It’s Friday. I’m happy about this fact. After Monday’s episode of Urgent Care/psychiatrist’s office mania, I’m glad we’re heading into a long weekend. The middle of the week was not something I’m thrilled about either… Early on Wednesday (a day that started OK and then I spilled a whole cup of coffee on the carpet) we got a robo-call from the school. “An incident involving two students. One of them has been taken into custody, and the other has been taken to the hospital for medical attention.” If I had not spilled the coffee, I probably would’ve been sick to my stomach right then.
I called the school and J’s teacher told me that, yes, they were on lockdown, but that J was safe and sound, and doing well “under the circumstances.” It took until nearly noon to hear the news report: a 17 year-old started an altercation with a 14 year-old who then took out a knife and stabbed the other. At 3 P.M., when the bus arrived, the driver and aide told me that as they pulled up to the school, the police told them to stay on the bus with the doors locked until they were escorted into the building. J, they told me, was calm and cooperative in the middle of all this. The only time he got upset was when he was told that he couldn’t go to the lockers in the hallway because “of the clean-up.”
These incidents (whether they happen thousands of miles away, or nearby) always baffle me. I can’t understand why people would interact in such a fashion, and I fear that it has become more “normal” than it should ever be. The worst part is that the whole sordid affair made me feel like J’s problems are insignificant in comparison with what happened between these two kids. I feel terribly guilty about this. I don’t want to feel better about J because someone else has it worse.
On the same day as this happened, a glimmer of information headed our way. J refused to work with one of the people who are part of the staff in his classroom. Not only did he refuse, he refused when it was a task that he enjoys and that actually brings him quite a bit of perks. During this particular task, J gets to socialize with others, listen to music, and has the chance to buy a snack. This task comes every three days (for example: on Wednesday one week, then on Monday, and again on Thursday, and so forth,) and he’s only refused to do it when he has been assigned to work with the same person. I discreetly asked if the person had been present during the Great Meltdown of September and the teacher discreetly responded “yes.”
We have, ladies and gentlemen, a hint of an antecedent.
I’m not glad that he could be set off by someone who works with him. I wish I could tell you that this is the solution to the problem, but it isn’t. If anything, it’s turning the situation of dealing with the sudden onset of behavioral issues all the more delicate a matter. This is not something to be taken lightly, and we need to consider that -while J might feel aversion for this person- other kids benefit from the presence and contributions of this one member of the staff. My son doesn’t rule the roost, and he cannot be the one who determines whether one person should or should not be near him.
J doesn’t dislike people randomly. There’s usually a reason for his reaction, and I’ve seen it happen with several people who, ultimately, had to be phased out of his routine. When I look at the situation through my adult eyes, I think he’s being persnickety, but when I see it from J’s perspective, I can tell that he has good reason to turn against certain individuals. J, like his peers, can often sense discomfort in others more easily than a neurotypical child. J also can sense when a person doesn’t trust what they’re doing, when they’re uncertain of how to proceed. J and his peers tap into an instinct that, as neurotypical beings, we often relinquish in the name of civility. I cannot fault him for using this to make up for whatever “disadvantages” in perception his Autism might cause. So far it has served him well.
Until we can figure out a better way to deal with this animosity and its repercussions, J has been reassigned to other duties on days when he’d have to work directly with this person. I’m fine with that solution. I understand that we can’t change the rotation of the planet to accommodate J’s needs, but I’m also keeping in mind that we might have to come up with more concrete and long-term alternatives in this particular department.
But it’s Friday, and the day is cold and crisp. And the weekend is a long one, and we have things ahead of us that we want to do. This can wait until we all sit down and call a horse a horse, and until we say “this is what we need to do.” Before then there’s some thinking that needs to happen, some planning, some adapting J’s reactions in a positive way.
At least now we have a little more to go on, right? That’s part of the game…a clue, and then…little by little, we figure things out.