I am struggling to know exactly what to share with you all and what to keep private and see how the year starts off for J. To be honest, I don’t want to color your vision of Joseph before you get a chance to know him. In all fairness, however, I want for you, his teachers, principals, nurse, librarians, aides and the rest of the devoted staff at GE to know his possible challenges. J is an extremely bright, kind, loving, wonderful little boy who happens to have Asperger’s Syndrome.
He comes with a unique set of challenges-as do all children- not just those on the spectrum. One of J’s greatest challenges is knowing how others are feeling-especially in relation to himself. If you are frustrated with his behavior and choices (which you will surely be- he is an eight year old boy, after all) you have to verbalize this. He cannot pick up on the social cues that one gives. It’s not that he doesn’t care; he cares greatly and wants to please. It’s that, often, he does not know how to unless he is given specific instructions. He has to be told what you want and need him to do.
Another area of challenge for J is eye contact. It’s almost painful for him. He taught himself to look at people in the general area, but cannot maintain even that for more than a moment or two. He often seems as though he is not listening as he’s looking around the room and fidgeting; however, more often than not, he is. Often for kids on the spectrum, looking at faces can give them too much input to sort and file in their brains. This leads me to another challenge for Joe.
Children on the spectrum often experience the world in a much more intense way in regards to their sensory processing than you and I. They receive a barrage of information that can be SO intense that it is painful. Imagine trying to block out the hum of lights and electricity, birds chirping on the playground, talking in a room four doors down, the smells that come along with school and so on and so on all while trying to maintain calm and order within so that you can do the one thing you love most in life – learn. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting. Add to that a sense of anxiety that never quite goes away. This can lead to stimms (for J this can be squawking, flapping, rocking, pinching himself) ticks and the dreaded meltdown. I am hopeful you won’t experience this issue.
Part in parcil with the ASD, and Sensory Issues is Auditory Processing Disorder. Here is a prime example of this in J:
One Morning. J to me, “Mama, why are you dressed so early?” Me to J, “Because we are out of groceries and we’re going to go get some breakfast.” J, “ok.” Five minutes later, J to me, “When are you going to fix breakfast?” Me to J, “What did I tell you a few minutes ago, Buddy?” J, “Oh…”
This shows that he didn’t process the information given until I asked him to recall. This is not always the case, but sometimes.
We expect J to behave. We expect for him to be challenged. We, at home, treat meltdowns in a much different way than a tantrum. Tantrums are short and easily diffused. Meltdowns are entirely different. They occur, for J, when all coping mechanisms have failed him. Please do NOT try to talk him out of a meltdown. This makes things worse for him because he wants to please you and he is in a moment of not being able to. Also, it’s more sensory input at a time when he cannot take it and use it. Usually, a “cool down” spot and some time to get himself together are all that is needed. Later, when the meltdown has passed and he is under control and is able to communicate, talking can help. Although, it can bring his anxiety back to a boil…
J’s previous teachers(insert names) are an excellent source of knowledge on how to help J succeed as is (insert LSSP's name). I hope that this note hasn’t scared you to death. Joseph is a wonderful child and truly wants to learn. He seeks knowledge constantly. He is enthusiastic, warm, sensitive, funny, silly and just plain AWESOME. My goal for this year, as a helicopter mama, is to hover just out of sight...keep my radar up but give the boy some room to stretch his own, wonderful, beautiful, fabulous puzzle piece wings.
Please, feel free to contact me anytime. My cell phone number is ###-###-####; I keep it with me at ALL times. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I feel like writing it has helped me understand Joe in a way that only putting things down in words can do.
Some books I’ve found helpful to understanding Joe are:
(On being 2E-Gifted and having learning differences) Different Minds: Gifted Children with AD/HD, Asperger Syndrome and Other Learning Disabilities by Deirdre Lovecky 1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism or Asperger’s by Ellen Nothbohm and Veronica Zysk Autism Spectrum Disorders in the Mainstream Classroom: How to Reach and Teach Students with ASDs by Barbara Boroson
I have these books in my personal collection and would be happy to loan them out.
Thanks Again, Kristi
Helpful links about ASD, Aspergers and Twice Exceptional kids: