Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Four minutes...

It took just four minutes to wreck my kid today. **sigh** B started out the day saying "hooray, we have gym today!"... this is such an incredible turn-around from his previous attitude to gym class that it made my heart sing. B is not the easiest kid to motivate toward physical activity, add to this that he's pretty self-conscious about his awkwardness (due to low muscle tone, proprioceptor difficulties, lingering visual difficulties, & his sensory processing differentness), so it really has been a triumph that he's been enjoying gym class so much. At B's school, beginning in 2nd grade, the kids go to the local YMCA for 10 weeks of swimming & 10 weeks of gym (mostly group tag & that sort of thing) during the winter. The gym portion of this year got off to a bit of a rocky start because the kids weren't getting any free play time at the end of gym class- & they really wanted it. The teachers managed to impress the importance of the free time on the teachers at the Y &, until today, this has been one of B's favourite parts of his time there...

When I arrived at school to pick him up they were just getting off the bus from the Y. B had a scowl on his face & didn't even smile when he saw me pull in. He handed his backpack to his consultant teacher, Cherie, who had gone with them to the gym today, & disappeared inside to get the rest of his stuff... Cherie said that there had been some difficulty at the end of class & B had ended-up screaming in frustration, which caused some of the kids to yell at him (making things worse). She had been watching the class from a window into the gym & hadn't seen anything happen, but it was clear that he was really upset. When B came out of school he brushed by Cherie & wanted to just go home. I suggested we go inside & find out what had happened... I figured that Cherie would be picking up the pieces tomorrow, so should be in on the story. B got very defensive & accused us of talking behind his back, but we got him to agree to go in with us. We only got as far as the stairwell just inside the door when it all came spilling out (loud in that echoey space)- during their precious free time today, all four minutes of it, some of his buddies had ganged-up on him & thrown balls at him, some hitting him in the face. It seemed to have been part of a game they were playing, but B was furious with them. He ranted about people not caring about others' feelings, just because of a stupid game, and accused them of trying to "kill" him when they threw the balls and hit him in the face... I gently explained that getting hit in the face with a ball wouldn't generally kill anyone, but at that moment one of the parties involved came down the stairs on his way out of school. B was still really angry, but I was impressed that he didn't yell at him (he did mutter imprecations, but it was very subtle). Not long after another one came down and observed that B looked upset. B said "I don't want to talk about it now" through gritted teeth, & Cherie assured the boy that they would talk about it tomorrow. Cherie & I both praised B fro being so civil to him, even though he was very angry. We both assured him that he would have a chance to tell these boys how he'd felt about what they'd done tomorrow. B was initially ready to write them off (although I did point out, semi-humourously, that one of them had already accepted the invitation to B's birthday party...) but we reminded him that this was not what people in the Cobblestone community do. We decided to go home then & leave things till tomorrow...

In the car B was still very angry, then erupted in rage & dismay when he realised that he'd forgotten to talk to Cherie about his homework for that afternoon. I made sure I had his attention (calmly asking him to listen to me a few times until he could) then said I was giving him the day off of homework. This really calmed him down, although the rage then turned to tears. How could these friends do this to him? How could they hurt him & not listen to him, all for the sake of a stupid game? Whenever we talk about kids & their behaviour, I refer to them as "super growing people" (since we're all always growing, no matter how old we are). I gently reminded him that growing people of all ages make mistakes, but super growing people sometimes do things like this because they can be thoughtless. They just haven't learned to be thoughtful consistently yet. I also reminded him that these were friends & deserved a second chance. B agreed though his tears, & then said that, when he said that they were killing him, he didn't mean that they were physically killing him, but spiritually. I was rather blown away by this perspective, it was so eloquent, & thanked him for explaining that to me. I suggested that he might want to repeat that to his friends tomorrow, so they'd understand how it felt to him. In trying to comfort B, one thing that I did not bring up was that all of the boys involved are also on the spectrum & have many of the difficulties with socialisation that B does. It's probably inevitable that kids with difficulty reading social situations are going to do insensitive things in the name of fun (certainly kids who are supposedly just "fine" socially do this all the time), & I'm wondering if some of B's outrage comes from knowing that these kids are like him (and he does know- he's had them pegged without any prompting or assistance from us since early on), & his thinking that they should be looking out for one-another. By the time we got home, B had calmed down, & our conversation turned to what to have for snack. I suggested we watch the Fruits Basket dvd that had arrived today, as a nice diversion.

He enjoyed the Fruits Basket very much (so did I :) but he was still touchy all afternoon & evening. When C came home B went out to meet him & spilled the whole story again before they even made it into the house. I don't think I've ever seen him so deeply distraught by on an "incident" like this. The only thing approaching this was when he took an intense dislike to a school friend (who had been a buddy until things went sour) in 2nd grade, over an unresolved issue between them. When B developed the OCD, this boy became a trigger of intrusive thoughts & we really had to work with B on not demonising him, reminding him that, no matter what had happened, this kid was a good person at heart. At the time there was no way for B to face the depth of his anger at this boy & no amount of encouraging would let B see him as anything but bad. It was tough to see him struggle with this situation, & tough to see my sweet kid so hemmed-in by his anger. It took 1 1/2 years, but Cherie (bless her) finally got B to talk to this boy & sort things out & they have been friends ever since (interestingly, what upset B in the first place was that this boy had hurt B's feelings & not acknowledged that any sort of transgression had taken place- was quite oblivious of it). This boy was also one of those involved with today's upset, which was not a surprise to me, really :) Today's experience seemed to have an immediacy & intensity that was different, though.

I found it very heartening that today B agreed, without much coaxing, to sit down with Cherie & the boys tomorrow & talk about what happened. I hope that B follows through & doesn't let his feelings fester like they did the last time. I believe that these boys are good, sweet guys & will be horrified by the effect their game had on B. I really hope that B won't let this incident poison his feelings about gym class, too (arrgh!). The main thing is that I'm so glad that he'll have the chance to face his strong feelings, share them, & have a reasonable chance of being listened-to. It would be great if he can come out of this situation with new skills & understanding of others. Fingers crossed...

1 Comments:

At 3:39 PM, Blogger not my blg said...

Jedi,

I think B's reaction is normal for a child who has a sense of injustice, which all of us near the spectrum or on the spectrum have. However, it may take B longer to understand that our feelings of justice will be tempered with wisdom which I guess comes with age. I have to check my "justice meter" everyday or I just get worked up in a frenzy over all the injustice in the world, even small injustices which we have to learn to live with or we can't function. No one ever taught me that it's ok to be mad over someone elses unjustified actions. My mother would say something to me along these lines "So and so is jealous or so and so must not have been taught the proper way". I think her observations weren't the right way to handle how I was feeling because it made me feel that other people weren't as good as me, which was wrong. Her narcissism persists today and we no longer are able to get along for extended periods.

 

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