Saturday, 23 July 2011
One would think that the quirks of a child on the spectrum would stand out more when he is amongst typical peers. That was one of my fears as I planned our move to an inclusive district. I quickly learned though that his behavior which looks troublesome when put under a microscope by professionals and special educators is often accepted more readily by those who are not looking to "fix" him. While taken together all his idiosyncrasies led to a diagnoses of PDD-NOS, individually they often blend in with the general neuroses of our time. I offer two examples:
Benny is obsessed with hair. He still falls asleep twirling either his or mine and rarely a day goes by when he does not remove my scrunchie and borrow his hands in my curly messy locks. One day, about a year ago, I saw him stroking the hair of a girl from his class, after school. She did not object, but I remembered conversations I had with previous therapists about the importance of good social skills, boundaries, personal space and so on. When I saw this girl's mother looking on I became agitated. I went up to the mother who was engrossed in the exchange between my son and her daughter and offered something between an apology and an explanation. She laughed and told me she thought it was fine, and that actually she and her sister both have a bit of an obsession with hair, especially each others. She continued to chuckle as she told me how she and her sister, both happily married, find themselves quite unconsciously stroking each others hair in public, to the point that they are often assumed to be a couple themselves! To her and her daughter there was nothing strange about my son's behavior. He somehow found the one girl in the class for whom this behavior would be tolerated. I realized that behind the delay in social skills was an intuition that was working just fine.
The first time I have a new child over for a play date is always nerve wracking for me. I know Benny has difficulty at first and often displays more outrageous behavior at home than he would in school. So when Charlie came for his first visit I set up many activities ahead. Charlie was a particularly "cool" child with many friends and a PTA mom. I wanted this date to go well. I bought new paints, and papers in different sizes, set up puzzles and games and was ready to guide them from activity to activity when it seemed Benny needed a change. They were painting happily when Charlie ran to the bathroom crying. Benny ran with him and stood beside with words of comfort. I tried with great tension to figure out the problem...was he hurt, did he get paint in his eyes, was he feeling suddenly ill? Benny handed him paper towel after paper towel and gave him gentle pats on his arm. Once Charlie calmed down a bit (a good 10 minutes after he began to cry) he told me that he had put his elbow in the paint and wanted it all off. Once his arm was completely clean they went back to the basement. I followed then down and saw them take out a set of glitter glue tubes. Glitter glue is basically colored glue with sparkles throughout. I suggested they play with something else- something dry, something safe, after all glitter glue is not so different than paint. Charlie looked up at me with his big brown eyes and said "don't worry Mrs. Linder, I am not afraid of glue, only paint."
And so I see that all kids come with quirks, which may not cluster around a label, but are there . I am delighted that my son is able to be there for his friends and this is one of the reasons why inclusion works. We are all imperfect people trying to make it through life with issues. Some issues cluster into diagnostic categories, others do not, but everyone needs a friend there to help us when we have a freak out.
Do you find that the quirks of you and or your child are better tolerated by certain folks?