Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pigpen Boy: 1 of 150

It took a long time for me to agree with the school that Sean had what they like to call "a touch of Autism." I know he is speech delayed. I knew sometimes he likes to spin in the light, play with particulates, eat mud, taste the world. For me, this is being a little boy, just magnified a bit.

I do admit, now, that it is a touch of actual Autism. He is super duper sensitive to certain things, very very particular about his shoes, for example. YOU cannot get him in a pair of shoes that he does not like. Sorry. Not gonna happen. I get looks sometimes when he throws a fit about something because he simply does not understand me; people think at his age he ought to behave "better." But I shrug those off. Don't get me wrong: I get a little mad, a little indignant. But it does no good to explain to those people giving me the stink eye, and besides, I'm too busy trying to catch my wild little boy.

When Sean started school, he communicated far less effectively than he does now. It is amazing what his teachers do for him and he loves them very much. I appreciate them a lot because while I struggled to figure out ways to communicate with my bright little boy, they already knew things that work. From mostly non-responsive a year ago, he can read the ABCs on better than his sister can. He actually is sounding things out, reading simple phrases perfectly. Again, better than Maia does. Now, if you ask him a direct question, he still might not answer you, or his answer might be a phrase from one of his favorite movies "Don't scare Insectasaurus" is one of them or "Scarey" another.

Yesterday, he went to school a little ratty. He is a DIRT MAGNET sometimes. I didn't know this, as his dad was escorting him to the car, but he dipped his hand in the firepit ash on the way out the door and swiped it across his shirt. If I had known that, I would have insisted on a shirt change and hand washing. In the car, he also had a do-nut, so his face was a bit dirty when we got to school. If I had caught it, I would have tried to make it better; however, I cannot be on top of it 100% all the time. It's impossible for me to be perfect; I am not a Stepford Wife. Sorry.

After school, his teacher explained to me that "they" were looking at Sean because of his messiness. He goes to a school that wears uniforms, and while he usually has a nice clean one on when we leave the house, even that five minutes of driving can wreak havoc on the cleanliness considering his dirt magnet-status. He just doesn't understand what all that fuss is about-- why does he have to have his hair brushed, face washed? That's just parents being annoying.

THEY means other teachers, who have, apparently, been saying things to his regular teachers. These regular teachers, who love Sean quite a bit, are frustrated, because while they understand that's just the way Sean is, and we try super hard to work on it, it's not a sign of him not being cared for. But if the "They" of his school are saying things, then it's very upsetting for me, too. Andrew's first response is to go talk to the administration: the principal. If teachers are critiquing an autistic kid's clothing for not being finely pressed, I really want to invite them to care for him for about a day. They'd understand, then, I imagine. But that's pretty much impossible to do.

Anyway. MY solution is to talk more to his primary teacher, see what we can do to increase an understanding of the reasons why my boy is a bit of a Pigpen. But I also want to say something about Autism.

I wish as a culture we would cut parents ALL a little bit more slack, a bit of LESS JUDGEMENTAL understanding. We look at a mom or dad struggling with a kid and we figure "well, they're just not trying very hard" or "why don't they get a babysitter" or "if that were MY kid, I'd...." Sometimes, I'll grant that the clueless parents of the world are letting their kids run rampant and crazy and not paying any attention and not trying very hard. And I'll admit to having been a person without children who sometimes wondered what the heck those parents were thinking, and figuring, smugly, "my kids will behave better." Ah, so karma bites us all on the ass eventually, doesn't it?

But there are 1 in 150 children today being diagnosed with a dose of autism. How many of those kids you click your tongue about are being loved dearly by parents who DO have a clue, but who have a little bit of this growing disorder? And let me tell you: if your kid is a bit autistic, it's really really hard to get a babysitter. They mostly look "normal" (whatever the F. that is). But they might be behaviorally a bit different from your expectations of a "good" kid. And usually, the parents are trying, really, really hard.

There really are mixed feelings about "curing" Autism, as the Autism Speaks website advocates. But there really needs to be some understanding about this issue, because otherwise, you're blaming parents for something even the so-called "experts" don't really understand. These kids are wired a little differently from others, and if your kid is a calm, easy to handle kid that listens to you most of the time and doesn't like to dig in dirt and run faster than you can possibly imagine a four year old can run then count your blessings. You are one of 149 who drew the short straw.


Anonymous said...

how frustrating. I'm so sorry. I can't imagine what that must be like.

One of my dear friends from Asshat Insurance, her oldest daughter is mildly autistic (most of her classes are with the general student population; she does have some special ed classes). She has had A LOT of interaction with school administrators over the years in dealing with shit like this. If you want, I can put you into contact with her. She might be a good resource. And she LOVES connecting with other mothers on issues like this. Just let me know.