January 28, 2009 by Marj Hatzell
One thing that is difficult with having a VERBAL child on the autism spectrum is the fact that while they can be quite chatty and charming, they tend to state facts rather than express feelings. What this means is that you will learn what everyone in the class is wearing, you will find out how many trips to the bathroom John or Sara had and you will know who was absent and for how long. You will also find these things out about all of the other second grade classes. But that old question, “How was your day?” Not answered. Ever. Good days, bad days, doesn’t matter. I can tell by his mood when he gets home. So I try to ask specific questions to get specific answers. I ask him what he learned in math, what he read that day, what he got for lunch, etc. From there I can usually keep the conversation going long enough to find out if he liked a particular topic or if so-and-so rubbed him the wrong way. It is challenging to tease this information out of him.
This IS the child who went three days with a broken arm before we knew he was even in pain. This is also the same child who will crawl under his desk at school when he is sick or just get up and collapse himself on the reading circle carpet (instead of raising his hand and saying, “Gosh, I feel _______. May I go to the nurse?” ). The teacher typically has to have her radar turned on (and thankfully, this teacher is VERY in tune with him) and ask him if he wants to go to the nurse. That’s when he gives her a blank stare and says, “Why? I’m fine!” as he is retching and vomiting on the carpet.
Yeah, fun times.
Bug Boy came home yesterday and sat down to do his homework. He was cheery and chatty and cooperative. I didn’t have to ask him to erase one word and rewrite it, he knew all of his spelling words and was rattling off multiplication facts. He played nicely with the neighborhood kids. He ate a not-so-favorite-dinner without ONE COMPLAINT. I thought I was living in a parallel universe, I must say. He is NEVER, EVER this happy. I mean, he’s happy. Just not as happy and carefree as I’d like. The kid is always carrying something on his shoulders. The brow furrows, the lips get all cute and pouty and he hangs his head and sighs. He won’t tell me anything is wrong but if I ask the right questions, we usually get to the bottom of it. But last night? Last night I NEVER would have suspected anything was amiss.
Suddenly, Bug Boy flipped like a switch. He went into a rampage. He has had issues with raging tempers before but I have never seen him attack another child. To be fair, this fourteen-year-old boy can be quite, erm, different to deal with. And the boy turned off the television before Bug Boy was ready. I know he was trying to help me get Bug Boy to comply. But if there is one thing I’ve learned it is that Bug Boy has to be the one to decide whether or not he’s ready to follow directions. He can be quite obstinate. Especially when he “hasn’t saved his game.” Oooooooh Boy.
Let’s just say he freaked out. He screamed, he stomped his feet, he threw things. He went after the two-hundred-pound-plus football player in my kitchen. The boy stared at me, shocked. I tried to calm him down. He was in HYSTERICS. He sat in another room, rocking himself and moaning. We attempted to talk to him and he screamed and yelled at us, “GET AWAY FROM ME! GET AWAY FROM ME! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!” when he was a little calmer, I stood a few feet away and told him he needed to use words to tell us he needed a moment or needed quiet time. I then sent him up to get a shower (it would calm him down instantly and kill two birds with one stone, since he was stinky from p.e.) and sent the other kids home. When he came down forty-five minutes later (I think I have the cleanest eight-year-old on the planet) he disappeared. We knew he’d resurface eventually and left him alone. An hour went by. Not a sound from Bug Boy. Bugaboo was in bed at this point so the husband walked around looking in the usual hiding places (the reading “club” closet, under his bed, under the dining room table, behind the couch). No Bug Boy. Finally, The husband panicked and asked me to help him find Bug Boy. As I walked through the dining room, I heard a sound coming from under the dry sink. We opened the doors, and crammed in two square feet of space was Bug Boy.
After talking to him and slowly teasing out information, we learned that he was upset because another boy won’t let him in a “club” at school. He and this other boy have been not getting along all year. They constantly compete for attention, they are both quite intelligent and are always trying to best each other. They are also both very sensitive. If one of them glances in the other’s direction, the teacher gets an ear-full. If one of them breathes too heavy, she is the first to know. We’ve had many pow-wows with these two. And then Bug Boy dropped another bomb: The boy accused him of bragging.
I had no idea Bug Boy even knew what bragging is. He does now. It seems that when the teacher was teaching a lesson on beginning multiplication yesterday, Bug Boy was able to answer every question. The other boy was a teensy bit jealous. He asked Bug Boy why he knew all of the answers and if Bug Boy was cheating. Bug Boy replied, “No. It’s just because I’m really smart.”
Uh….yeah. He said that.
That’s when we had a conversation that it was ok to THINK you are very smart, and KNOW you are very smart, but you have to be MODEST about being smart. Like, we want you to like yourself, we want you to know we like you, just don’t tell everyone how awesome you are. I mean, you are awesome to US. WE like you just the way you are…Sigh. But you cannot go around saying, “I have the coolest hair ever. My mom is the best cook, better than you guys. I am smarter than most of the people in the class.” Once again, factual. The kid really had no idea that he was bragging, he was just presenting evidence as he knew it. He knows he is far ahead in math and reading. No one has ever told him this, he just gets it. He was just telling it as he saw it. I really don’t think he was trying to be cheeky or that he thought he was ALL THAT.
Here’s the fun thing about talking to Bug Boy. Think ADHD. Think tangent. Think LOTS OF TANGENTS. Like, “Mom. He accused me of bragging. I wasn’t bragging. Did you know the duck is my least favorite animal? I just knew the answers because I’m smart. I like math. I love multiplication. I really like red because it’s my favorite color.”
And our heads begin spinning. And my eyes roll back in my head and then my temples begin to throb because I cannot follow the conversation. And my husband says that it is PRECISELY like talking to me. I guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But I’ll never admit it. NEVER. Be careful what you say. You know how people say, “If I start acting like my mother, slap me!” Well, let’s just say I’ve been slapped a few thousand times. And Bug Boy is in for it. Hooooooooboy. He’s in for it. He looks exactly like his father but I am raising me. In a boys body. Paybacks are a b*tch.