SDK and Reese
One of the many characteristics of autism is an attachment to inanimate objects...think Linus and his blanket. I became an expert on Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) because I am a mother of a child on the autism spectrum. I would see behaviors in SuperDuperKid (SDK) that I didn’t understand and I would research to fill in my blanks. Even as I read countless books and articles on ASD, I still don’t understand everything about how his amazing mind works. However, I have come to develop a parenting philosophy by which I live... It is not my job to understand every “WHY” as it relates to SDK and Autism but it is my responsibility to respect his “IS”. I may not fully understand “WHY” he does or needs a certain thing...but if it “IS” important to SDK then it “IS” important to me...no further explanation needed.
SDK keeps an inanimate object close to him at all times. The behavior became prominent in 1st grade. The objects change periodically, but the need has remained constant. Currently, SDK’s object of attachment is Reece, a stuffed Hershey’s Reece’s peanut butter cup man he got while on a recent trip to Hershey’s Park with Papa Bear.
Last Sunday while preparing to enter church, SDK asked me to put Reece in my purse before we entered the church. I thought this request odd because he generally prefers to carry Reece in his hand. I said nothing and did as he asked. After service, as soon as we exited the church, SDK asked for Reece.
I asked him, “Why did you want Reece to stay in my purse during church?” He replied, “He was tired and needed to take a nap”.
I didn’t press the issue. My first mind told me, as a 3rd grader, SDK may be becoming aware that many kids his age don’t carry stuffed companions. But again, I didn’t feel it was my place to press the issue. I respect and follow SDK’s lead as it relates to his developmental and social needs.
Fast forward to that Friday morning. I have a 9:30 meeting, so it is easier to take SDK to school rather than put him on the bus like I do must days. SDK and I are in the Kiss and Ride lane and he has Reece in his lap. I stop the car and it is time for SDK to get out...but he doesn’t move.
Instead he anxiously says, “Mom, can you put Reece in my backpack?” The cars are in line behind us so I quickly say, “Sweet Pea, just put Reece in your backpack when you get out of the car. A nervous SDK pleads, “Please.”
By this time the Kiss and Ride person on duty has opened the car door and is assisting SDK out of the car. SDK gets out. I roll down the front passenger window, and say, “Put Reece in your backpack, Baby.”
SDK looks up...and his eyes said something to me. I speak two languages fluently...English and SDK.
Something wasn’t right.
I park my car, call out to the instructional aide to stop SDK, and I run to meet SDK at the front of the school.
“Sweet Pea, what’s going on? Why are you so anxious about putting Reece away?” I’m fully expecting him to tell me he has been teased by other children.
But instead he says, He doesn’t want anyone to take or steal Reece. Now mind you, I am fluent in SDK and I wasn’t buying this... So I say, “Are you sure that’s the reason? I would hope no one in your class would take Reece.”
Then SDK looks at me and uncomfortably says, “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
“In trouble?? In trouble for what? With who?” “My teacher for having Reece out” “Did your teacher say something to you about Reece?” “Put it away”
At this point, SDK is getting uncomfortable. He really likes his teacher and I don’t want to push the issue with him. I couldn’t go talk to his teacher to get a better understanding because the school bell was about to ring. So I assured SDK that he would be okay and would not get in trouble for having Reece. I gave him a kiss, told him to have a Super day, and watched him walk to class.
I then walked into the school’s office and asked to speak to the principal or assistant principal. The assistant principal was available. We met and I retold the week’s event of SDK and Reece. She has a Special Education background so she understood. Like me, her first mind was SDK may be becoming more aware of the social norms of his peers.
My stance was...I’m cool if SDK comes to his own conclusion of putting Reece away but it is unacceptable to me if external factors are causing him to feel uncomfortable or less than confident with something that he needs to cope as a child on the spectrum. She agrees and says she will speak with his teachers and get back to me.
While in my meeting, I get a call from the assistant principal. She has spoken with his teachers and they have not noticed an issue with Reece and SDK. They told the assistant principal, other kids bring things to school. SDK bringing Reece to school was not a situation. It was evident to me that the school didn’t want to make an issue of it, if there was no actual issue. Understandably. The assistant principal then told me to talk to SDK. To which I replied, “I will. However, please understand that while his teachers may not see an issue, I am his mother. SDK will trust me with information he may not feel comfortable telling or showing others. Something has been communicated to him, possibly inadvertently, to make him feel uncomfortable. I trust that his teacher is savvy enough to communicate to SDK that having Reece out is not a problem without bringing more attention to the situation than needed. I will talk to SDK.”
Now, I am Mama Bear. I know it. I own it. However SDK is getting older and I have worked closely with him to develop problem solving skills. So I have to trust that some things he can work out without me stepping in. So to determine when Mama Bear is needed, SDK and I use a strategy we call Big Deal/Little Deal.
Little Deals are things SDK can work out on his own. Although, I may want to step in, I stand down. He is telling me about something for general information...venting. My job is to listen. I can offer some advice but my involvement ends there.
Now Big Deals, on the other hand, are the equivalent of sending up the Bat Signal and calling in the cavalry. Mama Bear is mobilize and we solve the problem hand in hand.
I talked to SDK about the Reece situation and retold to him what the assistant principal told me. He didn’t seem satisfied. So I asked him, “Is this a Big Deal or a Little Deal”
He looked at me and said, “Big Deal”
NO FURTHER EXPLANATION NEEDED.
“Would you like Mama to go to school with you on Monday to introduce Reece to your teacher?
This morning, SDK and I walked hand in hand into to his school and spoke with his teacher. We introduced her to Reece. And explained that Reece was a Big Deal to SDK.
I then turned to SDK and said “Can you tell Mrs. ______ how Reece makes you feel?”
“Happy” “Okay. Can you tell Mrs. _____ where you would like to place Reece in the classroom?” “On the top of my desk”
Mrs. ________ thoughtfully listened to SDK. Then said to him, “How about a compromise?” She then asked SDK if he knew what a compromise was. He did not. She gave him a wonderfully appropriate definition.
Then said, “Can we place Reece in your desk towards the front so you can see him?” She offered him an explanation for her suggestion. Then she asked him again.
SDK said, “Yes.”
I could tell immediately that SDK was satisfied... But Mrs. ______ went one step further and asked SDK if he was sure their compromise worked for him.
He answered, "Yes."
A pleased Mama Bear, I watched from the hallway as my happy, confident, and well-adjusted cub started his day.
In all that I do with SDK, I have objectives. We use the strategy of Big Deal/Little Deal because it is important to me that...
1. My child understands that he can tell me anything...big or small. 2. My child knows that I will just listen and be a sounding board for him, when that is all that he needs from me. 3. My child understands that he is NEVER alone in a situation that is too big for him to handle on his own. 4. My child knows that I will be his voice and assist him until his voice is fully developed. 5. My child understands that we can solve any problem, hand in hand.
#MamaBear #MyCub #ProblemSolving #BigDeals #LittleDeal#PositiveParentEngagement #Autism
#BigKidStuff #RootsAndWings#HeGotThis #AndIGotHim #ILoveMySuperKid