A family's story

Posts tagged ‘Social Awkwardness’


I’m having a “heavy” day. It didn’t start out that way…as I crept up the stairs quietly this morning after my treadmill work-out, I heard Tate and Jake playing in their room. There were giggles. There was playful banter. It made me feel light, airy, and as if things were all right.

We all came downstairs, and Tate started to script about his teacher. He spent most of the time as he tried to fall asleep last night doing the same thing. She’s out for another 3 weeks due to medical complications/condition/crisis. I can’t imagine how difficult it is for her to be dealing with whatever she’s dealing with. And as a special education teacher, she has the added stress of knowing how much her absence impacts each of those kids…all differently. Tate is working through it. He did great the first two days back at school, but I think the reality of the absence of his teacher is really hitting him. I let him script, and I started to lose that light, airy feeling from earlier.

As we ate breakfast, Hubz started to chat up the boys about Science Night. See, our PTO is sponsoring a Science Night at the school. Hubz is planning on taking Jake and Cole. Tate might be up for it…or might not. He’ll be a game-time decision. Hubz was trying to talk it up to the boys this morning. My engineer husband lives for science. Jake, who typically loves science, started to poo-poo the idea of attending the science night. A cloud covered his face. His body language changed. He started to put up a few barriers. For Jake, Friday night  means putting on pj’s, watching a bit of TV and eating some snacks with all of us at home. Hubz tried a different approach…showed him a few pictures of some of the experiments that will be done in the presentation. Jake conceded to going, but he’s not excited about it. He then perseverated on it the rest of the morning. Tried to convince us that he was excited to go. (More like trying to convince himself that it’s going to be fun.) Cole is game for anything. I know he’ll love it.  I felt a bit heavier.

During car pool this morning, the kids were talking excitedly about being able to get outside and enjoy the snow over the weekend. Depending on how much rain we get, there should still be enough snow for the kids to fashion into forts and snowmen and snowballs, etc. Jake made a little squeak sound that he tends to use when he’s genuinely excited. Upon that squeak, the neighbor boy fished for Jake’s attention. He made sure to tell Jake that his sister (who was sitting next to Jake and is Jake’s age), yelled at him (the neighbor boy) the other day in their mini-van for making “weird noises like Jake”. Our neighbor boy made sure to tell Jake that his sister said it is annoying and very weird. Jake got quiet and started to ramble, as he does when he’s embarrassed. Our neighbor girl turned a nice shade of crimson and hit her brother. She tried to back-track with Jake, and he mumbled that it was ok. (But I know it wasn’t.) I asked them to all be considerate of each other and be nice. I wished them a good day and as Jake kissed my cheek goodbye, I had to look away so he didn’t see the tears welling up in my eyes. The heaviness started to weigh on my heart.

Once I dropped Cole off at preschool, I did a quick Target run. I needed a few toiletries, and wanted to get a couple “active” clothing items while they were still on sale. As I was checking out, my phone began to ring. It was the school. As I answered the phone, the boys’ school social worker first let me know that there was no emergency (so that at least calmed my heart-rate down), but also wanted to know that she had Tate in her office. He was using A LOT of “potty” talk AND was echolalic with the word “guns”. It had been going on since he was in bus line this morning. My heart sunk…ugh. She said that the moment he walked into the school (where there is a picture of a gun with a “ghostbuster” sign over it because of the new concealed-carry law in our state that allows people to have concealed weapons on their person…just not in a school), he started saying, “No guns”  constantly. Every time he said it he got a reaction. It was a vicious cycle. They took him to see the principal. He had to talk with her. (I can only imagine how that went.) Then he went to the social worker’s office, and they did his social story about expected language at school..and expected behavior. He calmed down and regulated, so she wanted to call me to let me know what had happened, and to let him talk to me.

Tate struggles with the phone and conversation. But he did tell me he was sorry he said potty words. And then he said, “Mommy, I can’t say “guns” or “no guns”. I need to try something else.” Well, at least the social story stuck with him. I asked if he was feeling ok. He said, “Yes I am.” I asked if he wanted to stay at school. He said, “Yes I do!”. So, I chatted briefly with the social worker. We agreed that the absence of his teacher is really hard for him. We also agree that he REALLY, REALLY wants to have the attention of his peers. Unfortunately, social situations and interactions are difficult for him, so when he’s already overloaded (as he is with the absence of his teacher AND the getting back into school routine), he falls back onto reactionary measures to get any type of attention. And it works.

Thankfully the social worker gets it. She is going to work with the class a bit more closely. They are all out of sorts. She’s going to work with Tate on conversation and attention starters that have some more positive connotations…and hopefully he can use those in his toolbox to interact with his peers. She’s also trying to figure out how to get rid of the signs..or a work-around them because we know that they have to be there legally.

And now, I feel quite heavy. I’m pushing through the heaviness…I am. But I am also allowed to feel it and to let it speak to me. I am using it to try to understand the “why” behind my children’s behavior. And it is helping me formulate some reaction to today’s events. It really is.

P.S. The more I think about it, the more I am irritated that Tate had to talk to the principal. Seriously, he’s not saying the word to be naughty or to be a menace to society. He is anything but that. He is truly using the words to provoke reactions from his peers so that he can interact with them. He needs guidance with navigating the social waters at school. And they need to take those damned pictures of guns down. Because, really, when it comes down to it, my autistic son, and others, have been taught to respond to visual cues their entire lives. You can’t put a picture like THAT up on EVERY.SINGLE.ENTRANCE of a school and expect kids NOT to have a reaction. For seriousness’ sake!!!!

A glimpse into my kids’ lives

Tomorrow Hubz and I have a holiday party. A couple with whom we’ve been friends for years has an annual holiday party for grown-ups only…and it is a great night out. Except that the few days leading up to said event gives me the worst social anxiety. Like, I already have butterflies in my stomach, and I can hear my heartbeat in my ears when I think too much about going to said party. I know that once I am there I will get more comfortable, and that we’ll enjoy catching up with our friends…but it’s the waiting…where all of the what-ifs and insecurities play out in my head…that is almost painful, sometimes.

I am, to my knowledge, neuro-typical. I know that I am experiencing anxiety, and that the anxiety is actually worse than the act of attending the party. To keep the anxiety at bay, I focus on how I feel when I’m at the party…how it is enjoyable to see old friends, how it is always interesting to hear about what is going on with others’ lives. I can separate the two…the anxiety and the party. I talk myself down from the ledge. I focus on the positives. I try not to dwell on the pit in my stomach. I practice my party scripts in my head. (We all have scripts, you know.) 

This year, said party has an “Ugly Sweater” theme. I have to go to Goodwill and Walmart today to see if I can find some hideousness for the party. I get another pit in my stomach. I know Goodwill will likely be cheaper..and who wants to spend a lot of money on something that is a gimmick. But my sensory disorder starts to give me some anxiety… what if the sweater is itchy? What if it makes me too hot? What if it smells funny? What if I can’t find anything and have to go to the party in the current trendy non-tacky sweaters I have, but I win anyway…what if I’m tacky?! (See, the anxiety creeps back in…)

Again, I know that I’ll be able to make a rough attempt at humor over my attire…and that my friends will laugh. And no one will care. We’ll talk about work, about our kids, about the chaos that is the holiday season. We’ll eat, we’ll drink, and we’ll laugh. There’s always loads of laughter at this party…and that is good for the soul. And with that, I start to look forward to the party again.

As I grapple with  my social anxiety, and my sensory disorder, and the anxiety that the sensory disorder brings, too (such as the loudness of the party, the temperature…too hot..too cold, the amount of people crammed into one space (and the fact that I’m at armpit level), the smells, the perfume and cologne that people insist upon wearing but is a huge assault to my sense of smell), I am smacked upside the head by the realization that my boys, in particular, Tate, deal with this stuff every.single.day. And he isn’t always able to rationalize his anxiety away…he hasn’t totally pinpointed the causes for his anxiety…yet. He gets bombarded every day…no wonder the kid is on high-alert and has a melt-down. I know that when I get into the car after the party, I need that hour drive home to just totally decompress.

I can’t imagine having this feeling all of the time. It would be debilitating. It would be overwhelming…and again, I am reminded of how amazing my kids are, too. They struggle with these disorders daily. They have to work through the anxiety, the social awkwardness, the sensory disorders, just to make it through a day. Not a once-a-year party…but every day of the year. I have such respect for my kids…because they do handle it. Not always perfectly, but they are able to function. They get out of bed. They go through a routine. They use the scripts they have been provided…and they make it through.

Pretty impressive for a couple of kids who are developmentally behind peers, don’t you think? I say it so often, but Tate and Jake…they are my heroes. They teach me how to be a better person. How to be a better mom. Being their parent has given me such a deep perspective that I never used to have…and I am grateful.


Social Progress

We continue to see progress with Tate. He continues to achieve and notch  towards meeting goals. It can be painfully slow, at times. Especially in social situations. Tate still struggles mightily with like-age peers.

Yesterday, though, I saw a glimmer of hope.

We were at our YMCA while Jake was doing his swim lessons. Cole went to play in the childcare room, so Tate and I were hanging out. I let him play some of his Mario game. Then, he initiated a walk. I thought that was a great idea.

We meandered through the Y. I even let him take the “alligator” up to the top floor, and get out in the lobby, where the “alligator” deposits inhabitants out on the opposite side from which they enter. (This dual-sided “alligator” captivates Tate.)

At one point we stopped to play with a foosball table. Instead of stimming with the rods, Tate wanted to try to play. He had seen some older boys playing when we started our walk. So, we played. For about 5 minutes. He tired of the game and decided to use the restroom.

A gaggle of girls spotted us. “Tate!” “Tate!” “Oh, hiiiiiiii, Tate!” Tate got shy, and burrowed his head in my side.
Tate, when someone we know says hi, we should say hi to them.
Tate, keeping his gaze down, raised his hand and whispered a hello. I said hi to his admirers.

When Tate was in the bathroom, I asked the leader of the group if she was in the kindergarten class at his school. She said yes, and that she sees Tate on Tuesdays for gym and library. I thanked her for confirming that Tate knew the girls.

She asked me why he doesn’t like to talk. I had to smile. Tate does like to talk…just grapples with the whole social talk thing. I explained that talking to other people is difficult for Tate. He’s shy, and doesn’t always know the right thing to say. She nodded.

Tate popped out of the boys’ restroom and got a drink. By then, the gaggle was together and again said hi to Tate. He sat on the ground–a combination of anxiety and frustration. I asked him to stand up. He did! I asked if he could say “goodbye”. He was unable to establish eye contact with them, but he said, “Bye.”

As we left, one of the girls wondered outloud as to why Tate doesn’t want to talk. The ringleader stepped up and told her that Tate was shy.

It may not have seemed like much, but Tate did something huge yesterday. He was able to tolerate a social interaction without a meltdown, without shoo’ing away his peers, and without me doing it for him. Score!

Later, I told him I was proud of him for saying hi and goodbye. He beamed that beautiful smile and flashed those playful eyes my way. No wonder the gaggle of girls was so intent upon getting his attention!

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