Sky's high functionality is a double-edged sword. Since he is on target academically, our only real option (at least where we live now) seems to be a mainstream classroom. I know we are blessed to have a kid on the spectrum who can generally function in a regular classroom, but it is also feels like a curse. In a lot of ways, he only appears to be "normal." As his parents, Ren and I have figured out a lot of the idiosyncrasies that come with his ASD. The same cannot be said for his teachers, and unfortunately, since he is only with each teacher for a year, we spend most of that year explaining why Sky said or did whatever he said or did. Here are some recent examples of the challenges.
Today at pick up time:
Sky was wandering around the pick up area walking through each puddle while the classroom assistant followed him and verbally directed him to go back to the building and practice proceeding appropriately to the pick up spot. Since this was taking some time, I attempted to make small talk with his homeroom teacher who was standing nearby, "He often hyper-focuses on puddles." (Which is true. He tends to get obsessed by puddles and how they are like oceans to ants and how if you step in them to make ripples, it's a lot like creating an ant tsunami). She responded somewhat aggressively, "Right now, he seems more focused on ignoring Mrs. X" (not her real name, obviously).
Even if you know very little about kids with ASD, you know that they can tend to seem to slip into their own worlds. Granted, Sky can do this at inopportune moments, but it would have been nice for his teacher to entertain the idea that something less malicious was happening. Later, I asked Sky why he was ignoring Mrs. X and he emphatically told me he wasn't ignoring her. He heard everything she said. He just needed to test the puddles.
Upon pick up on a day when I taught late:
When I arrived, Mrs. Z (the woman in charge) said, "I'm so mad at your son"
"I can put up with a lot of things, but I just don't like it when kids are rude or disrespectful to adults."
Showing disrespect doesn't tend to be Sky's MO, so I prodded a little: "How was he rude?"
"He went out of his way to go to the other side of the gym to bounce his ball on the wall between two adults who were talking."
(She was so upset about this, you'd think he did something much worse.)
"Maybe he didn't notice them," I offered.
"It was obvious they were talking," she countered.
"You remember he's on the autism spectrum, right. Thing is, kids like him miss social cues. It probably didn't occur to him that they were talking."
She didn't seem to believe me, so to appease her, I told her I would talk to him. And I did. And, like I figured, he had no idea the two people were talking or why Mrs. Z was so short with him.
At school open house:
Upon seeing a classmate's one year-old brother, Sky proclaimed rather loudly, "I can beat him up." Then soft enough that no one could hear, "I'm super fast!" "Oh, you mean you can beat him, like in a race?" I corrected. Unfortunately, now all the other parents think he was threatening to throttle a toddler. (Go ahead, say it three times fast. You know you want to!)
In P.E. class:
Sky ran into two girls who were holding hands and knocked them down. Apparently he was trying to separate them, and when the P.E. teacher asked him why they shouldn't hold hands, he said, "Because you know what that leads to!" So now the P.E. and homeroom teacher seem to think he is using innuendo to refer to God only knows what. (Note: I practically LOL-ed when I realized they thought he was using innuendo. Fortunately, I managed to restrain myself.) I don't suppose it occurred to them to ask him what he meant. When I did, he said, "If all the girls hold hands, the boys will feel left out."
This kind of thing happens all. the. time. with Sky, and it really makes me wonder why it's so easy for people to misunderstand him but so hard for them to give him the benefit of the doubt. We can and should continue to correct Sky and his miscued behaviors by reminding him what is appropriate in any given situation, but assigning ill-intent to his actions probably isn't going to help. Still, this has led me to wonder: does intentionality matter? And if it does, how do we help his teachers better read his intentions?