Friday, November 21, 2008

flying boy

The breakfast table in my house on most mornings is noisy and chaotic. Three of my four kids are simultaneously eating, getting dressed, packing back packs and fighting over who is going to sit where...everything you would expect a herd of kids to be doing on a typical school day. All except Oscar. Oh he may argue on occasion about where he wants to sit, but for the most part breakfast is one of the two quiet times of the day for him. Bedtime being the other.
Oscar is my wild boy. He is constant movement, a ball of endless energy. He moves because he must. To me it is almost like his movement is his way of staying here, being grounded, as if stopping would cause him to fly away.On the other hand, there are days when he beats his arms so hard and so fast, I am afraid he is going to take off. He likes to make noise on these days. A constant EEEEEEEEEE sound-likening him to a plane reving its engine. I asked him once why he does this. He told me that"I have to- it feels wonderful!" So I tried it. I started slowly at first, just a little arm movement a small eee sound...until I really let myself go. Soon I was so lost in the movement and sound, I did not realize that the rest of the family had joined in. We looked like a scene straight out of an anthropologists journal-or a mental institution for insane dancers. This went on for a few minutes until Oscar asked us to stop. It was brilliant, and it DID feel wonderful. I don't know that I received the same benefit that Oscar does, but in that short moment, I could understand his need to do this. If only others could.
Oscar had his first experience with how other people view him at school the other day. Two of his classmates told him that his brain was broken and needed to be fixed. He was upset when he told me this. Although his response of "I'm not a robot, I am not missing parts" was very cool. He was hurt.The interesting thing is that Oscar was not upset at the girls. He was upset at how they percieved him. It was the first time that Oscar expressed awareness of his impact on the people around him. He realized that he was part of the group and not an entity unto himself. For that I was happy-the other part of me wanted to yell at those girls.(I can't help it-I'm a mother!)
We use the word different a lot at home. We teach our kids that different is good-something to be celebrated. If you opened a box of crayons and they were all blue, it would be boring. At school a similar message is taught. We are all different, some people learn differently than others, etc.etc. I think that we need to take it further. Oscars classmates comments are proof of that. I do not think that those girls were intending to be mean. Oscar certainly did not see it that way. Oscar IS different-his words, his actions, his movement is unlike any of his classmates-they are going to notice. They are going to have questions. Unfortunately in our quest to teach acceptance we don't allow questions. It is almost as if we are saying-"you can be different, we just won't talk about it" Is that acceptance? I don't think so. I think that we are missing an incredible teaching opportunity. Autism is nothing to be ashamed of. But, how can you say that-if you are not allowed to explain it.
For now I have to live with the limits that the word "different" seems encumbered with. There is so very much that we can learn from each other. Just looking at my curly headed flying boy, all that he is, all that he is becoming, how can we afford not to.

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