Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Part Four: The Great Divide

Sorry for the fuzziness. Not easy to get an action shot!
My last post could really be summed up in a single sentence: Sky didn't do what he was told, so he had to sit out for part of trampoline class.

So, what? 

Exactly! So what.

See, when you have a non-typically developing kid, it's all the little stuff that trips you up. On the surface, Sky got what he deserved for being silly and not listening. But, on the other hand, he got put into a (very public) time out simply because he didn't properly follow John's instructions!

This is the part we have struggled with, still struggle with, and will probably, at least on some level, always struggle with. We want Sky to be typical in his interactions with his peers. We want him to be held to the same standards of behavior and to be treated in similar ways to his peers. After all, these things are necessary for him to make his way in the world without us. But, sometimes, he just can't bridge the gap between where he is and where his peers are. Sometimes the gap is like a crack in the sidewalk, easy to navigate and no big deal. But other times, it as big as the Grand Canyon. And there's really no guidebook for bridging a divide like that.

So, last Monday, I found myself standing in front of the parents' bleachers with a tearful Sky and no good idea of what to do. I couldn't send him back out to the floor to wither under the silent criticism of John, but I also didn't want him to quit doing something he loved just because he couldn't figure out how to get along with the instructor. Then again, I didn't want to talk to the gym manager, either, because I figured doing so would only escalate the problem. For a good 2 minutes, I just stood there contemplating the options while Sky cried silently beside me.

I decided the least bad choice was to talk to the gym manager. 

"Look," I said, "I'm sure John is a good coach, but if I can't at least give him a head's up when Sky is having a more challenging day, then I'm not sure what to do. I mean, I'd love it if Sky could come in every time and demonstrate consistently good behavior. But, if he could do that, he probably wouldn't have an autism diagnosis. I don't want to use autism as an excuse, but I also want to recognize there are still some areas that need work and punishing him for those seems unfair."  

I didn't say much else, because then she turned her attention to hearing and understanding Sky. He told her he was trying his best and he understood that sometimes he didn't do things the right way. He told her it was hard to wait so long for turns, and that sometimes he felt like the other kids laughed at him. He told her he wished John would believe him when he says he really is trying. She asked him if he liked trampoline, and he said, "Yes, I just wish I could do it by myself so people wouldn't misunderstand me so much."

It was kind of amazing and kind of heartbreaking all at the same time. All the joy, all the sorrow.

We left with a promise that she would talk to John and get back to me soon. A few days later, I got this:

After speaking with John, he and I feel that perhaps the best option for Sky is to find another class time or private lessons. I am willing to open up a class to teach Sky myself if we can find a time that works for both your family and my schedule. I know that you also have Pink in a class at the same time, so if you could give me a call, we can try and find something that works.
I would like Sky to feel confident and successful at the end of his class. While John is a wonderful teacher and I think he has been good for Sky, I'm just not sure we are all able to come to an agreement on the best way to work with Sky when he is having a bad day. 

So, we talked, and we set up a time for her to teach an "invitation only" trampoline class. Apparently, there are other boys who need the same kind of support Sky does. The first lesson, it was just Sky and his new teacher. She kept him bouncing and engaged the entire time, and he came off the floor excited and proud. "Did you see how awesome I did, Mom?" he asked When I asked him if he liked his new lesson, he said, "I loved it. It was the best ever!"

So, all's well that ends well, I guess. I mean, on the one hand, I'm really glad (and extremely grateful) that the gym manager recognized the need and was (finally) willingly made changes so that Sky could continue on with trampoline lessons. But, on the other hand, he's in a class by himself, separated again by the sometimes seemingly untraversable canyon between himself and his peers.


Stephanie said...

Observations from the outside:
I wouldn't view it as a permanent canyon, or even a canyon at all. Sky may need to be in a class by himself for awhile until that part alone isn't overstimulating so he can handle the excitement of being with other kids, too.

And quite frankly, he may do much better with another instructor. It sounds like John was the inflexible one here. If Sky has an instructor that's more willing to hear even just a heads up about Sky's mood, or believe that Sky's reasons really are reasons and not excuses, I'm guessing the class would go a lot more smoothly for Sky.

Katie said...

I wish you could come to our gym! They are amazing with all sorts of kids. So amazing. They do PT and OT, and integrate kids back in with neurotypical kids as soon as they can, with their helper and then without. I adore them. We previously went to a gym known for their Olympians (it is closer! Only 5 mins away!), but not so much for dealing with real kids.

Mom on the Edge said...

Katie, your gym sounds awesome!

Stephanie, I know it's not a permanent canyon; I'm just tired of hitting the same hurdle time and again and constantly torn as to the best way to handle it (and therefore prone to hyperbole ;) ) . It does feel like an insurmountable gap at times, but I'm sure there will be a time when we don't still have this particular struggle...