A couple of weekends ago, Mae watched BrainPop movies on ADHD and autism as we were driving home from somewhere. The short video on ADHD, or ADD, described the characteristics as inattention, impulsivity, and hyperactivity. The narrator said that people with ADD can’t concentrate sometimes no matter how hard they try and get bored easily. He described children who call out answers to questions out of turn and have trouble sitting still and difficulty interacting with others. In the autism video, the narrator explained that someone with autism has a strong interest in a particular topic, difficulty communicating and relating to others, and problems interacting with family and friends.
As we came into the house, Mae asked me if she has ADD. I said no. Then, she asked if she has autism. I said no. Then, I remembered that the video talked about autism spectrum disorders, of which Asperger’s is considered one. Though the video didn’t specifically mention Asperger’s, I realized that I should change my answer.
I began, “Wait, do you remember meeting Dr. Mike and taking a lot of tests?” I told her that the outcome of the testing was that Dr. Mike said she has Asperger’s Syndrome. Mae asked what that means. I started with, “Sometimes, you’re impulsive” and explained that sometimes she speaks and acts without thinking first of the consequences or impact on others. She recognized that and said, “Oh, yeah.”
I started to talk about a second characteristic (I don’t remember which) but she went off on a tangent and started describing one of her classmates that she thinks has ADD.
I realized this was an opportunity to talk about one of our cousins who has autism. We only see Jaden once or twice a year, and I’d wondered when Mae would notice and ask why Jaden seems different from other teenagers she knows. I wanted to help Mae connect what she show on the video with real life and develop more sensitivity. I told her that I think Jaden is the only autistic person in our family, and I talked about Jaden’s fascination with spoons, her monotone way of speaking, and need for routine. Mae, ever focused on herself, asked if she’s the only person in our family who has Asperger’s. I said yes, I believe so. Mae clapped and said “Yay!” with a big ol’ smile.
I’ve heard Mae mention Asperger’s only twice since that conversation. Once to tell Jay that she has it, in a tone that sounded as if it were a badge or at least something that made her unique and special. On the other occasion, I was reminding her to focus on her homework and she said, “It’s because I have Asperger’s.” She didn’t press that point because I’m a stickler about homework. She’s gonna get it done no matter what and she knows it.
It’s interesting that she recognized herself in the BrainPop videos. Of course, we and her teachers have spoken to her many times about blurting out in class and staying focused. I try to keep her to a routine, especially on school nights and she’s gotten help from a therapist, which the videos also discussed. And, my goodness, she knows that she has trouble making friends, or at least the friends she wants to have.
I told Mae this morning that she will be moved to a new homeroom class when she returns to school this week. The school sent home a form letter on Friday announcing that, based on test results, 3rd grade homeroom class makeup is being adjusted to better match the needs of students. Mae fell into a funky mood right away. She’s worried that she will be separated from the one friend that she’s made, and I understand. Frankly, I’m worried about that too. Mae has consistently been complaining about the general rudeness of the kids and requesting to go back to her old school. On top of that, she continues to complain specifically about Gigi. Mae said this morning that she has been trying to steer clear of Gigi because she continues to be mean and bossy. Gigi, according to Mae, insists on sitting with her at lunch and trying to play with her. Yet, Gigi says that she doesn’t like anything about Mae. Two weeks ago, at aftercare, she gave Mae and another student the middle finger and said, “F*ck you.” The aftercare director says that she called Gigi’s parents and sent a note home.
I’m so hoping this homeroom change doesn’t place Mae in the same class as Gigi. I’ve been communicating with the school guidance counselor as well as the aftercare director about the girls’ interactions. Both women have been very understanding of my concerns. This past week, they both thought that things were mellowing out between the two girls. I’m not sure what to think because Mae paints a different picture. I do know for sure that it would be a setback for Mae if she is separated from the classmate who has become her friend and placed in the same environment with Gigi for several hours a day vs. just seeing her at lunch, recess, and aftercare. One of those things would be bad. Both? I don’t even want to think about it hard.
School is closed tomorrow because of Hurricane Sandy. When it reopens, my top priority is to see the class rosters.