I think I might have been feeling smug. All those posts about ASD challenges that we've already weathered were making me feel pretty confident.
Leave it to my Aspie to put me back in check.
Oh how I dread weeks 3-6 of the first semester. I go in there over the summer to meet with the special educator and teacher to review the IEP and let them know the hurdles of the former year, and they smile and nod and take notes, extremely serious and ready for battle. Because 4A's DX comes from the place that it does (and we'll talk about this in our "Journey to DX" series later), everyone takes it seriously and treats it for what it is: accurate and legitimate.
Fast forward to weeks 1-3, and everyone's looking at me like I'm crazy, have three heads, and have never actually spent time with the child I described. I nod, bite my tongue, and brace myself....because I know what's coming in a few weeks.
WHAM!! Week 3 hits, and it starts. This year, in THIRD grade, 4A, during those dreaded weeks, cut her hair, lied and said she hadn't done homework when she actually had, talked a million times when she wasn't supposed to, and forgot homework materials three times. Now, we're all back on the same page. They've realized again that I'm not crazy! ;) Well, I am, but not about her.
Why does this happen every year? I'm not a teacher, but I am a good listener. Here's how Dr. Steve describes it. Every year, the teachers are appropriately a bit lax or slow in enforcing and teaching the classroom rules. The children (typical ones) need explanations of the rules and routines, repetition of the explanations, reminders, and encouragement. After about three weeks, the teachers appropriately expect that the children (typical ones) should now "know the drill" and abide it accordingly. Appropriate and reasonable, of course. Absolutely miserably unfortunate for an Aspie, mine in particular.
Can't be helped, of course. There are way more typical kids in a class than ASD ones, and the majority can and should rule. 4A has an IEP which means that even if the majority needs one thing, 4A is entitled to her thing. But, she's a tricky one, that 4A. She seems so typical now, after all these years of intervention, and she seems to get the drill and roll with it just like the typical ones those first few weeks.
Week 3 hits, stronger or more consistent or more accurate enforcement of the classroom "drill" occurs, and she goes into full-out testing mode. Did you really mean that I'll get a ticket if I don't do my homework? Did you really mean that I have to be quiet when you tell me to? Did you really mean that I'm responsible for my homework stuff? What will you do when I cut my hair? Why does she do this, you ask? Dr. Steve has described it to us like this...4A largely lacks the internal desire to please or do the "right" things. There's nothing in it for her to do it the right way. Doing it the right way, for a typical child, creates the FEELING that the teacher likes her or that she's a good student or that she's made her parents happy. Those FEELINGS are all social conceptions. Because of the neurological impairment caused by her Asperger's, 4A does not experience or understand those social feelings in the same what the others do. If she does the right thing, and the teacher thinks she's a good kid, 4A probably doesn't feel that unless the teacher says so. Moreover, even if she does the right thing and the teacher thinks she's a good kid, if the teacher doesn't say that aloud or doesn't say that aloud EVERY SINGLE time, then 4A might not understand that she actually understand that she is a good kid. So, there's very little for her to gain from doing things the right way. This explanation has helped me a A LOT.
When 4A does the wrong thing, she gets attention for it, guaranteed, in the form of a "talking to" (which, as an aside, NEVER works because she can't make the social connection that it feels bad to have someone disappointed in you), a ticket, whatever. How that girl LOVES attention...positive, negative...doesn't matter...she wants it. That's TERRIFYING as I think of her progressing into adolescence, but I intentionally live in denial about that right now. I have to survive, my friend.
But, I've digressed, I think.
Now, this stuff, this testing around week 3, I've come to learn, is the easy stuff. I expect it, I know what to do about it, we all get back on the serious page, and we put the kabash on 4A with extreme consistency at home and at school. Kid-stuff, really. Easy as pie.
Handling this and posting about those early years was making me feel pretty confident in my ASD prowess, knowledge, and understanding. There's none of that, in Aspie world, my friend. 4A put me right back in my place.
She's showing signs of social struggle and depression. Aspies are prone to depression about the whole "not fitting in" thing, and while there's VERY little data on girl Aspies, it stands to reason, says Dr. Steve, that girl Aspies will suffer even more so because the whole social realm is more important for girls than it is for boys.
4A's bestie spent the night a few weeks ago, and after lights out, bestie said she wasn't having that much fun because they hadn't played the piano or the iCarly game yet. 4A cried hysterically and inconsolably for FORTY FIVE minutes, in front of her bestie. Now, a typical kid would've had their feelings hurt, of course, but would've held it together until the friend left OR cried a bit because of hurt feelings OR, perhaps if socially strong, suggested that they do those things in the morning. 4A went in a downward spiraling fit of hysteria that bestie had decided she didn't want to be friends any more. Not that bestie MIGHT decide not to be friends anymore but that she HAD decided not to be friends anymore because she wasn't having optimal fun.
4A has been making lots of off-the-bus comments that she doesn't have friends or that kids think she's weird. I asked the classroom and reading teachers for help; what does 4A look like socially in school? Apparently, 4A is quirky and funny, the children consider her part of the team but accept her 4A-isms as quirky, and 4A keeps to herself...a LOT.
The other night, when 4A was stomping and screaming and flailing while I brushed her hair because the tangles hurt, I, in a fit of anger, said, "What is your problem?" Hysterical meltdown #2. Carried on for almost near an hour. Saying she hated her life, wish she could get hit by a bus, wanted to make herself sick. Inconsolable. I tried to talk to her for awhile (even though I KNOW that doesn't work), and she was still so hysterical that I put her in her room and told her that she could come out only if she got calm. Came out calm sometime later, after disrupting ALL the other children who were trying to settle to sleep, and was still unable to have a coherent, non-hysterical, non-dismisal chat about things.
When we don't know what to do, we email Dr. Steve. Thank GOD, that man always knows what to do. Always. I gave him all of this info, the teachers' observations and ours, and he's "greatly concerned." He's NEVER said that before. I'm not freaking...really, I'm not. But, I am feeling weary. So, I've dug into my toolbag of faith and support, and I'm getting through. And, we're getting a plan in place. It really will all be okay. It just takes LOTS of time, tenacity, elbow grease, and patience and some money. We can manage all of those things. It will all come out alright on the other side.
But, this all reminded me that I really have no idea what I'm doing. None. I try my best, of course, and most of the time, especially with my typical children, it all turns out alright, but I really am making it up as I go along. I know where I've been, of course, but I can have no idea of knowing where I'm going. With my typical children, I have a pretty good of where I'm going idea based on books or magazines that I read, chats with other parents, watching the older siblings, etc. But, with 4A, it's all uncharted territory. I never know what's gonna come up. Never.
So, please forgive me if/when I sound smug or know-it-all-ish about those earlier years. Rest assured that I really do have no idea what I'm doing.