Friday, May 23, 2008

You're a good man, Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown: Sometimes I feel I've given birth to the real life version. Man-cub is a wonderful boy. He never gives me grief. He's loved and adored by his teachers. Unfortunately, he's been pushed into relative isolation due to being different. I've mentioned in previous posts that he's come a long way after his diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome. In brief, it's shoved under the umbrella of autism.; a very high functioning form in my son's case. Behavior modification and educated teachers have given him a great edge. He's smart, funny, compassionate and willing to always try. Unfortunately, children his own age aren't always compassionate and understanding. So, that puts him in a position of going it alone even when he's in a large group.
Six Flags Great America wasn't everything I had dreamed it to be for Man-cub. The students were allowed to have free run of the park. They weren't assigned to groups or particular chaperones. When my son disembarked the charter bus his gait was lagging. I knew he had to be exhausted, but there was a slump in his spirit. I greeted him with excitement and inquired where the Batman basketball came from. He said he won it playing a hoops game in the arcade. "COOL! We can play H.O.R.S.E at the school yard," I exclaimed. He didn't seem thrilled.
I started throwing questions at him about what rides he went on. He didn't bother with the roller coasters because the lines were too long, and "I want to share that with you, mom."
"Who did you hang out with? Were you with Brandon?"
"Only for a little bit."
"Well, who did you hang out with? Was there a group of kids you wandered the park with?"
"No. I pretty much was alone. I saw other people with our school t-shirts on, but I didn't hang out with anybody."
My heart sunk to my feet. I was so saddened. I had to ask why, and his reply was, "The kids at my school are pretty much jerks to me. They make fun of me a lot. I'm okay. I had fun, really."

"Are you just tired? You seem sad. Is it a mix of the two?" "I'm a little of both. "

Damn it! I wanted this to be so much more than him walking about an amusement park alone. I'm furious that the chaperones would allow this. I'm sad that even the boy who Man-cub calls his friend didn't stick with him. I feel like I've done something to fail him.

I realize that part of having Asperger's Syndrome is a delayed ability to socialize. They are often content playing alone. Working in groups as an integral participant is a challenge. They're able to be with a group, but they'll opt to work just on the outside. Even with that knowledge I still ache for him to find a true friend. Someone who'll accept his quirks and aloofness. I feel helpless.
I know that I can't and won't be able to make everything ideal for him. I realize there are roads that he must take alone ... but I want it to be his choice to be alone on that path. Not the only option.

6 comments:

  1. Children are far more cruel than adults. People can't believe it when I said that I hated high school and nearly everyone I knew there.
    "Aren't you going to the 20 year reunion?"
    Oh f**** no.
    College was better. I studied what interested me, I made real friends. I know that your heart is breaking for Man-Cub... I'm so sorry to read about it... but for what it's worth, the older he gets, the better life will become. I promise that.

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  2. I keep reassuring him that he'll find true friends and not to let it get him down. I also told him that I was proud that he still went on rides, played games and pushed forward...that it takes a really strong person to forge ahead like that.

    I grew up in one house and had built in neighborhood friends who I knew from kindergarten thru hs graduation. Not to mention I had scads of siblings.

    All the same, it's harder on me (I think) than it seems to be on him.

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  3. School years are brutal for kids who aren't inclined for whatever reason to be pack followers. The good news is those people often come out the other side as stronger, more independent and free-thinking individuals, especially with love and support. It sounds like he is covered there.

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  4. Hi Marissa.
    David B here, husband of Gish from SIT80s land. (we are always reading, seldom typing) I feel so bad for you and your son and I hope that he does find some - or even one - true friend to be with him soon. Our youngest has Down Syndrome and he is still young enough where he doesn't know he is different and his peers have not learned to be cruel...yet. Reading your post brought to the surface my fears of days to come for him. The potential for sadness, aloneness, you name it, are huge. Anyway, I don't intend to go on and on, but thank you for sharing on your blog and I'll be praying for you and your boy. Although, with all the mileage you put in on T.B. Online blogs, I don't know how you have the time to maintain your own, but I'm glad you do. Let your boy know I think he is very brave and strong.

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  5. David, thank you for sharing the fears you have for your youngest child. It's difficult, for sure.

    Man-cub has mainstream classes and excels in many. However, his approach to learning requires tweaking on the teacher's part; patience is necessary. It's like he has a million thoughts in his head, but incapable of expressing them cohesively all the time. His Social Studies teacher insists that the students in his class listen and learn from a peer. It delights me that adults see there's a lot beneath the stammering.
    Junior high is such a difficult time anyway. Then, throw in letting 12,13 and 14 year old kids roam free in an amusement park seems unfair and unsafe...especially when the teachers who chaperoned are fully aware of the lack of social integration my son (and others) face.
    Thank you for reading my blog, as well. It's therapeutic, for sure.

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  6. I do not understand why the chaperons would have let that happen at the park. They must have know it would and then seen that it was, in fact, happening.

    Ours will be off to kindergarten this year. Well, "life skills" class, but they intend to main stream him for part of each day. We'll see. Exciting for sure, scary of course, but its all good.

    D.B.

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