Sunday, June 16, 2013

Epic Summer Saga, Part 2 - It Was the Best of Times, It Was the Worst of Times

"Sky hit Emma in the face." 

I didn't expect to be confronted outside the door of performing arts camp by the rather large and not terribly friendly father of one of the girls in Sky's group. We know Emma from school, and church, and swim class, and just about everywhere else kids their age  hang out. So I knew there had to be more to the story.

"Did you hit her?" I asked Sky.

"Yeah because she hit me," he replied morosely. In the background Emma whined a "nuh-uuuuuh."

"Can you tell me what happened?" I continued, ignoring her protestations, trying to keep my focus on him. 

One thing I've learned about Sky is that after years of having people not understand his language processing issues, he's used to not being heard. So, it's important to give him the space and time he needs to tell his side of the story.

"I had my elbows on the back of her chair doing this (mimics bouncing up and down) and she slapped my arms, so I did this  (mimics returning a slap/pushing her hand away) and accidentally hit her in the face." 

He obviously felt bad about it and was worried I wouldn't believe him (he gets that from people a lot, even though he's one of the most honest people you will ever meet).

Since I know Sky never hits people on purpose (except  his sister--that's another story), and since I know Emma has a history of trying to get her classmates into trouble, I was pretty sure Sky was telling the truth. I also knew that neither Emma or her father was likely to believe this to be the case. So, I loudly reminded Sky to be careful and told both kids to work on keeping their hands to themselves. 

Then we walked away.

I'm not sure what Emma's dad hoped to gain from his fairly aggressive "communication" style. And, really, I don't care. All I can ever do in a case like that is listen to my kid and help him make the best behavioral choices possible. But, to tell you the truth, the whole incident thrilled me because, you guys, Sky stood up for himself and explained what had happened in a timely and appropriate manner.

It was freaking amazing!

Giddy from such clear progress, my bubble quickly burst a few minutes later when Sky announced, "I don't like theater camp. They're mean there." 

My experience with Sky tells me that when he doesn't like something, it's indicative of one of two things: 1) someone is being mean to him, or 2) he doesn't understand what's going on. Problem is, a lot of times, he can't quite identify and articulate the problem. 

Still, I had to try, so I asked, "Why, what happened?"

"They're mean."

"All of them?"



"The staff. She keeps pulling me by the arm even though I don't understand what she said. It hurts." (Now, I could've freaked out right here. Believe me, it crossed my mind. It's bad enough people tend to assume Sky is being a pain in the a**, but I hate it when they treat him meanly. Still, I knew if I freaked out here, I wouldn't get to the bottom of what was going on, so I kept asking questions.)

"So, just one person,  right?"


"Do you know her name?"

"No, but she's one of the younger ones." (Ugh, does anyone else have this problem? He's terrible with names!)

"Did you tell her you don't like it when she does that?"


"You have to tell her you don't like it. And also that you don't understand what she's saying. Then if she still does it, you have to tell the person in charge."

Here's the thing. I can't always be there. I wish I could. I wish I could tell people to stop being idiots and to embrace difference and to teach their kids not to be jerks. But, I can't. What I can do is teach Sky how to find his voice and the words he can use to advocate for himself.

So, we went over it a few times. He was nervous, but the next day, when he signed in a camp, he told the woman in charge: "There's a staff. I don't know her name. But she doesn't know I can't understand her, and she gets mad and pulls me by the arm. It hurts, and I don't like it. Can you tell her not to do it?"

And, by gosh, they did. 

And fast.


By now, you're probably thinking we've got this all figured out. You may even be worried I'm going to run out of blog topics. Have no fear, because four days after these two amazing communication feats, I had to take Sky out of tennis lessons. He was so overwhelmed by all the new people and the various types of sensory input that he spent the entire hour walking around the court fiddling with tennis balls. He rolled them. He kicked them. He bounced them. He tried to stand on them. In fact, he did everything but hit them with a tennis racket. There are times to persist, and there are times to cut your losses, and when he almost got hit in the head by someone else's racket (which he never saw) for the third time, I knew it was time to walk away.

Maybe next year.

Part 1
Part 3
Part 4


FMBMC said...

Go, Sky!

Keyla said...

I love hearing your stories, they remind me to slow down when talking to my nieces & nephews, only one has a learning issue but as adults we tend to assume they know what we mean all the time but that's not always the case. Now that I sit & listen to each kid and what they have to say, I've gotten to know each one so much better!

Good for Sky to tell the woman in charge, that was probably hard!

Shelley said...

Wow - very impressed (and somewhat envious) that Sky was able to do that! For my 11 year old daughter ("neurotypical", but very shy, especially with adults she does not know), that would be completely out of the realm of possibility.

Mom on the Edge said...

Yeah, it's interesting to think about the debate over whether you should tell your kid he has ASD. In our case, we've opted to tell Sky and to focus on teaching him self-advocacy. Somehow our intentionality on this point has become generalized. He's now willing to tell just about anyone what he "needs."

Shelley said...

I can't think of many "pros" for not telling a child about their diagnosis of almost anything, in an age/comprehension appropriate way. I would think that a child with ASD (obviously depends on the degree) would have a sense that there is something different about him/herself. It seems more empowering to say - this is the issue you have, here is what we do to work on that.

Mom on the Edge said...

Yeah, not telling him was never an option because he has always had a sense that his brain works differently than the kids around him.