Friday, January 8, 2016

Letting the Cat Out of the Bag

The other day Ethan came home from school and as usual tossed his backpack in the middle of the floor. I retrieved the crumpled papers. On this day there were a lot of them: assignments on telling time (which he's known how to do since kindergarten!), various school flyers. There was a large self-portrait he'd drawn in which he looked, as best as I can tell, like an obese Incredible Hulk. "Those are all of my muscles!" he explained.

Then there was a paper all about him. (Favorite food? Tacos and pizza. Favorite holiday? Christmas. And so on.) Then I saw a section on the bottom of the paper and I understood exactly what was going on.

We've had an on and off discussion all year with the person who runs Ethan's social skills group on how to approach the fact that Ethan WANTS to tell kids about his autism. The consensus we came to is that we would follow his lead, and that she would begin to work up to it being talked about in group by having the kids think about what makes them unique, their likes and dislikes, hobbies, and so on and then sharing that information with the other kids.

The section on the bottom read, and Ethan filled in:

My brain is Since I have atisum, I always focus on one thing, and I like to be quiet almost all the time.

Wow. Although I don't quite understand the liking being quiet. I think he means he doesn't want people bothering him when he's focusing on something.

I got a call that night from the social worker who runs the group, who helped fill in the blanks. Apparently Ethan had gotten a little nervous when it was his turn to share, but she had helped him. Each of the kids had shared something about themselves that they struggle with ("I have trouble focusing in class"..."It's hard for me to finish my work."). When Ethan made his big announcement, they had all kind of nodded and shrugged, listening but not thinking too much of the whole thing. Essentially, they acted the way you'd expect a group of second graders to act. They acted the way I'd hope they'd act -- like this was just a part of Ethan, but it didn't change anything, really.

I tried to get him to talk about the group around bedtime, but he wasn't in the mood. He wanted to chat about Wii games and about the level he'd reached in his new board game, Gravity Maze.

That was fine. He doesn't always need to be psychoanalyzed. This will come up again when the time is right.

I went to bed feeling very grateful. My son expressed a need and we figured out a way to make it happen. While the school hasn't always given Ethan exactly what he needs, as far as social skills training, they've often come very close. This was a very big win...and hopefully a positive memory Ethan will always have as he learns to navigate who is in in this world.

That paper that came home? I can't stop smiling about two other gems.

There was a line that read I'm special because and he filled in I have a lot of friends.

While I'm not entirely sure that's true, the social worker does says that he's genuinely liked. Oh, how I pray that continues when he treads those treacherous middle school waters.

And the other one?

The last line read When I grow up I want to be...

He wrote: A draw bridge operator. (If I get fired, I will be a video game tester).

Sounds like a very good plan to me.

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