Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fitting In

When is it time to try to fit into the crowd and no longer stand out?  Is there such a thing?  Or should we always encourage our children to be the unique individuals they are?

You see, Ballerina and Music Man are preparing to start kindergarten next month.  For the first time, Ballerina will be spending her entire school day with children who are considered "typical".  And Music Man will be with his neurotypical peers regularly between lunch and recess, specials, and various other activities.  Aspects of their Autism cause them to stand out and bring attention to themselves.

Music Man is a flapper.....the arms go and they bring his whole body along.  And he's a BIG boy so you have to be careful when those arms start going.  Dad and I have been trying to address this for over a year, trying to redirect him when the arms start to move by getting him to clap, or dance, or wave his arms in the air.  It's our thought that all 3 of these actions won't bring the negative attention that the flapping would.

Ballerina on the other hand doesn't flap.....she likes to recite rules and turns and schedules.  On a typical morning, she will recite her full schedule, in the minutest detail.  I'm including potty breaks in this.....a typical recitation begins, "Wake Up, Potty, Mommy and Daddy's Room, Get Dressed, Ponytails, <Music Man> Potty, Downstairs for Breakfast...." and it just continues from there.  This is something that she cannot do in a general education classroom.  On the plus side, she has been attending school in a kindergarten for at least part of the day since February, so she does have some experience and practice under her belt.

Why am I worried?  It's the "B"-word!  Yup, BULLYING!  I'm not so worried about things for this school year, but as they years pass.  They will likely be in school with many of these same kids all the way through high school.  13 years.  And kids have VERY long memories.  They will remember those "weird" kids who had those strange behaviors.  It can prevent them from making friends, even in kindergarten.  And not having friends ALSO puts them at risk for bullying as the years pass.

There really isn't too much I can do.  I have to trust when I send them to school that the teachers and other faculty members will keep their eyes open.  I will find ways to visit the school as a classroom volunteer.  Perhaps I will volunteer on the playground once a week.  And Big Brother has already promised to glance over at his brother and sister once during lunch and once at recess since they have these at the same time.

Perhaps, if I continue working on teaching them to "fit in", they won't be targets.  But I risk losing some of the things that make them who they are.  I appreciate their uniqueness....I really do!  But I don't want them to feel uncomfortable with who they are as they get older.  Sometimes I worry that changing some of these things I will be doing more harm then good.

I hate having to worry about something that hasn't happened yet.....about something that may NOT happen at all.  But as parents, so many of us do this every day.  And, as special needs parents, we do it even more.

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Ilene is a Stay-At-Home-Mom living in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC.  She lives with her husband of nearly 14 years (next week), her puppy and her 3 amazing and unbelievable children.....Big Brother is 7, Ballerina and Music Man are 5.  Ballerina and Music Man are twins, both diagnosed with Autism at the age of 26 months.  At that point, her life changed.....she found her new passion and has been working hard to make sure all of her children have a chance at success.

As you can imagine, things can get crazy from time to time, but that's just the way it is!  She blogs about it all on her personal blog (My Family's Experience With Autism) and you should feel free to stop on by and share in her stories!


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