I was finally going through the last of the kids school year papers when I stopped to reflect. We had a great school year, but it wasn’t all gumdrops and lollipops. In fact the beginning of the school year was quite rough.
Imagine sitting at Back to School Night and you hear some obnoxious parents bad talking a student in the class. That student they are talking about is your son. What do you do?
What I did was to loudly but calmly inform the parent that the child they were talking about was my child and if they have a problem they should address me in private and not during Back to School Night. Then I sat down and did my best to keep it together for the rest of the teacher’s presentation. Of course I went home and cried! I cried because I was mad. I was mad at those parents but even more so at myself. I am the Mama Bear and aren’t Mama Bears supposed protect their cubs at no cost?
I felt a need to inform this parent and those that obviously over heard the entire ordeal. Part of me wanted to slap some sense into them but I knew that would not help things. So I chose to write a letter to the entire class. This letter made a huge difference.
Hello, my name is Sharon and I am the proud mom of Jay who is in your son or daughter’s 4th grade class this year. I know that getting a letter like this is nontraditional, but as a parent, I also know that information is knowledge. If you know about Jay, then you will be able to help your child understand him more. We all just want what is best for our children. I respect that and I also respect your time so I will get to my point here.
As you ask your kids how their day was and about the kids in their class, some of them may have mentioned my son, Jay. Perhaps they told you that he is really smart, or maybe they commented that he is really funny. They may have informed you that he acts a little odd, he cries when he is frustrated, that he talks a lot, or maybe that sometimes when he gets excited he flaps his hands.
All of the above would be accurate descriptions of Jay as he is all of this and more. What they and perhaps you do not know is that they just also described a person who has Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism, which is what Jay has.
For those that don’t know I will try to explain what Asperger’s Syndrome is. Please know that this is just my personal explanation and that I am not by any means a doctor, nor am I trying to claim to be one. I am just a mom of an Aspie Kid (that is what we call them) trying to do what is best to help my child.
Clinically defined Aspergers is a type of autism in which someone does not develop normal social abilities, and they are often very interested in one particular subject. Since Asperger’s is a neurological disorder, Jay’s brain functions on a higher level and differently than yours or mine. His senses work, but the information they send to his brain can get misfiled or come in on the wrong pathways. Sometimes, all the info from all his senses hits his brain all at once like a million radio stations playing at the same time, and he doesn’t know how to filter out the unnecessary and pay attention to what’s important.
This condition has advantages and disadvantages. On the good side, Aspie kids like Jay, can be unbelievably smart at some things, like remembering different computer codes; dates, facts and trivia; or different mathematical formulas for algebra problems. On the bad side, their muscles aren’t as strong, they can be clumsy and uncoordinated, they may have trouble working in groups, and they may have a hard time understanding others body language, indirect language and intonation.
I am telling all this to you not so that you will feel sorry for my son, but on the contrary, for if you pity him; you also pity all the great people like him, for example: Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, and Mark Twain who all have been said to have had autistic traits.
Jay is a great kid who just may need a little extra help when his radio stations get crossed.
Our teacher and the school are wonderful and are all aware of Jay and his special needs. They know how to keep him on track and will lovingly do so. Jay will not take away from your child’s class time; in fact I can guarantee you that he will add to it with his wealth of information, and his great sense of humor.
Having an Aspie Kid in the class and as a friend can sometimes be challenging, but can also be very rewarding. And who knows, your child may just become friends with someone who in the future may end up discovering a cure for cancer; solve the world’s hunger problem; or more likely, help them with trig or physics in high school.
Sharon (Aka Jay’s Mom)