Friday, July 6, 2007

Others land on Holland, others land on Switzerland...

I just read this post below, posted by Neurotic Fitch Mom. I probably should just have linked there, but I think it's good to have the whole post here. I'll let her know I posted here. The title o this post is NORMAL:

"Imagine," she said, taking a seat next to me on the rickety playground bench. "You've decided to take a trip to New York City. You've packed your high heels and your best clothes and you're planning to hit the town and see all the shows. But you get off the plane and you're in Switzerland. It's a little colder, a little slower, but still nice. Just different. It's the same with these kids."

"I just wanted him to be normal," I replied, looking up to watch him and the other Fifth Graders running wildly over the wooden structures, her class in the mix.

"Whatever that means," she said.

I thought I'd reached the point where I wanted to know, even if I didn't like the answer. I'd put it off for years, even though some part of me knew he was different from the start.

He spoke young, Daddy and Mama followed by thermostat and full sentences before he was one. At two he was flapping, little arms going like butterfly wings, close to his sides, lips buzzing. I thought he was pretending to fly. Until I noticed it more and more, when he was bored, when he was tired, when he was mad, when he was joyous.

"Are you an airplane or a helicopter," I asked him.

"Neither Mama."

At age four, his eyes huge and blue, never really looked at me. He gazed somewhere behind my head or turned his face entirely away.

"Don't you like Mama's face?" I teased him. "Am I that ugly?"

"You're beautiful Mama. I'd never think that," he replied, still not seeing me.

And then he went to school. Kindergarten, right across the street with a 1st year teacher. He brought home yellows and reds everyday and she made sure to meet me in the parent pickup line to list his transgressions.

"He's the sweetest thing but he goes on and on about Toy Story when I'm trying to teach. It's distracting the class."

Toy Story, which played constantly on one of the TVs at the house and had for almost two years. We had Toy Story bedding, dishes, toothpaste, clothes and toys. Just like the Thomas the Tank Engine phase we'd gone through two years before. I felt like I knew George Carlin and Buzz Lightyear personally.

"He's making these noises, humming and he's having meltdowns over the smallest things. But he's so smart."

"I'll talk to him," I'd assure her going home to cry. Beating myself up for not enrolling him in preschool. Not sure what the answer was myself.

Until 2nd grade, when a teacher's assistant pointed me to a website, that described my boy to a tee.

"He reminds me of my sister's boy," she said, handing me the slip of paper with a link.

But I still hesitated to make it official, to put what I saw as a stigma around his neck. Instead, I worked hard to give him coping techniques that didn't involve hour long sobs, to find out what set him off and teach him to cope.

In 4th grade, we'd meet an angel in pretty heels, his teacher, who two months in had him looking me in the eyes. Somehow she knew, but didn't say, rules and regulations keeping her from expressing her opinion.

"I taught him," she explained when I came to her with thankful tears. "I draw his eyes in with my finger and now he remembers."

He still had to think about it, eyes occasionally darting off, but it was a start. His meltdowns stopped other than a growl of aggravation every now and then, over intense stress. And I relaxed for awhile, until this year, 5th Grade, Junior high rapidly approaching.

I made an appointment.

4 hours later, leaving the office, Asperger's Syndrome, written down in the doctor's chicken scratch, my heart tearing apart.

"It's like teaching any other child math or reading," she told me as a tear rolled down my cheek. "With a little help, he'll be fine."

He may never be "normal", who really is anyway? But watching my precious boy, sweaty face beaming at me across the sandy playground, I knew I'd pick Switzerland over New York, any day....

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