Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Navigating the Aftermath

It figures that once I get in the groove of posting, I find myself embroiled in a school dispute that leaves me reticent to discuss it in a public forum. Just now it occurred to me that I can certainly discuss, in broader terms, the challenges of supporting a child on the autism spectrum who is being bullied.

First, let me open it up:  If you have ANY resources, books, hints, tips, advice, etc., hit me up, seriously.

This is tough stuff!

Here I have a child who is verbally and (in some areas) academically advanced beyond his eight-and-a-half years, yet has the social-emotional development and impulse control of a three-year-old. (And this may be a generous assessment -- the last professional to give me a developmental age pegged him as a two-year old in terms of social development. We've made some progress since then, but...)

Here also is a child whose default reaction to stress and challenges is anger. In a burst of self-awareness, Blink recently told me he has trouble thinking when he gets angry. "And then bad things happen," he grimaced as he explained it to me.

A child who sees the world in absolutes, in blacks and whites. A boy who has a limited ability to understand social situations, nonverbal language, and social nuances.

A child who "gets stuck" on ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Guess what he's stuck on now? Feeling persecuted at school.

This is not a recipe for success.  And when a school's leadership oh-so-helpfully suggests that if you're concerned, you take your child elsewhere (and don't let the door hit you on the way out) it is, well, maddening.

So here I am. Everyone wants to talk about Blink's "responsibility" and his "choices."  Because if there's anything that my laundry list above is a recipe for, it's behavioral challenges.  And I get that. I am dealing with the aftermath day in and day out, of course. I do not wish to give the impression that I'm just giving Blink a free pass here. We do talk about making good choices and staying calm, yadda, yadda, yadda.

But what would you expect of a three-year-old who was being bullied?  You would expect the adults to keep that child safe, physically and emotionally, because a three-year-old is not developmentally ready to  handle this situation himself. And that's how I feel about Blink. His stress levels have gone through the roof and he needs to know the adults in his life are committed to keeping him safe.

It reminds me of Ross Greene's mantra. "Kids do well when they can."

So I am trying to walk the line between letting my son know that I am taking this seriously and feeding into the well of angry indignation inside him. It's hard to keep the doors of communication open with someone who can rant about being wronged for an hour. I'm looking for ways to lessen the impact of the stress on him.

I'm loving on him the best I can. What else can a mother do?

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