Saturday, September 26, 2015

An Interesting Dilemma

While Ethan's bus troubles have (thankfully) quieted down, he's obviously still thinking about them, and the kids he wishes he got along with better. Out of the blue a few weeks ago he said, "I want to tell them I have autism. Then they will understand why I do things they don't understand."

I'm sure there will be a time down the road, sadly, when Ethan is not happy about his diagnosis, but at this point, explaining it to him has been tremendously beneficial. I think having a word to describe the things he does that make him different from the average person, or why people laugh or don't understand certain things he says, has been both a comfort, and like a key opening a door to a whole new way of seeing things.

Last week he said to me, "Do you want to know another thing I do because I have autism? When there's a problem that needs to be solved, I snap my fingers three times and pretend the Ooompa Loompas (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) are coming to fix it. Then I do this--" He showed me the thumbs-up sign.

Wow. Just, wow. I'd never even noticed. And not only that: something in his 7-year-old mind was able to detect that this behavior was, well, atypical.

While I'm happy that he's feeling happy in his own skin, the idea of him telling kids on the bus straight out, "I have autism!" gave me pause.

Who knows if they even know the word. If not, would Ethan know how to properly explain? It's hard enough for an adult to explain, or understand, never mind a bunch of kindergarten through second graders.

Beyond that, I was concerned that Ethan thought telling them about his autism would be the magic wand that makes these kids suddenly understand and like him. In reality, they might just not be very nice kids. But I didn't want to say that.

I decided to shoot an email to the social worker who is doing his social skills group this year. I thought she might have some ideas, or maybe could even think of a way to bring this up in the group. A few days later she called me back....and she was stumped, too.

She said they couldn't cover the topic in the social skills group because the other kids weren't aware they had a diagnosis or were different.

She wasn't sure if they could really approach the topic with kids Ethan's age, because they were too young, she thought, to truly understand and have the level of empathy Ethan was looking for.

"I've only had Ethan for a few weeks, but I can see he's incredibly bright and insightful," she said. "A lot of other kids, even typical kids, just aren't at that level of understanding at this age."

She told me she'd think about it and get back to me. I haven't heard from her yet.

This whole thing has left me feeling a little uncomfortable.

On one hand, I understand her point. I forget sometimes that in more ways than one, Ethan is not your average second grader. The way he has grasped autism and how his mind is ticking is pretty amazing. Maybe early elementary kids can't be expected to truly "get" it.

But I have a child here who wants to share about himself, and I feel uncomfortable telling him that he can't. Especially when, recently, another child he knows who has developed a health issue has shared it with other kids.

I don't know how to explain to him that physical, medical issues, and in general things we can see, are easier to understand than trying to explain what occurs in the brain.

So here we are, in limbo. Wondering -- how do we proceed? I suppose it's a good problem to have. I'd just love to have a good answer.

1 comment:

Floortime Lite Mama said...

No answer Deb - But wow your son is really evolved in his thinking