I figured that if I gave my post a title like FREAKY FRIDAY, it might lighten up the subject matter. Lately, it seems Friday has become the day for tragic posts involving my son’s development. As I often do, I’ve entered that stage of acceptance where I begin viewing his newly diagnosed syndrome with humor. Laughter is the best medicine, right?
My little guy and I spent a considerable amount of time in the pediatrician’s office yesterday. Have I told you how much I love our pediatrician? So does Joe.
Yes, he still has ADHD and we’re adjusting his medication to help those symptoms.
It also seems that he has Aspberger Syndrome…which is what I have suspected for quite some time. My gut was right.
When he was two and we were living in Boston, Joe went to an amazing preschool run by an amazing teacher. Her name was Siobhan. Siobhan and I both remarked that he had trouble making eye contact. It was then that I became aware that he didn’t play with the other children. He was just never fully socially engaged. From the age of two, Joe preferred building extremely complex structures with Magnetix. So much so, that one day, Siobhan saved one of his structures to show me. It was two feet tall and perfectly symmetrical in design and color. That structure presented a troubling mixture of amazement and alarm.
That summer, we went to Martha’s Vineyard and I bought Joe a wooden box filled with complicated Curious George puzzles. He sat in a restaurant and completed all four puzzles in less than thirty minutes and without any help.
When he was three, he became obsessed with two DVDs from a NOVA series called The Elegant Universe. He watched it every day, choosing theoretical physics, string theory and Michio Kaku over shows like Sesame Street or Thomas.
My guy has never really made a best friend. He’s not like the other guys. Group situations either cause him to find a solitary task or behave awkwardly.
In New Hampshire, Joe went to the Exeter Day School. It was there that a boy punched our four year old son in the stomach on the playground. Later, at summer camp, I watched a boy push and kick him while I sat in the carpool line. He was yelling at the boy to stop and the teachers leading the camp were nearby, but no one helped him. When we brought the situation to the staff’s attention, the woman said, “Well, Joe tends to go off by himself. He doesn’t play with the other kids…” as if was Joe’s fault that he was being hurt. That woman never apologized or explained why Joe’s behavior was never brought to our attention. We pulled Joe from that camp and cancelled Gwen’s planned preschool attendance.
Kindergarten began and Joe’s issues became more evident. Carpet time proved to be one of the biggest areas of difficulty. Joe wanted to lay down. Joe invaded the space of other children. Joe wasn’t picking up on social cues.
We moved to Maine that year and Joe finished Kindergarten here but his troubles have continued. Trouble with carpet time and coordination and bullying and tears.
Last year, Joe didn’t qualify for the 504 because he is too “academically advanced.” In the meantime, he struggles socially and his self-esteem has plummeted. At bedtime the other night, Joe said, “It’s easier for me to bad than it is for the other kids. For them, it’s easy to be good.” I assured him that he’s a good boy. A smart boy. A kind boy. A loved boy.
His diagnosis doesn’t change the way I view my son. Not at all. However, it makes me more aware of the way he is treated by people who don’t know. Strangers, teachers, family and friends who don’t know or understand that he is not purposely being naughty. I don’t want him to feel labeled, but I do want to empower him. Mostly, I want him to know that he is loved. I want him to go school and enjoy his time there without feeling like a bad boy, or a different boy or a boy who will be picked on.
And so, we begin the journey to give our son what he needs.