Archive for September, 2009
I know it’s bad to get excited when C gets in trouble at school, but I can’t help it. For years now, he has exhibited such model behavior as to make his preschool teacher jump for joy the one time he got in trouble during his two years with her. To her, it was a sign of typical behavior a child should display, and that was cause for celebration.
Since then, his schools have used the card turning method, where they have several levels of colors that correspond to the severity of their transgression. In first grade, he got his card turned once, from what I remember. He was pretty upset that first time, crying and sobbing because he got in trouble for being too excited about something. In second grade, I don’t even recall a card turn, although I suspect there was at least one.
This year, however, C has already had his card turned several times for talking. The first time, he was quite cranky about it because he thought it was completely undeserved and that it was actually someone else talking instead of him. Since that time, however, he’s been caught yakking on more than a few occasions.
I suppose I should chastise C for this, but I’m finding it hard to do so. All I’ve managed to squeak out when he tells me about it is, “Oh, well, that’s a bummer.” I certainly don’t let C see my happiness about it, and he missed Husband’s fist pump in the air when he heard the news last night. Frankly, I’m so excited he has friends to talk to that as long as he keeps himself out of detention, study desk, or the Principal’s office, I could not care less.
I am truly sorry, Divine Mrs. D., and I promise that if it gets really bad, we’ll close rank and read him the riot act. But until then, I’m hoping you’ll forgive me my joy.
When I was growing up, I always wanted to move somewhere new. We lived in the same house from the time I was one year old until my parents moved to Arizona 35 years later. Bored with my small town, I fantasized about being the new girl in school just about every year when school started. I wanted to reinvent myself, become someone new, and change personalities like a chameleon changes its color.
College, and subsequent multiple moves after marriage, afforded me that chance to morph into a new person. I could be in a place where I knew not a soul, and be whomever I wanted to be. Yet now, facing the possibility of yet another move, I wonder what this new place will bring. Should I become the ever-patient mother who befriends everyone and bakes fabulous gluten free/casein free cookies for all the neighbors? Should I turn into that Mom who knows everything about autism and is the resource for all the other moms? Should I be the cool Mom who always has kids running through the house because they all want to hang at our place?
What I have found, however (and I won’t tell you how many moves it took me to figure this out, but I’m working on double digits here), is that wherever I go, the old me follows. I’m still the slightly frazzled, pretty tired, mostly good Mom who is trying (not always successfully) to do right by her kid, husband, and self. No new personalities that don’t really fit, no new ability to magically become June Cleaver (even though subconsciously she must be my ideal), and no new “cool factor” that I’ve never really possessed before.
I’m just always me. Just me.
C’s teacher, hereinafter named the Divine Mrs. D, emailed me this little nugget earlier this week. Apparently, a child in C’s class was upset that he had made a mistake. Another child, trying to comfort the first, said, “It’s okay, everybody makes mistakes. Nobody’s perfect.”
C piped up and said, “Actually, that’s not true. My Mom is perfect!”
Is it any wonder I love this kid?
C has gone through developmental stages at various times, none of which seemed to quite match the evil developmental charts posted in the pediatrician’s office. Separation anxiety reared it’s ugly head at the start of 1st grade. In preschool, it was, “See ya’ Mom!” Or at least that’s what I imagined him saying if he could talk. At the time I thought perhaps he had skipped that developmental step altogether, and I patted myself on the back while I walked out of the building, teary eyed from my own separation anxiety.
When the anxiety hit in first grade, it hit hard. I remember one particularly dark day when a teacher had to pry C off me, screaming and thrashing as the other kids looked on. C of course was fine five minutes later, although I spent the remainder of my day in that same teary eyed state. I’m sure the teacher was used to it, but I felt bad for her too.
The anxiety has mellowed, although there’s always a few weeks at the beginning of the year where the tears flow in the car on the way to school, and I find myself using every trick in my book to distract C and stave off a complete meltdown. Now, however, one month in, he goes to school with a somewhat steely resignation that I know is replaced by happiness the minute he gets in the door.
C still, however, wants me to walk him onto the playground and stay until his class lines up and goes inside. Thankfully, there’s at least one other parent in the third grade whose child is the same way, and we commiserate on the way to the parking lot about whether or not we’ll be walking our kids to their college classes in the future. We hope not.
I’m sure teachers everywhere would like us to just drop our kids off and get the heck out of the picture. Things would probably be a lot simpler for them, which is always a good thing. If I had a typical kid, I might do that, but I figure there’s a time and place for coddling C a little bit, and if my being there in the morning lessens his anxiety, then I’ll do it. Frankly, I’m in no rush for it, but I’m hoping the developmental stage of C’s wanting me to drop him off at least a block from school – so as not to be embarrassed by my geeky Mom demeanor – will happen at some point. Hopefully that will happen before college.
I write a lot about the playground and friends (most truly, here). Would that the playground equalled friends for my C, but alas, it rarely does. Whoever had the not so great idea to throw a bunch of kids into an unfacilitated situation with minimal supervision did not an autism child have. We tend to think that if we just put kids together, they will learn things; things like social skills and how to make a friend. It actually does work that way for most kids, but there’s always those special few who either learn something you didn’t intend for them to learn or they spend their free time wandering the fence line.
Enter a great Mom. She got tired of watching her child with autism wander the fence line, sometimes playing near other children, but rarely actually playing with other children. She got tired of the tears in her eyes as she watched her child struggle with loneliness that only she could see, so she did something about it. (Does she sound like me? I wish. Read on.) She called in the experts, the fabulous folks at the local autism research and resource center and asked for help. They, in turn, developed the coolest, most real life functional program I’ve ever seen to help our kids thrive on the playground, and the data from the pilot programs is astounding. Using the simple formula of a well-intentioned playground aide or two, a quickly trained peer, and our target audience kids, interaction happens. Meaningful interaction. It seems so simple. It is so simple.
I proposed that we incorporate this program into our district, and our district responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” So next week, a team of eight of us will attend a training in this program so that we can bring it to C’s 3rd grade playground. Eight lovely people who have kids like C in their hearts and minds. They understand how difficult making friends can be, and they are going to do their best to make sure these kids aren’t alone.
Finally, it feels good to be doing something about this instead of just writing about it. I can’t wait to see it go live.