Thursday, March 14, 2013

He's a good boy!

We've all seen it too many times.  A life is cut short always too soon.  The evening news reports that someone's child has been shot and killed by law enforcement in the commission of a crime.  We will never find out why he was seen climbing out of the window of a business late at night.  We'll never hear his side of the story and he'll never hear the tongue lashing from his disappointed mother.  What we do hear is his grief stricken mother blaming the authorities and her declaration that he is a "good boy".  While I am not one to automatically defend the police, it always amazes me that his mother claims he is a good boy.  A good boy would not be breaking into someone else's property.  A good boy would not do this to his mom.  Maybe she is remembering the boy he used to be.  Maybe he fell in with a bad crowd and was influenced by others.  But we will never know because he was caught doing something wrong and killed in the process.

This seems to happen every time.  You never hear the mother say anything like, He was always getting into trouble or, I've never been able to control him, or he never listens to me anymore since he started hanging around with those bad kids, or started taking drugs or dropped out of school.  Always she says, he was a good boy.

So why does this concern me?  I think it is because, that after hearing this opinion so many times, the the general consensus becomes that a  mothers opinion of her child can't be taken seriously.  The unspoken word is that since she's his mother, her view is tainted.

This becomes a problem for us when trying to get school officials to understand the child with Aspergers.  Aspies who don't realize something they say is rude, gets punished instead of learning why their comment is inappropriate so they can alter the behavior.  When my children lash out, it is because they are over stimulated or overwhelmed.  If this happens in the classroom, there is always a reason for it.  If that reason is figured out, the whole class usually benefits.

Kids with Aspergers usually have an above average intelligence.  Past teachers have told me, that they use my kids as a sort of barometer for the rest of the class.  If the smartest kid in the class can't keep up, then chances are no one else can either.  This was brought to our attention recently when one of the kids had a substitute teacher.  When it became clear that this sub would be teaching for an extended period and have to keep the class on the same pace as the regular teacher, things got rough.  He had to get the class up to speed in a short period of time.  When Katie couldn't keep up and lashed out disrespectfully, she was called down to the office, talked to and threatened with in School suspension if the behavior was repeated.

Now I get to say it.  Katie is a good girl.  Do you believe me?  Well she is.  I rarely if ever have to discipline her.  She never deliberately misbehaves.  One time she sorta kinda misbehaved and it drove her crazy.  She came to me in some distress, worried that she had done the worst thing.  I was either taking a nap or gone and she had helped herself to a soda without asking.  She always asks and unless it is the last one and I want it, I always say yes.  It's not a big thing.  But she was convinced that since she didn't ask first, she would be in big trouble.  It bothered her so much, that she had to snitch on herself.  I never would have known.  That is the worst thing she has ever done unless she was in some Asperger induced distress, and then she can't help herself anymore than some one in a wheel chair can get up and walk.

Luckily she is attending a school, with a great principle and wonderful teachers.  After several emails back and forth, her school understands that if Katie was disrespectful. She didn't mean to be and something was wrong.  Her regular teacher is back and all is right with the world.  But it wasn't always like this.

In the past, we sometimes had trouble getting  people to realize that even though she couldn't always control her behavior, I didn't think that she should be able to behave anyway she wanted to.  But there are more effective ways to alter the behavior of some Aspies than to threaten punishment.  In Katie's case, if you can explain to her why others act the way they do and why her behavior is wrong, she can usually find a better way to make her distress known and communicate what her needs are.

Aspergers is a neurologically based  developmental delay.  Because of this and also possibly due to our style of parenting, Katie doesn't understand why her classmates act the way they do.  Sometimes it is normal teenage behavior, sometimes it is due to a cultural difference.  Sometimes I have to dig way back to my classes in sociology to explain typical teenage behavior.  She listens very carefully to my explanation and sometimes you can see the lightbulb go off.  "Oh I get it", she'll say.  "That's dumb" and usually "ok" and she'll be fine.  The problem is that i won't know what she doesn't know until the situation comes up.  If it is timed right, we can avoid a meltdown.  Luckily as I said, her school is pretty good about these things.  Yesterday she had a problem with a particularly loud and boisterous assembly.  A teacher noticed her difficulties and moved her to a quieter room.  I learned today that her principle heard the noise and her first thought was how Katie was handling it.  She told me she looked all over for her before finding out she had already been cared for.  It is good to know that they are all looking out for her.  She is a good girl

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