Thursday, March 20, 2014

Julianna's decision

Today Julianna surprised me in a big way. She made a decision all on her own, and gave me the reason for it. This is a big deal. First, let me explain what has led to this decision.

Before she started third grade the school year before last, I asked if she wanted to play the flute in school. Mistakenly, I thought kids could start playing instruments in third. So her then special ed teacher asked the music teacher, and we were informed that it doesn't start until 4th grade. But of course, I had already gotten Julianna's hopes up in playing the flute. Now those of you with children on the spectrum, you know it's very hard to turn back on an offer you've made to your child. If I were to tell her sorry, you can't play your flute until 4th grade, after she had been looking forward to it all summer, we would have a big problem. So, her teacher persuaded the music teacher to allow Julianna to start a year early. I had an extra flute that she could bring to school, and things worked out fine. Everyone was happy.

This school year also happened to be the one where I was trying to secure a one to one aide for Julianna. Right around the time it was approved (I will talk about this process another day) was when the music classes began. And as luck would have it, her aide, whom we love dearly, just so happened to play the flute when she was in school. So she took Julianna to her flute class once a week and things seemed great! She is now in the second school year of doing the flute, with the same wonderful aide, and I thought everything was fine. Until this morning...

Usually in a rush to get out the door, we forget the flute on Thursdays. But today we remembered. So I asked her to get her flute and go to the car. Well, when I came to the car, she did not have her flute. So I asked her to get it again. She put her head down, and quietly said, "I don't want to get my flute." So I asked her why, and she said, "I don't want to play the flute anymore."

Many things went through my mind at that moment. First, you should know, that I also play the flute. I started in 6th grade and went all the way through high school, and loved it. I still play musical numbers at church occasionally, and now play in a small orchestra through our church. I love music. Now you're probably thinking that I convinced Julianna to play from the beginning, that I'm one of those moms that wants her kids to take after them. This is not true. I simply asked her, and she said yes, and I had the extra flute she could use. So, hearing her say she did not want to play did not crush my soul, it just worried me. It made me wonder how long she has felt this way, and how long she waited to tell me that she didn't want to play. I asked her why she doesn't want to play anymore. Her answer, "Because I still can't get the sound out."

Now this broke my heart a little bit. She's been trying all this time and still can't get a sound out of it. Her aide never mentioned this before, so I assumed little by little she would get better, though she is young. And me, the busy mom of a baby now toddler during this whole time she's been playing only sat down with her a handful of times to practice, even though I can teach her so much. I felt guilty, that it was partly my fault she could not get a sound out of it. Why didn't I practice more with her? But, I can't change the past, so I reassured her that it's fine if she wants to stop playing the flute. And she said, "Please don't tell Miss Shauna (her aide)," as if she would get in trouble! I told her I needed to tell Shauna, and that it was perfectly fine that she wanted to stop playing the flute. So when we got to school, we told Shauna, and she seemed to understand completely. We discussed maybe trying the drums. And that was the end of Julianna's flute career, for now.

But as I drove home this morning, I couldn't help but think how silly it was for me to think that a child with sensory processing issues could even play the flute at this age! It involves muscles in the lips that she probably cannot control yet, fine motor skills in using the keys, eye coordination in reading the music...this is a huge challenge for someone like her! I am not saying she's not capable, because maybe she really is! But right now, at her age, it was probably a little too much. And I think she feels better by telling me, too.

I'm proud that she was willing to tell me the truth, even though I could tell she didn't want to admit it to me. I'm even more proud that her level of understanding has evolved to the point where she gets why it would be hard to tell her mom she doesn't want to play the flute anymore. The progress she has made astounds me. So now we'll have to see how the drums go...

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