12.16.2010

Autism Today


I always pictured myself as the mom heavily involved in my children's school activities and a regular in the classroom assisting the teacher. In this vision I imagined my child sitting in an old fashioned desk and chair focused on an assigment as a light beamed down and I smiled lovingly and peacefully. Observing with a pleasant feeling and working in the corner of the room while the teacher leads the children in a lesson.

Reality: I don't go often because Zane's behavior is far worse when I am there and then he cries a lot when I have to leave. Which makes the teacher's job (and Zane's lack of control) 10 times more challenging than usual.

When I do attend it's usually for an activity or field trip where I can take him home with me afterwards. It's going a little better each time.

***

This week when I went for Read and Munch I stood eagerly in the empty class waiting for the children to arrive. I love that moment when he sees me at school for the first time that day. His million dollar smile stretching across his face. And then you never know which part of Zane you are going to get next.

There were not a lot of other parents, which sort of made me feel relieved. It usually feels as though all adult eyes are on us when there is a party and my son is the only one acting up over and over again. He often sticks out like a sore thumb in a lot of ways and it's always at school that I am reminded of this most fiercely. I am so used to Zane and the way he is, I don't realize what typical first graders are capable of until I observe at school. And then I see it immediately and it sits like a brick in my stomach and makes me want to run into the hallway and throw up. Ill at the reminder that he has to be different and things can't be common for him. And then I want to pull my hair out as I run the million dollar question through my mind no one else can answer or find but me (what am I supposed to do to help him?!).

It makes me sad for him to think of how other students flocked to me to tell me how his card was turned to red today and how the he makes this certain face when he gets in trouble with the teacher and how he 'always' does this and that. They act like I don't live with him. I KNOW HE DOES THESE THINGS! IT'S JUST WHO HE IS! WE ARE WORKING WITH HIM ON IT! And then I want to protect him from people and criticism and the notion that one day he will realize he is pretty different. He doesn't see it so much now, but I do. The gap between him and his peers in a school setting is huge. And it's not until I enter the class that I see it. A far cry from how I imagined it to be for him.

***

From across the hall I scanned the board under his teacher's name in the hallway. I quickly identified his letter to Santa and it made me smile. I love to see him able to participate in part of a big group of typical kids. It makes me hopeful one day he will just blend in. Sometimes he does. Just not easily at school. I can tell on this piece he tried very hard and took his time. He used capital letters and punctuation properly. He did well with controlling the size of his lower case letters. He pressed hard with his pencil and had trouble erasing, but I am glad to see he was correcting his work! I am so proud of him I want to gobble it up and keep that moment in my heart forever. I wish I could have watched him create this masterpiece in person.

Then I stepped back and look at the entire wall. The rest of the class- they must all be so advanced! Letters were like that from a typewriter! Well spaced and even on the line. Regular pencil pressure and long sentences. Odd how advanced they all were with their writing! Then the brick dropped. O crap. It's not them being ahead, it's him and his little gap. His difference. His sore spot- writing. I hoped when he looks at the board he sees it as I first did and feels proud at his measure of success for him and his own progress. Not measuring himself against others. Sometimes I have to remind myself of how much more healthy it is to put my blinders back on and remember he is on his own scale and to measure him from where he was before in a skill or behavior instead of comparing him to typical children.

***

I did good behavior stamps at the end of the day. Zane didn't get one, his card was turned to red. Everyone else got one. Zane has had about 1 stamp per week. It broke my heart to see everyone else's stamp charts filled up. He's clearly having a hard time and I need to be working more closely with the teacher to understand why and how to help him (and her) out.

***

Today they sold jingle bells at school. I sent Zane with money to buy one from his piggy bank. He was really excited. At the end of the day I heard about how Zane lost his money and was crying and very upset because he could not buy a jingle bell. Then a friend in his class gave him his own. WHAT a sweetheart! I am so glad that boy made such a good decision to be kind and giving to Zane. Even though things are different for Zane, sometimes I wonder if our Heavenly Father allows for these sorts of challenges in people (why can't kids be totally healthy?!) so those around them get to learn and try to be better people. Zane's little meltdown gave this boy the opportunity to be Christlike and everyone in the class got to see!
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