those who can hurt him. Yet, I knew when he would leave. It was when they contacted him. How do I make it stop? I make it so that they can’t contact him. I took his phone and I have no intention of giving it back. He has stopped running.

In 2020, you can live without a phone. I did it until I was 21 years old. That is when my Nokia flip phone arrived. He does not have access to those who want to pull him into trouble. His school laptop is limited to the things he can access. Social media and the internet are difficult to navigate for those that are high functioning. It is way too much for someone who struggles to process and understand the world. Anyone who needs to reach him can do so through me.

I wanted to fit in. I wanted to be mainstream. We are neither of these things. We will not operate on anyone else’s timeline. We will move at our pace. School is not a safe space for him because of the choices he makes. We will not return. If only I had learned this sooner. I could have avoided so much pain.

We learn at home and cut access to social media and apps to keep our family safe. This is what I learned during the pandemic.