Rainy Sunday Together

Back on Their Bikes

Not much to report from Sunday except that—despite the previous day's
bike accident, despite more school district shenanigans than you can shake a stick at (not only did we get a stack of Incident Reports over a week after the fact but I came across the words "four-man protective hold"*[see comment]–yes I have some emails to write and phone calls to make), despite rain almost all day so there was a lot of hanging around the house with Charlie who'd woken up at 6.30am and put on his swimsuit thinking of kayaking—despite all this, Sunday was a peaceful-easy feeling kind of day.

Early morning bagel run. Working on Charlie's typing to watch YouTube videos. "Swim-gym" at the YMCA (Jim goes to workout in the fitness room while Charlie and I swim, only it seems Charlie is outgrowing the pool and is not too interested in being there). Visit to Jim's mom ("Grandma, see Grandma," Charlie reminded us) in the nursing home. Early Vietnamese meal (the waiter/chef is getting to know us and quickly brought out some summer rolls for Charlie who was quite ready for wait as long as he had to).  Back home with the clouds parting to reveal blue sky and Charlie donning his bike helmet and going to get out his and Jim's bikes. Charlie hopping straight into the car and wanting to go out "to eat" and looking very consternated when I pointed out that he'd had a generous meal in the quite recent past. Charlie. I followed this up by noting that I was going in to make some rice and that there were also frozen fries in the freezer.

Charlie sat in the car for a good half-hour before coming out and announcing to Jim and me that he wanted "bedtime." He went off to bed and then got up for a shower. And then to sleep, after asking me to spread out his old (no longer soft) blue fleece blanket on his bed. 

Charlie is 12 years old, and 5 feet, 7 inches. He is the youngest in his class, and the tallest, and, as he's been with the same group of boys for the past three years, he's been in the awkward state of being simultaneously younger and bigger than his classmates for some time. Last fall when he started middle school (in 2008), there was a lot of emphasis on how he and the other students would no longer be "coddled" and how middle school was all preparation for high school, vocational training, and the real world. Of course we know that this is all necessary, that Charlie won't be a child forever. 

But as I reflect on his very difficult past year in school (and I've had too much reason to reflect), I have to wonder, if too much was expected of him too fast last year; if the expectation that he could keep up with classmates who are, in some cases, two years older than him, was part of his undoing.  Of course Charlie is growing up and needs to learn to be more independent and not be "babied." 

But how often have you heard the expression "if you've met one autistic child or individual, you've met one autistic child or individual"? I'm just suspecting, that principle wasn't, hasn't been applied to Charlie in school last year and so far in this one. And no wonder, when Charlie has not seemed able to fit in with the mold, with the protocol. the results have been far from peaceful and not easy for anyone. 

11 Responses to “Rainy Sunday Together”
  1. Emma says:

    Charlie does look bigger and older than 12 years in the photos! And I guess that can actually be quite a disadvantage as it may be easier to forget that he is still young, and that maybe too much is being expected of him.
    It seems to me from your writing that Charlie is growing up and becoming more indepent everday at home, by you and Jim being sensitive and open to what Charlie is trying to communicate. The school has seems to haved failed to do this.
    It does seem more than a little strange to expect students to suddenly change from the more flexible “child friendly” kind of interaction to “age appropirate” interactions – what happened to the “transition”.
    I try to be careful and find a balance which allows Dimitri to grow to be more indepent and not be treated like a “forever child”, but also retain some of the interactions that he enjoys and finds relaxing even if they seem not to be age appropriate. It’s a difficult balance to find!
    I’m glad you had a “peaceful easy feeling”, particularly after such a stressful week.

  2. Autismville says:

    There’s a reason it’s called the INDIVIDUALS (pardon the caps) with Disabilities Act. Federal law recognizes that Charlies should be looked at as an individual. Your school district should as well.

  3. Sorry you’re having such trouble with Charlie’s school.

  4. Kate says:

    My guy came into this world at 9lbs and just kept growing. At two he was as tall as a three year old, at six he was as tall as an eight year old. We had lots of experience with strange looks, accusations of babying, etc. Even his teachers, who knew he was only six,seven, eight (etc.) seemed to expect more of him because of his height. It was a prime example of cognitive dissonance.
    I really wish you guys lots of peacefuleasy feelings. I know middle school is the toughest time. From my experiences with my guy, I can tell you he was emotionally and developmentally around two years behind his peers (he has caught up) so transitioning and expecting more adult-like behavior seems to be the exact opposite of what developmentally delayed students need.

  5. autismvox says:

    People have said that Charlie looks like he’s 17…….developmentally, I think he is at least two years younger than his biological age. He was 8 lb 3 oz and 21 1/2 in at birth.
    Yes, the school district seems to be in a “one size must fit all,” Procrustean, frame of mind.
    It’s been tough with the district but Charlie’s remained happy and bright-eyed at home (with inevitable “moments”). Really, it is the worst of times and the best!

  6. Emily says:

    TH, who is 8 and four months, is about the size of the average 10.5 year old. But developmentally, he’s always been just about two years younger in terms of emotion, behavior, etc. He also runs into certain high expectations because of it that he simply cannot meet.
    But Charlie’s *only* 12, and if he’s developmentally about 10, either way, he’s still a boy. Just a boy. If anyone remembers being that age, they remember how weird it was to be looking more adult while still feeling so much like a child. So confusing. I personally don’t see anything wrong with continuing to nurture the child within his or her comfort zone. Once that childhood window really does close, you can’t go back again. Why the rush to slam it shut? That school and their attitudes about middle school alone are annoying. And, FOUR-MAN HOLD? WTF?

  7. Synesthesia says:

    Sometimes kids need to be babied, as they are KIDS. I don’t know what our society has against nurturing people when they need it.
    You and your husband are trying to do the right thing and give Charlie what he needs and being patient and stuff which is very cool.
    Also the schools need to get with the program and get EDUCATED.

  8. Nicole says:

    Oh, and I’ve witnessed a 5 man hold on a, maybe, 80 lb girl. One person on each limb and another person hold her head. They (the adults) were laughing and joking with each other. It was, um, rather bizarre (but not as bizarre as prone restraints… it’s how police do it so it must be safe, right?)

  9. Matthew was not doing what the rest of the class did (all boys) in his autism class during Elem school yrs 2-5. The non verbal kids seemed to be doing their own things in various sections of the room.
    Now with middle school and a male teacher with yrs experience (special ed, not autism) vs the brand new female teacher in 2nd, who stayed thru 5th and in a MRS class where this yr he is the only boy.
    I think having the male teacher, male aide and then females with various disabilities is a good mix for him.
    His teacher is very low key too. Good luck with those letters and incident reports?

  10. autismvox says:

    it’s great to hear from you! Charlie has started to type a little on the computer—just one or two words, in the search box for videos. It’s very exciting to see him do this and he is very motivated, and we certainly want to keep promoting him typing!
    The private autism school that Charlie briefly attended (December 2005-June 2006) was called Hineni and was located in a large building that housed a Jewish day school and a yeshiva. I don’t know about the Higashi School—Boston is just too far—-but I do have to say that he really liked being at Hineni. The school did not have an official religious orientation but it had a different sort of atmosphere and I think his teachers and the administrators saw Charlie for Charlie. We were very sad that it closed.
    @Bonnie, a classroom with so many girls! that would be unusual for Charlie—he has not had a girl in his class for many, many years. (but plenty of female therapists and teachers.)
    I just hope for none of the sorts of incident reports that we have been receiving—I do not understand how the school district could let it get to this point.

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