Problems Across the Spectrum

I've blogged before about how the perspective having kids that span the spectrum gives me.  Each of them has their own unique problem set, while sharing difficulties that are the base of the spectrum.

The interesting thing is, our oldest is showing us what this is like on his own.

When Sam started out, he was nonverbal.  He did not talk until after 6.  He did not potty train until after 7.  Then he started developing speech, but he never paid much attention to other kids.  He liked having people to tell his stories to, and discuss things (ie. he talked and you nodded and agreed, because interjecting a question or differing opinion was not on the game plan.)  However, he never really had or seemed to want friends.  It didn't seem to bother him that others never invited him to birthday parties or out on group trips.

When he was 12 or 13 he went to a summer day camp at a local church.  It seems a number of kids who went there had their own issues.  When he was told that kids would laugh if he pulled his pants down, he started to.  Fortunately, his TSS saw just in time what was going on and stopped it.  Then the camp staff denied it had anything to do with the other kids, and said it was all just Sam.  That was the last year he went to church camp.  It was also our first clue that Sam craved attention and acceptance from other kids.

Last year, at 14, Sam was kissed by the girl he has called his girlfriend for 2 years now.  They got into a modicum of trouble because they did it in the main hall of school.  The kids who are having sex in the gym and their parents' basements know better how to hide their activities.

Last week, Sam was in a class when they were told to pair up.  The teacher recommended a few classmates.  What the teacher didn't see was the recommended kids laugh and mock him when he tried to join them.  So he tried to join a boy who had already requested to work alone.  He just wanted to join in and obey the direction from the teacher.

Before he would have worked alone with no problems, except that he wasn't obeying the rule.  Now he wanted to join in, and was rejected.  And he knew it.

He has gone from withdrawn and difficult to reach, to reaching out and being rejected.  From nonverbal, to totally scripted speech, to telling me to leave him alone and let him do his homework "independently."

Sam's progress is amazing.  He has come so far and has so far to go.  And I see the advantages and disadvantages of each stage.

Back when he didn't talk and rarely interacted with his peers, he was safer.  Immune to the outrageous and hateful behavior of other peers.  To ignoring, or worse harassing.

Now he has what we always wanted: the desire and ability to interact with his peers.  But he still lacks competence.  And this is middle school.  The age of fitting in.  Where you keep from sinking by standing on the bodies of others.  Where sarcasm begins.

And here we are still teaching Sam the definition of sarcasm.

So we wait for his development to catch up, while we do our best to arm him against the bullies.  Bullies who exclude him.  Bullies who taunt him.  Bullies who may physically hurt him.

He has a small circle of (girl) friends.  Who we hope will provide some protection.

He has started to speak up loudly against the bullies, which is good.  It alerts others immediately, while the behavior (hopefully) can't be denied.

But I don't know how to protect him more.

Girls, bullies, fitting in.  Who knew we would come so far?

And who knew it would still be so hard?

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