A few years ago, Scooter wore a shirt to school that Bugster had given her. She loved that shirt. After all, her sister had given it to her. It was a black thermal underwear shirt that had little skulls all over it. I personally can't stand skulls on shirts, but these were so little that it was easy to forget that they were on there, and because of her affinity towards it I let her wear it. It did say, "La De Freakin' Da" on it, but she didn't know what it said. She just thought it was fun.
She wore it to school at least a couple dozen times with no problem. Then one day when she wore it, someone said it was inappropriate to wear to school, and she was told to turn it inside out and wear it like that for the rest of the day. She had no idea what she had done wrong. (Neither did we, for that matter, since they'd never had a problem with it the first 2 dozen times she'd worn it!) She just knew she felt horrible and was totally humiliated by having to wear it inside out. After all, that meant that any student or faculty who saw her knew that she was a bad girl for wearing it.
We still don't know why the teacher didn't: a) call us and let us know there was a problem, b) put a tshirt on over it that we'd sent in for spare clothing for her in case of an accident, or c) take it off and have her wear a spare shirt for the rest of the day. But she had the same teacher that sprayed her with industrial strength air and surface sanitizer. So poor Scooter didn't have much of a chance in the entire situation. When she got home, she was heartbroken.
She got off the bus absolutely glaring at me and hitting herself in the head alternating with trying to pull her sleeve off. She was exceptionally upset. When we got inside, and I read her communication notebook, I guess I could understand where they thought it was inappropriate, but I still didn't understand why they felt the need to humiliate her. Then again, we didn't know that she was being sprayed yet, either.
She immediately tore her tshirt off and wanted to throw it in the garbage. She wanted nothing more to do with it. I told her I'd wash it up and get rid of it, but we didn't need to throw it away. It was gone within the week, and she never had a problem with it again.
Until last week, that is.
Scooter's classroom had a community outing, and the forecast was for it to be 85 degrees. It didn't get that warm. Only got to the mid-60s. She'd worn her very favorite long-sleeved tshirt that her my mom and sister had gotten her. She absolutely adores butterflies, and this tshirt had huge ones on it. It couldn't have been more perfect. Long sleeved and butterflies! She wore a denim jacket, because it was chilly when she went to school, and we felt that was perfect with the weather the way it is. I mean, she can wear long sleeves in the summer and never break a sweat. I've never been able to do it, but she sure can!
When she got home, though, she wasn't wearing the shirt. She was wearing a spare short sleeved shirt that we'd sent in for use in the case of a spill. She was so upset. Before she even got off the bus, she signed to me that it 'stinks' and 'broken'. The broken had to do with her necklace that had come apart, but the 'stinks' was because she didn't have her shirt on. I just figured she'd gotten it dirty.
The teacher felt like she would be too warm in her long sleeves and denim jacket, so she took her tshirt off her and had her wear a short sleeved one for their community outing under her denim shirt. I didn't receive a phone call. Just a note after the fact. While I was reading the note, I saw in my peripheral vision that Scooter had taken the shirt and had headed into the kitchen with it. I assumed she tossed it downstairs, so it could be washed, but I didn't check that she had.
The next day was trash day, and Hubster took care of it. I didn't really think much of it until it was time to get the red clothes washed yesterday. I looked all over for the tshirt.
It was nowhere to be found.
My heart just sank. When she got home from school, I drew her a picture of the shirt and reminded her of the situation, and then I drew a picture of the garbage can and a picture of the stairs with dirty clothes at the bottom. I asked her, if she'd thrown the shirt away in the trash can, or if she'd tossed it downstairs to be washed.
She pointed to the trash can.
I asked her, if she'd thrown it away, and she signed, 'yes'. Then she signed, 'sorry'. I just about cried.
Even though she apparently had no negative reaction at school to changing into a different tshirt, she obviously thought about it for the rest of the day. And I know that in her little mind it was no different than when she had to wear the tshirt inside out, because she'd been 'bad'.
My heart breaks for her. That was probably her favorite tshirt. She would get it out of the dirty clothes and wear it, if she didn't feel like I'd gotten my act together quick enough with the laundry. She'd wear it dirty for weeks at a time, if I didn't insist that it needed to be washed. And it just makes me so sad that even if she was confused about what I was asking her, and it shows up somewhere around her that it will never be as special to her as it once was.
It's not like she gets to ever have a boyfriend or even a real friend. She'll never be able to get a job or go to college or have a family of her own. She doesn't play with toys much at all. In fact, her scarves, jewelry, boots, and clothes are really all that matters to her. I mean, she's got a toy here and there that she loves, but they are the rare exception. I think one reason that they mean so much to her is that they are a way for her to express herself. And being nonverbal, expressing oneself is really, really important!
I know that the teacher was doing what she thought she could to help Scooter be more comfortable during their outing, but I really wish she'd have called me first to check with me before she took it upon herself to have Scooter change clothes. I made it very clear that I am not angry with the teacher but that I expect her to talk to me before she does something like that again.
And then I cried my eyes out at Scooter's loss.
Compulsive hoarding is a mental disorder that is just beginning to be understood. As a hoarder, I have acquired things over the years with a specific purpose in mind at the time of the acquisition, used some of those items for their intended purposes, forgotten the goal for different objects, but now that I find that they have outlived their purpose in my life I am struggling to rid myself of those same things.
You can read the start of my journey here.