These last few weeks at school have been pretty awful. Notes come home frequently and caller ID gives advance warning that a teacher is contacting us – again. I wish I could make it all go away by not answering the phone or opening his backpack.
Evan is swearing at his teachers. He is spitting at people. He is hitting staff. He peed on the floor and thought it was funny. Then, while cleaning it up, he sang “It’s a Hard Knock Life.” Don’t tell Evan I laughed when I heard about his musical antics. Finding humor in humiliation is a necessary coping mechanism.
What’s not so funny is these behaviors. They are not Evan. While he has been known to drop the F bomb and has a small arsenal of choice words more suitable for an R -rated movie than the playground, we’ve been able to minimize the bad language, and he’s never sworn at someone until now. What is going on at school that’s causing these behaviors? Why is every school communication a message with more bad news about Evan? We don’t know and may never figure it out.
The last e-mail stung. The teacher wrote a letter to the parents of Evan’s classmates, informing them that their son or daughter heard a bunch of inappropriate words. I went to bed that night mortified by the realization that Evan had become that kid – the one that I, as a parent, would want out of my child’s classroom.
While he’s had difficulties with behaviors at school in the past, those hardly compare to what is going on today. And now I fear that there are a number of other parents who are praying that Evan will magically disappears from the classroom. If he wasn’t my son, I would hope that Evan suddenly moved someplace far away. I wouldn’t want my child’s education interrupted by a swearing, hitting, peeing-on-the-floor classmate.
To the parents of Evan’s classmates, I want you to know that I am sorry that your children are being exposed to my son’s behaviors and that his outburst are interrupting the educational process. Instead of learning multiplication and division, your children are possibly learning new vocabulary.
I hope you are understanding because you know what it’s like raising a child with autism. Maybe you don’t need an apology because you are secretly relieved that your child is not the only one saying four-letter words or acting up at school.
I want you to know that we are working hard to change things. There are consequences for poor choices and rewards for good ones. But, as you know, autism is complicated. Behaviors show up suddenly and inexplicably and we’re scrambling to figure out the cause or come up with a solution. With Evan, his outburst – although not usually this bad – often disappear as quickly as they come.
As we try to work on what’s happening now, I want you to know that Evan is much more than a disruption in the classroom. I want you to know that he is sweet. He is caring. He loves to play. He likes to make people laugh but doesn’t always know how. He can be empathetic and he often understands sarcasm despite his autism. He has a fabulous memory for names and he thinks the Spice Girls are awesome.
You should also know that Evan likes to sing. He likes to dance. He sometimes spends hours making up performances and putting on shows in an “auditorium” he created. If you’d like to come to one of his performances, let me know. They are family friendly, I promise.
You should also know that he hates things like spider webs, the word “appreciate,” when other people turn off the lights and the unpredictability of daily life. Right now there is something at school that is bothering him. He can’t articulate what it is because he most likely doesn’t know, and we don’t either.
What I do know is that this too shall pass. Either we will figure it out or, more likely, he will figure it out. Evan is the kind of kid who takes time to process things, work through his issues and fix them. He just needs consequences and rewards to help motivate him through the process. And when he does figure it out, normalcy will return to the classroom- at least until your child has his or her issues. When that happens, I promise to be understanding.