This school year has been markedly different for both of the kids. My daughter is coming along swimmingly in the personal hygiene department, and you busy moms out there will know what I mean when I say that its a quantum leap forward to have one kid who doesn't need your help in the shower. Race Car Man is better too. He now takes showers instead of baths, and his biggest accomplishment has been to teach himself to tolerate the water on his face so that I can wash AND rinse his hair without major histrionics.
They've both gotten medication compliant, which is another huge relief. They were pretty good for SG over the summer, but I noticed that if I was home when it was meds time, at least one of them would raise hell for no apparent reason. I surmised, probably correctly, that the drama was simply for my benefit. After all, don't most kids behave better with people who are not their parents? With that assessment of the situation in mind, one of the things I was most dreading about SG being gone this fall was mornings. I was completely prepared for the marathon mornings I remember so well from last year. I spent quite a bit of time girding my loins, as it were, for the morning battle, only to find myself completely shocked (and about as delighted as a dog rolling in horse shit) when no one actually wanted to engage in it. I put together their meds and deliver them to my kids...and they take them.
While you finish picking your jaw up off the floor, let me also say that Race Car Man has improved so much over last year with his efforts to manage his behavior that he actually got an award at the school assembly last week.
I KNOW, RIGHT???? I'm shocked the local paper didn't see this as a newsworthy event!
There are still struggles, of course. Last year my son's nemesis was a bigger kid I'll call "Abel." Abel is the same age as my Amazon Girl and he is on the spectrum, as are all of the 10 kids in Race Car Man's classroom. For whatever reason, Abel was my son's kryptonite. Everytime he made a noise or soothed himself with rocking or flapping, Race Car Man would lose his MIND. He got suspended for three days because for no apparent reason whatsoever, he hauled off and hit poor Abel while the kid was doing nothing more than sitting on a bench and talking to himself. We worked very hard at challenging these behaviors, removing desired activities and having many many discussions on making choices about behavior. There were a few times I simply lost my temper and yelled at him, I'm not proud to say. How long does it take to teach a kid with ASD that hitting people when you're a grownup doesn't just get you in trouble at school - it gets you fired, and possibly even arrested.
I anticipated we would see continued problems with Abel, but since the universe frequently likes to remind me I'm not as smart as I think I am, Abel and Race Car Man are best pals this year.
We are not free, however, of the joy of a mortal enemy. Race Car Man's kryptonite presented itself this school year in the form of a boy I'll call "Sam." Sam, like Abel, tends to make a lot of noise as he copes with the messges his brain is sending him. He also - in my opinion - is kind of a little shit. (And yes, my son is kind of a little shit too, sometimes, but he's MY little shit and therefore adorable). Almost every day my son comes home in tears because Sam has called him names or made fun of him. The day my son got in trouble for hitting Sam, it was (according to Race Car Man) because Sam called him a 'DUMBASS.' I was so tempted not to punish him, because dammit, I think being called a Dumbass is pretty antagonizing even if you don't have autism. BUT, I know we need to reinforce the hitting is a bad idea thing, so I made him write "I will not hit" twenty times before doing his homework. Then I gave him ice cream.
Each week I get an average of three emails from his teacher, updating me on the latest thing my son has done to Sam. Then the other night I was looking through some schoolwork he had brought home. My son's class, which is a special program for children with autism, works on social skills and behavior management. They do a lot of work on identifying emotions and interpreting facial expression. In his folder was a sheaf of papers stapled together. On the front of each page, he had colored in the face of a monkey making various facial expressions, and he had correctly identified the emotions the monkey was displaying - sad, mad, happy. On the back of each sheet, he had written a series of sentences about his own experiences. On the sheet for "sad," I read:
I feel sad when:
I get (sic) bullied.
The next day I sent an email to his teacher requesting more information on how these two boys are interacting. I told her about the name calling incident and other things my son has told me Sam does to him, such as enlisting other classmates in making fun of Race Car Man or deliberately excluding him from activities. I inquired as to which kid was instigating the conflicts. I suggested we might need to meet to discuss ways to help my son cope with this other boy in a more positive way, but that from what I was hearing from my child, there may be more going on than two boys who just don't get along.
In her response she promised to investigate the name-calling and to pay closer attention to the dynamics between the two. I trust her judgment - I know she will fairly evaluate each child's part in the conflict and report back to me, and do everything she can to help them both make better choices.
When my son was enrolled into his current program, I was kind of in love with the idea that he would be with other kids just like him. I had this picture in my head of some sort of Autism Utopia, where all the spectrum kids hung out together and were a big support group. Because they all were coping with the same differences, they wouldn't seem...different. At least not to each other. And because they don't always share recesses with the other kids, they wouldn't have as many opportunities to get picked on by the neurotypical kids. To find out that my son is being picked on by one of his own is enormously deflating. I guess its not that crazy to assume that kids who struggle with their behavior would struggle with their behavior in regards to each other.
Still, I think we're making progress.