Archive for October, 2009
This kid is ready to DRIVE! Is MY seatbelt fastened tight enough???
It’s only a matter of time before C is smiling because of the view behind him, but for now, I like the smiling out of sheer joy of sitting in the sand. It was only a few short years ago when C wouldn’t even get in the sandbox!
I spoke with a friend today whose daughter is home sick from school. Mom’s comment that S was “sitting on the floor playing with her stickers and coloring” while Mom worked from home rendered me momentarily speechless. You mean kids actually do that? Sit on the floor and play quietly by themselves? Seriously? Wow. Just WOW.
I marvelled for a moment at how different our two kids are. When C is awake, it is a constant, all-consuming, every moment affair. If he’s actually quietly playing somewhere, chances are he’s overflowing his sink, testing to see if the flashlight works in the toilet, or pulling the ears of our way-too-patient dog. When it’s too quiet in our house, there’s a problem, or else everyone is asleep.
C’s need for interaction, any type of interaction, is simply so great as to make me wonder if C recognizes he is in fact his own independent person. It would seem that he is almost solely validated by his relationships with other people, which I suppose doesn’t exactly fit the stereotypical ideal of someone with an autism diagnosis.
While all of my pondering on this subject has yet to yield a reason for it, the effect on me - the INFJ on the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile - is great. Perhaps now I value my alone time more since it is more rare, but I find myself staying up late at night, enjoying solitary trips to the grocery store, and yakking on the phone with girlfriends, well, never. It’s almost as if C believes he ceases to exist if he is by himself, and I feel as though I can only remember my true self when I am alone.
When I was in college, I pledged a sorority. I didn’t really want to, but my parents encouraged me with stories of how much their lives were enriched by Greek clubs while they were in college. The short version is that the hazing, something I have never really fully put behind me, changed my college experience entirely. The final straw for me, however, was talking to a pledge sister about the hazing, hoping we could change the experience for the next year’s pledges. “I can’t wait until next year,” she said, “when I can pass all of that hazing on and do it to the next group to come through.” That was it for me; I quit.
The difference between C’s experience and mine is that my experience was voluntary on my part. C has had no such choice in how kids treat him. Yet recently, I discovered how quickly the tides can turn. C has “infiltrated,” for lack of a better word, a group of two boys and become the third in that group. I have watched this friendship develop with a certain amount of trepidation because of the tightness of the original two combined with an autism diagnosis for one of the boys. I suspect it was just as hard for “Andrew” to make friends as it has been for C, and I was concerned that in this situation, three might be more than a crowd.
When C came home from school today saying that Andrew told C and ”Billy” that he wanted to “break up” with them, I was immediately on alert. C talked about how he, Billy, and Andrew were playing a game, and Billy started to tease Andrew a little bit. C apparently joined in the teasing against Andrew, and from his description of the event to me, I’d say it was with a certain amount of joy.
Whether C relished the new-found feeling of being tight enough with someone that the two of them could be against a third, or if he’s just so happy to have a friend that he will follow whatever comes along I’m not sure. What amazes me, however, is how quickly this can happen. In a span of days, C went from being the odd one out to the one excluding another. I was nothing short of stunned, having never seen this type of behavior from C before.
I suppose it feels so unusual for C to be on the giving instead of the receiving end that consideration of another’s feelings just flew out the window. It’s all harmless playground drama for most kids, but it’s exactly the kind of thing that has hurt C so much in the past. The irony of the fact that Andrew also has a special needs diagnosis is not lost on me. I’m hopeful C will quickly realize that being on either end of the teasing specturm is sad and make nice with Andrew once again. And in a world where three is almost always a crowd, two boys with autism and a third – who is also not your average joe kid – might make for more than one friendship group can survive.
C has always felt very much a part of things. While I suspect there have been moments where he’s felt left out, I think most of the time he feels right in the middle of it all, even when he really is not. Yet I’m thrilled to report that this year, he actually does seem very much a part of things. He still struggles; there are days when he tells me he sat alone at lunch because he wanted to, and days when I observe him at recess while he wanders around the playground by himself. But for the first time in C’s entire life, I feel as though he might just make it through okay.
On the heels of doing some data collection at recess where C had 0, count them: 0, productive interactions with other children, I have also seen him respond and relate to other kids in a way I never have before. I listened to him carry on a true back and forth conversation with two of his classmates at lunch the other day, and tonight I had to nag him to get off the phone with a friend simply because he was talking far too long. He’s had playdates at our house nearly every weekend, with several different kids. Even bigger, he seems to be branching out, somewhat successfully, from the safety of girls to trying to make it in the boys’ world.
All of this causes me to wonder whether C is growing up or growing out. Out of his diagnosis, that is. I suspect it’s more growing up, and that all it will take to validate his diagnosis once again is a birthday party or school field day (a haven of insanity that brings all of his challenges forward). After all, I’ve been here before; lulled into complacency and the thought that C’s struggles nowhere near compare to other children who share his same diagnosis. True as that may be, I would no more take away his quirky, interesting personality than I would take away his dimples. C just is who he is – and he’s perfect.
On an aside, please, please, please read this post about a child who needs a family and share it with anyone you know who might care.
We live in a pretty small town. You can’t run to the grocery store without seeing at least five people you know, everyone knows the mayor personally, and the local paper comes out once a week with feature stories about a new restaurant or boutique opening. We also have the typical small town parades, complete with fire engines, five zillion Pop Warner football players, and local business owners riding in their convertibles and waving like they just won a beauty pageant.
C loves parades desperately. He jumps up and down and shrieks with joy at each and every “float” going by, even if it’s just a bunch of kids in the back of a truck. He eagerly gathers up candy, yelling “Yay! Smarties!” as he stuffs them all in my hands for safekeeping. Nevermind that he doesn’t even eat candy, but collecting it is sure fun.
This year’s highlight at the Homecoming parade? Not his usual, which is listening to the high school band. No, this year, C’s absolute favorite thing was seeing his beloved P.E. teacher, Mr. S., riding on the float with the high school football players. You would’ve thought he’d seen a rock star or the President for all his excitement at the unexpected Mr. S. sighting.
It got me thinking about people C admires, and it’s a pretty neat list. He looks up to his teacher, President Obama, his favorite babysitter, his aunt and uncle, and the principal at his school. Not a single bad guy cartoon character or overpaid, drug using sports figure in the bunch. So having his PE teacher on the list? Well, that’s just fine with me.