Tommy started eighth grade.
He's been doing okay in middle school. I worried a lot when he started.
He doesn't participate in any sports or groups. He's not interested.
Because, you know, other people.
And he was horrified to learn that cross country started practice at 630 AM.
He does struggle when his teachers raise their voices. Sometimes the students in the class do not listen. So the teachers get angry. This makes Tommy upset because he assumes he's also being shouted at. So he sometimes cries. He tries hard not to, because he is in middle school, but sometimes he can't help it.
Teachers tell me they always tell Tommy that it isn't him. They apologize for upsetting him. But still, Tommy doesn't like it. He gets extremely uncomfortable when his fellow students are not following the rules. He tells me he can't believe how some of them behave.
He's still dealing with this in eighth grade. He tells me he's working hard to take deep breaths if a teacher has to get angry. This is what he does to help prevent a meltdown. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.
Another thing he's dealing with this year is the fact that he has to use a locker.
In the past, students could bring string backpacks to class. But this year it is not allowed. Lockers have to be used.
Tommy struggles with his locker. He has poor fine motor skills. He can't twist the lock as easily as other kids his age. His fingers shake a bit, so he'll go past the number he needs.
This can cause a meltdown. He does not like to be late. He panics.
Teachers are aware of the fact that he has autism so they've been helping him. I'm grateful for this. If Tommy continues to struggle, we can get special permission for him to bring his string backpack to class. But he doesn't like to be different from his peers. He is already fully aware how different he is. He's worried other kids will say, "Why does he get to bring his backpack in?" So he's trying to figure out his locker.
To help with how many times he has to go to his locker, I bought him a giant binder. This means he doesn't have to go to his locker after each class.
All and all, he's doing okay. I know it can't be easy to go to school where it's noisy, and where it's hard to read what people REALLY mean...for instance, Tommy did not understand why people called each other dogs.
"Some kids say, 'What's up, dog?'" Tommy informed me with a wrinkled nose.
I showed him Randy Jackson clips. I think he understands now.
He also didn't understand why kids talk about being "gangsta" and why they always call everyone "homies."
"Kids are weird," I said. "But you're my homie."
I think Tommy will do okay this year.
And then next year? High school.
(Tommy also did a video on having autism and being in middle school..)