Mrs. Royal, the speech therapist at Ethan's school, is one of the main people whom provide Ethan's special education services. Throughout the year, she has tried to reassure me that she is on top of the needs Ethan's autism disability creates. But how can you be, I think, when you're the only speech therapist at a school with 650 students? Today's field trip to the zoo, however, finally convinced me that Mrs. Royal isn't just placating me.
I planned on going to the field trip today because I know what a pain Ethan can be at the zoo. Walking tires him easily, and he quickly loses patience and starts to complain loudly. Unfortunately, I couldn't take the school bus with him because I had James with me. So, of course, the bus got to the zoo before me, and Ethan began to stress out. When I finally met up with him, I could tell he was frazzled by the big wet spot on his shirt where he had chewed it. He was waiting with Mrs. Royal. Despite his signs of duress, she was as calm as a cucumber. "See, there's your mommy," she said. "I told you she would be here. "
I took Ethan and we started our zoo tour. After lunch, I planned on taking Ethan and James on the carousel. I got in line for the tickets and then it hit me--I don't have any cash, and I don't know if the ticket station takes credit cards. I pulled Ethan out of the long line and explained to him that we can't ride the carousel because I don't have cash to pay for it. I prepared for a melt down because kids with autism tend to lose it big time when their expectations are not met. Sure enough, Ethan started crying and clinging to me. "We can ride it next time we come," I said. "But I want to ride it NOW," Ethan cried. In my mind, I pictured the rest of the trip spiralling out of control.
Out of the masses of people and strollers comes Mrs. Royal. She asked what was wrong, and I explained the situation. She pulled out her wallet and slipped me a $20. "No worries," she said. "It's a special day, and he should ride the carousel." I gratefully took the money and got back in line, promising to pay her back.
Turns out, the ticket station took credit cards after all. My bad. I got the tickets and managed to find Mrs. Royal to give her back her money. "Thank you so much," I said. We all got on the carousel, Ethan smiled and laughed, and I relaxed for the first time all morning. The zoo was so crowded, Mrs. Royal could have easily pretended to not have seen Ethan, and I wouldn't have known any different. But the fact that she made an effort to comfort Ethan, even with me there to take care of him, reassured me that she really is keeping an eye out for him. Her small gift to Ethan was a huge gift to me.