One of my daughters happens to have Asperger's Syndrome. This is a form of Autism. It is a little different than what people think of when they hear about Autism, Rachel is verbal and extremely bright. Her disability comes into play mostly when she is faced with social issues, unexpected changes, and sensory conflicts. As a parent, there is nothing that I would change about my daughter. She is funny, sweet, and shares a perspective of the world I never would have experienced were she not an "Aspie".
School has been both a breeze and a challenge all at the same time for her. If she could go to school and only have to deal with the pure academics of things, she would be a star student. However, as we all know, there are "hidden rules" in school. In school kids are supposed to just "get it" when it comes to how to react and behave to all sorts of situations. The funny thing is, when you look at things from her perspective nine out of ten times she is right. As a child I hated having to to do what I considered busy work, repeating something I have already learned over and over again, but I understood that it is something that we were expected to do. Rachel's view is that she learned it so let's move on ( she is logical, but getting her to see the overall picture is very hard).
Being Rachel's mom can be stressful at times, but mostly it is fun! Sometimes it is both. I feel the stress "in the moment" but can't help but look back and laugh. One of these such moments occurred in first grade. There was a substitute for the day and that had wrecked havoc with her routine. As all teachers do when there is a sub ( I know I am one such teacher) lots of review ( busy work) is assigned. Rachel was having none of this and pretty much had a full on tantrum. Her aide took her out into the hallway to calm down and the ESE specialist came by to talk to Rachel. Rachel's tantrum can also be quite loud. To this day her speaking voice is very high and quiet in a sing-song manner. However, when she screams, walls come tumbling down. So joining the group was the assistant principal.
I got the phone call at home, as I was still on maternity leave, and really was speechless when I was told what she did. More than speechless, I was mortified. I, a teacher in the same school system was being told that my daughter, my sweet little girl....MOONED THE ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL, HER AIDE, THE ESE SPECIALIST, AND ANYONE ELSE WHO HAPPENED TO WALK BY AT THAT MOMENT!
Apparently, while they were trying to "talk it out" with Rachel she turned around and pulled down her uniform bottoms. When asked "What are you doing?!" by the ESE Specialist. Rachel innocently replied, "I'm shooting the moon."
"umm....I don't know what to say...." was my brilliant response to the ESE Specialist when she called me on the phone. I did hear muffled laughter in the background and could tell she was having a hard time speaking to me with a straight face. What did they think she was seeing at home? was my first thought. As a teacher it is easy to make the connection to children's behaviors at school as something they picked up at home. Did they think I actually taught this to my six year old?
After this disturbing phone call I immediately did what any parent would do, I called my spouse. He was at work at the time and when I told him what happened I expected him to be as furious and mortified as I was. But what did I hear when I finished the story? Laughter. Great big belly rolling, knee slapping, tear forming laughter. How were we going to discipline our child if her father couldn't stop laughing? I told him between breaks of guffaws that he better be straight faced when he got home. I wasn't sure if he even heard me as he was already busy trying to tell his coworkers (between breaths of course) what his daughter did at school ( a proud moment, I'm sure).
So, of course I was the one faced with dealing with our little hooligan when school let out that day. Upon quizzing Rachel about the incident, she really did not understand what she did was wrong. Rachel had apparently found the e-greeting cards section on AOL ( we have since filtered, BTW) and was perusing the humor section. Rachel likes jokes, she collects joke books and memorizes jokes. Her sweet little mind saw a funny e-card in which a cartoon character was "shooting the moon". Since it was in the humor section, it was to her an acceptable joke to share with others. She did not get that it was "not appropriate". So, with a straight face ( at this point it was also hard for me) I had to explain about appropriate humor and inappropriate humor. She looked at me, said "okay" and bounced off innocently to play in her room.
Nowadays we deal with lots of questions about social appropriateness, but I will never forget the lesson that I learned about no matter how much you think your child understands, there is always a surprise that will smack you right upside the head waiting for you around the corner.
©2012 Amy E. Silverstein. All rights reserved.