Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Field Trip: A Journey Through the Woods

This morning, I joined Robbie and his first grade class on a field trip to a place called the "Outdoor Learning Center". I was a little apprehensive about the day because Robbie hasn't been feeling well lately. I don't know if it's true for all kids on the autism spectrum but when he's not feeling well, the opportunity for a tough day is just around the corner. Most of us can shake it off when we're feeling 90% - 95% but with Robbie it puts him out of sorts. Add to that the fact he's still got almost all of his strength and you've a explosive mixture.

We started the day with some children's Motrin and firm back rub, both of which did wonders. He probably had the best morning before school in three months. We were off to a great start.

I arrived in his classroom at 9:00 AM. He was already making noises about not wanting to go "have a party on the field trip". Several of his classmates lined up to assure him that it was going to be fun and he was going to have a good time. For me, this was the best part of the day. Despite overwhelming evidence to the country, I worry about how the other kids treat him at school. I've heard and read too many stories about autistic kids being teased and bullied to shake that fear. Time and time again, though, the students at his school surprise me.

He and I sat together on the bus, which was wonderful (I don't think I've been on a school bus since 1983 - it was a very strange feeling). We held one of the longest conversations we've had in weeks. He let me know all about the latest activities on Poptropica and Build-a-bear and his other favorite websites. He also reiterated his position that Family Guy is not nice. I got him to look at me while he talked and do the same when he listened.

At the Outdoor Learning Center, the kids learned how to classify animals and plants. We looked at several mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects and spiders, asking all kinds of questions to help us classify them. He even pet a bunny and a snake (he wasn't that interested in the rooster). Outside, the kids learned about all of the elements of a plant (for those of you wondering: seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers, fruits, and seeds). When asked to name one of the elements, Robbie jumped right in and offered up, "Flower!" He was the flower guy for that part of the trip.

After three hours, he was running out of gas (like most of us) and thankfully, it was time to go. While making the trek through the woods back toward the bus, he started making noises about wanting to go home. Anytime there's something for the parents at school, he tries to use it as an opportunity to leave school and go home early. I started to worry that the heretofore pleasant day might be altered by a tantrum.

We found our way back to the bus with the other students and he sat next to his teacher on the bus ride back to school. This was a good thing. It took his mind off of going home. When we got back to school, we walked to his classroom and he announced, "Daddy, it's time for you to go back to work." This was triumph. Considering the rough days we've been having at school lately, those words were music to my ears.

It was the perfect day all the way around.

The reward for this wonderful experience? Welcome Purples, the Lil Kinz Purple Goldfish, as the new member of our family. Adopted by Robbie on Webkinz at 7:50 PM, Central Daylight Time.

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