1.07.2009

What's the deal with that kid?

This Monday, when I went in to do my weekly classroom volunteering, Jordan's teacher pulled me aside before the kids came in from recess. She asked if Jordan had mentioned the Polar Express Dining Car Day. He had not mentioned the Polar Express Dining Car Day, but since he refuses to talk about school, this is not surprising. Turns out that just before the Christmas break, our dear first grade teacher had arranged a special afternoon of pretending the class was on a dining car, complete with fancy waiter--herself. To be extra fancy she used an accent.

And here's where the trouble started. Jordan does not like accents. He likes things to be as they usually are, and since Mrs H does not have an accent, that was wrong. In the midst of the celebrations, he turned himself to the wall, started his rhythmic rocking, and said, "Stop talking like that. Stop talking like that. Stop talking like that." Over and over and over.

Now, I had warned our friend Mrs H that Jordan was sometimes a little, well, off. I suppose it's a plus that it took until December before she saw what I was talking about (I told her a few times, only to be given the patient, patronizing smile pediatricians save for overweening mothers). But still. Here we are. The cat is out of the bag.

She wanted to know whether I considered that Jordan may have Aspergers Syndrome.

Considered it? Oh, I've considered it. I've considered it every time he gets stuck in one of his myriad ruts and can only fight his way out by having a first-class, full-blown tantrum. I've considered it when he screams at the top of his lungs when anyone sings "Happy Birthday"; when he burns his tongue on anything too spicy and has to fling himself on the floor and wail; when he balks at the idea of doing anything outside of his usual routine; when he spends hours thumping against the seat back in the car; or when he drops his toy on the car floor at a point when we can't stop and screams"I want my Scooby Doo van! I want my Scooby Doo Vaaaaaaaaaaaan!" for approximately forty-five minutes.

But the part that really worries me is his difficulty with social situations. For instance: last summer a few kids came by while their parents were looking at a rental next door. They were attracted to our monstrous playset in the back yard. "Hey," said the kids. "Hey," said Maya, who was four. Jordan completely ignored them until they ignored him too, and then suddenly he launched at them and said, "We have a lawn mower!" This behavior is just plain weird. That was obvious by the looks on these kids' faces.

Recently we learned that at recess, he goes out, stands by the flagpole and waits until the bell rings to go back inside. Either that, or wanders the perimeter of the grounds.

Still, it's all subtle enough that he could be characterized as an "odd child". I was an "odd child", and so was Scott, so it's a pretty easy leap to make--until he does something so unusual that it catches the attention of the school. And believe me, with 25 kids to a classroom, it is not easy to catch attention.

When his teacher brought up the Polar Express incident I felt the usual onrush of panic, guilt, and despair. It's a cocktail of emotion that makes my blood feel like it's been suddenly replaced by mercury. Over the course of Jordan's lifetime, it has been suggested many times that perhaps there is actually something wrong with him, but on Monday I decided it was time to take the tiger by the tail.

He has been seeing a school counselor to do "social group". I contacted her. She confirmed that he does display symptoms of Aspergers.

I then got in touch with the college to get him scheduled for an assessment in their clinic. The doctor in charge said their students were looking for experience; I assured him that Jordan would be an experience, all right.

I went online and skimmed enough to conclude that Jordan does, in fact, behave like a kid who has Aspergers. For those who don't know, Aspergers is like Autism Lite. In some cases, like Jordan's, it can be so Lite that you might not even notice it--for a while. But sooner or later the odd social behavior, mannerisms, focused interest on a few topics and use of highly adult language will catch someone's eye. Like his teacher's, for example.

So we're going to get him assessed. There was some discussion about the wisdom of this--we don't want to pigeonhole him, etc etc. But the fact is in today's society if you want to get any help you have to have a label, preferably one with a code that can be written on forms in triplicate.

Will he get a label? Will we get some help? Will he be able to deliberately learn skills that most of us are born knowing? Will we be able to sing "Happy Birthday" in the future without putting him in a soundproof room? Only time will tell.


4 comments:

PocketCT said...

The kid is wonderful no matter what sticker gets attached to his form. The real thing is that with the right approach (as in treatment) debilitating fear of dragonflies, inability to deal with me singing to the radio and social contact become easier to cope with...for him. You get the added bonus of less melt downs. I can say that I think my nephew is way better off for treatment. He can handle things better than his sisters for it, and he has had to handle a lot lately.

Suzanne said...

Please borrow my copy of Look Me In The Eye by John elder Robison if you haven't read it. It's a well-written book on the life of a man with asperger's.

Tamara L. said...

OOOhh....How interesting that I stumbled into your Etsy shop after seeing a Sew Somerset mag at the bookstore yesterday, that led me to your Alchemy blog, then here to see your Asperger Syndrome post. I rarely follow blogs, but here I am!

You so eloquently express the roller coaster of reason and emotion that we parents of "different kids" feel. I have felt the same way for the last 19 years with my wonderful son. Actually, it was a huge relief when he was diagnosed at 5. Now there was a starting point, a frame of reference, and a common language to learn when communicating with people who could help support him. And the financial support available through state & county social services is vital....we resisted getting into the "system", but drained our own financial, emotional, physical resources in the process.

Remember, you are not trying to change the wonderful unique person that he is, but you need to help him learn to cope in this world.
He experiences the world differently, and it can be overwhelming and even painful to him.
My son is on the road to meeting his potential, using his gifts and talents, and enjoying his life. Seeing this happen is a beautiful thing.
Best to you.

Katie said...

My heart goes out to you and your family. While I have not had this particular challenge within my family, as a mother I send you warm and strenthening thoughts. HUGS to all of you!