Parts 1 and 2 of this saga are in previous posts. If you've no freaking idea what I'm talking about, click on the links.
So we met with the principal this afternoon. I was feeling pretty emotional, there'd been an incident at the classroom when we picked him up, and I was just trying not to cry (will talk about it at the end of this post).
She was lovely, animated and fun with Alexander, reassuring with us. She started by saying that all day yesterday, she'd had the wrong C in her head. There are 2 C's in Year 3, and both of them go to Outside Hours School Care. One of them was a thug. The other, she said, is the sweetest little ASD boy, rather similar to Alexander, though he does have a tendency to lash out when he's over excited and get a bit silly.
It was that one. (Who's "C" name actually starts with a "K". Not confusing at all?). She said she was so stunned when she found out it was this little boy, she couldn't believe it, so she called him down to her office to talk (even though Deputy normally deals with such matters). She said he was already sobbing by the time he got to her office "I really, really hurt Alexander and I didn't mean to". She asked why he's been chasing Alexander around for weeks now. "Because I really like him and I just wanted to be his friend. But he keeps running away. I caught him and was trying to play and he was still getting away so I got mad. Now I hurt his mouth and I'm not allowed to go and tell him sorry".
She said her heart broke over his tears, and she was torn, having spent a day falling for Alexander, she was also falling for K. And since this was his first real infringement, I can understand that. He sounds like other ASD kids I know who simply can't understand how to read body language properly and react all wrong in social situations.
To K - the chasing Alexander was a game. To Alexander, being chased was terrifying, threatening. And then the head butt, well that's going to upset anyone.
So what to do. I'm a Mama of a sweet, gentle, sensitive, awkward boy with autism. And now, the 'bad guy' in this story is another sweet, gentle (mostly), sensitive, awkward boy with autism. Who like Alexander, is just so desperate to have a friend. The same way Alexander felt for the first 8 months of this year, until he finally found himself with 1.
So, much as you may all think I'm an idiot, I can't help it. My heart goes out to this little boy. While not (of course) condoning his behaviour I chose not to ask about punishment. I know that he received what they termed "a significant 2 day punishment", I have chosen not to ask what that is, or demand more. I am content.
More importantly for me, I found out that Kelly (Principal) and the SEU staff spent a good part of yesterday also looking after little K. And when the counsellor is back next week, she is going to have sessions with both of the boys.
And I hear myself say "Well, I know Alexander. He doesn't have the ability to hold a grudge, even times when he should. I know that if he finds out K has autism or that K wanted to be his friend, it's all going to be over in his heart, right away. He's going to want to be friends".
Principal looked at us, surprised, I think. And said "Actually, we've all been talking and the two boys (as well as Alexander's other ASD friend, also one of the quiet, gentle ones) have a lot of similar interests. Computers, 'movie-making', board games, library....I suspect by the end of the year, this may be a group of 3 happy boys.
We'll give Alexander time. I spoke to him this afternoon about it. Explained about the autism. And reminded him of our discussions on body language and on how it can be difficult for people with autism to correctly read body language and social cues. "Ohhhhh. I see what you mean. I think that I saw what I thought was an angry face, but he was just frustrated. And he was running to catch me and play, and I thought he was running to catch me to hurt me". Bingo. Almost. 'But wait. Why did he head butt me then? Why would anyone do that to someone they wanted to be friends with?". Again, for my Alexander it simply is impossible to wrap his head around it. He cannot fathom why someone would deliberately inflict pain on another person -be in in words or deeds.
So we talked a little more about how for some it comes out in different ways. Some people say mean things when they're frustrated (Alexander has a tendency, just these past few months) to lash out and raise his voice to me when he's feeling powerless (so when I've pulled out the big guns and am 'forcing' him do do something he doesn't want to do - stop his game, clean his room, do his homework - all usually after he's had a bad day at school). Others lash out with their fists (he remembers a time he did this with me earlier this year, and still cries at the memory of having seriously hurt me).
Others think they're playing (boyish, rough house) without knowing when to stop and when the other person doesn't find it fun anymore.
He listened intently, and after a few minutes said "Well, I guess we both misunderstood each other's body language".
Just like that. well, maybe not just like that. But just like that for now. Alexander processes these things in stages, so no one is keen to push this issue yet, and certainly not before he's had a few days, and some chats with the school counsellor.
I know after Wednesday's initial anger and outrage and Mama bear reaction, this seems like a backdown. But I can't help that I'm having the teeniest, tiniest mama bear reaction FOR K. Sometimes I think that rather than going straight for the throat, sometimes we ASD Mums and Dads need to stick together. It can be so hard when your child is the different one, not invited to parties, not included in games, and not understanding why.
I feel so sad for him. It's Term 4 and he doesn't have a friend of his own. I battled with the deepest sadness for Alexander all year because he had noone. And I saw it lead to depression in my son. I've heard, so many times him describe 2011 as "The year my life was ruined". All because he lost a friend. I don't want another child to feel this way, not if there's a way we can work it out.
So that's what we're going to try to do. Work it out.
*The 'incident' in his classroom has broken this Mama's heart. As most of you know, I lost a large percentage of my vision in May. Leaving me almost legally blind, and unable to drive. Ever again. Heartbreaking for a lot of reasons. And one of them was that I would not be able to take Alexander to school anymore. I wouldn't be able to touch base properly with his teachers, the admin staff, see him in his classroom, help with reading. They sound like stupid things to be upset about, to Mums who hate the school run. But have even the possibility of it taken away from you, forever, and it's a whole other story.
I knew it upset Alexander. We've talked about it before. He understands, but I know it upsets him. I had no idea just how much until today.
We waited at the classroom door for the bell to go. He meandered out (as he always does, head in the clouds, holding up the show) when he looked up and spotted me. He actually gasped, and ran into my arms so hard I was thrown back. He just held on, for minutes. Until I finally raised his head up to look at his face. And I saw a face I know. Unshed tears. "Are these happy tears or sad tears, my darling?" I ask. He couldn't get the word 'happy' out before literally burying his head into me again and sobbing. At which point Joel and I were doing our level best not to join him. He cried into my top, not letting go, not showing his face, wetting my shirt with those tears....
'I just can't believe you're really here again. How did you get here? How are you here? I can't believe you're picking me up again. I can't believe it. I didn't know you were coming". Over and over, crying, not caring who was watching. Students, parents, teachers all walking by, double taking at our moment, assuming someone'd had a bad day.
My heart feels like it has a brick in it. That me showing up at the school once (it has been about 2-3 months since I was last there) could have such a profound effect. He did not let me go. We walked, clumsily to the office for our meeting with him stopping every few seconds to kiss my hand, my arm, whatever he could reach.
Worst.Mother.Ever. Sweetest little boy ever. I think I felt a piece of my heart break right off this afternoon.