So, a couple of years ago we took our daughter who has Asperger's out of school. She'd been having a really hard time. Once we saw it was going okay, we took our mostly typical son out as well.
Last week at homeschool co-op I was helping to teach a class on cup stacking. Cup stacking. It is all the rage, and I've rarely seen so many kids so engaged. They love it. A couple of weeks into the session, a new kid joined our group. His mother didn't mention it to me, and I don't know if he's diagnosed, but he's clearly "one of ours." He was having a really hard time. He was intimidated that the rest of the kids were more advanced. He got into a scuffle with one of the other boys over something minor. He stormed off and we had to find his mother to come tend to him. He scowled and paced, and was not a very happy camper. My heart went out to him.
The other teacher and I made a quick decision to make the last relay simple, one he could partake in easily. We wanted him to rejoin the group and leave on a high note. Both of us are special needs moms and we know how important that is. He agreed to join in.
The kids were to decide what order they would go in. My son wanted "second." He raised his hand first. Our new guy also wanted second. There was some debate over it, and I could see the new guy ramping up again. I know my son. He is easy going. He's been dealing with his sister for 9 years. I took him by the shoulders and physically moved him into "third" position, and continued with the instructions. I thought he could handle it, but guess what? He couldn't.
He cried. And then he tried to pretend that he'd hurt his arm, because he knew it wasn't cool to cry over something so silly. Once again, he had to take the back seat to a kid with special needs, and once again his mom just assumed he'd suck it up, (and he's got his own issues going on with PANDAS and he's extra sensitive lately), and he simply could not take it anymore, always having to be the one who bends.
When we got home, I apologized. I held him for a long time on my bed, telling him how much I appreciate him, and how sorry I was that I had not considered his feelings. He's a big nine year old now, but he let me hold him and stroke his hair and love him up. We were quiet for a long time.
I feel like I can never do enough for him.
I hope it is enough.
Michelle O'Neil has written for many publications, including two special needs anthologies, and a professional journal for occupational therapists. She blogs at www.fullsoulahead.com.