Indeed, it was an awesome day. No meltdowns, tantrums, or fights. We got to everywhere we needed to be today, and even managed to hang out in the library for a while.
For better or worse, basketball was canceled because it snowed a little this morning. Jay handled the disappointment well, always the trooper.
Mae’s playgroup met as planned. Woohoo! We walked into the small office, where some parents were waiting for their kids to finish with the session already in progress. Both white mothers looked away and didn’t response to my sunny hello. No surprise. I received similar avoidance in the occupational therapist’s waiting room this past summer where Mae went for help with sensory processing issues (of the tactile seeking variety, e.g, touching family, friends, and teachers’ arms and hair to the point of being annoying or invasive). The irony is that these are parents who want to help their kids improve their social skills, yet they didn’t extend the common courtesy of returning a greeting or acknowledging someone’s presence with simple eye contact. Having a difficult to manage kid is already isolating enough; you would think that there would be an instant affinity across race or ethnicity. Anyway, after a short, uncomfortable silence, the dads in the room attempted to make small talk. Even better, after that group of parents collected their kids and left, the next group was much friendlier.
Between building Lego binoculars and towers and coloring with Jay, I had an enlightening conversation with two mothers of boys with ADD. It’s always a relief to know that you aren’t the only one, and even more of a relief when someone’s got it worse than you. One mother was pretty candid — she has a glass of wine every night and she sometimes wishes that her 10-year old had Downs’ Syndrome, or some other apparent disability, because then others would be more understanding and tolerant. Wow. I won’t judge her because I don’t know what she goes through on a day-to-day basis. I did offer that I accept and claim Mae for all that she is because she is hilarious and fun and brilliant, even if I don’t understand completely how she’s wired. I don’t like some of the things that Mae does and says, but I do think she’s the way she’s supposed to be. The mom’s face and tone lightened and she said that’s a good way to look at it.
The other mom talked about the lack of support from her son’s school. She used to take him to a playgroup 1.5 hours away from their home, which required that she pick him up from school an hour before dismissal. The guidance counselor didn’t want to excuse him, and suggested parenting classes instead. Ouch. Fortunately, Mae and Jay are in a small, private school and the principal, guidance counselor, and teachers have been great thus far.
After the session ended, I spoke briefly with the lead teacher. She said gently of Mae, “She needs to be here.” Uh, yeah. We don’t have a label or diagnosis, and our primary reason for participating is that Mae has had innumerable negative social interactions with playmates over the past years, especially through kindergarten into first grade. A peer’s declination to play with her or to play the game she wants to play can lead to a crying bout 15, 20, 30 minutes long and statements like, “Nobody wants me. Everybody hates me. No one wants me any more. No one cares for me.” A disagreement about whether cars are better than make-up can end with a shoving match. And, don’t dare cut in front of her in line or refuse to share a toy with her. She’ll lay hands on a kid twice her size and not even blink before going in. We saw a pediatric psychologist, who suggested Asperger’s, and the occupational therapist also advised us to look into Asperger’s. Her school principal and guidance counselor said maybe ADHD. We hope to learn more after a full neurodevelopmental evaluation scheduled for early February 2011.
Meanwhile, Hubby and I are trying to do what we can to help her be successful in building and maintaining relationships. After weeks of searching for a social skills group within a reasonable driving distance, I stumbled upon this one in an ad in a local, free parenting magazine that I picked up at the gym. The group leader is actually a speech-language pathologist. I wouldn’t have thought to look to a speech-language pathologist for social skills training, but now it makes sense because children with communication challenges would be expected to have trouble making and keeping friends. My lesson: think more creatively and broadly when looking for resources.