One Person Can Be A Village

by mamalovestowrite • More.com Member { View Profile }

When my son was just three I learned one amazing thing. That, it doesn’t always take a village to raise a child, sometimes one remarkable woman can make all of the difference.

When your child is different, or difficult, anyone who shows him a little patience and understanding becomes your hero. When a pre-school teacher make his progress her personal goal, it’s hard to fathom such dedication.

I say without hesitation that turning this toddler into a boy ready for school was like carving granite with a butter knife.

Quite often when I left work each evening to pick him up it was with mixed feelings. I was excited to be with my son – to see his delighted smile as I appeared and he ran across the room to wrap me in his tight bear hug. On the other hand, I knew there would be reports of him hitting classmates, refusing to participate in any art activities and having to sit alone during center time.

On the worst days he would have thrashing fits when anyone tried to control his obsessive behavior. He would deteriorate into kicking teachers and crying inconsolably and the class would retreat to one section of the room to continue their lesson while his teacher sat near him, waiting until he was ready to wipe his tears, control his anger and move on.

When taking privileges away didn’t work, we tried writing letters. For each time he hit or kicked, he wrote an apology and drew a picture for his classmate. There were weeks when we were writing two letters a day. I often wondered if we were making progress as I asked him to explain what his circle and stick drawing represented, so I could describe it in the letter. And always, the simple drawing was not a simple idea but rather became a complex story about light sabers and knights taking on evil monsters.

While we worked on his apology letters we talked about the need to “use his words” not his fists or feet and to try and think before he hit. He would look at me and put his hands out palms up and slowly explain that he can’t control himself, he doesn’t know why he hits, but “his brain isn’t stopping his hands when he’s angry.”

I would watch him and wonder how odd is this brain that it can provide my son the language to explain how he’s feeling but cannot help him control himself.

He was eventually diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism spectrum disorder which affects many children, mainly boys. Those with Aspergers are considered to have normal to high intellectual capacity and atypical social capacity.

When researching Aspergers I learned many brilliant individuals have or are thought to have had Aspergers, including Thomas Jefferson and Bill Gates. This gave me great comfort and hope.

With therapy, change for my son came slowly. But as the months and then a year passed I was delighted by small victories. My son went from having one or more hitting incidents a day, to three a week, to one a week. He turned five and announced that he doesn’t hit anymore because five year olds are nice and make friends.

He decided to give art a try – when years had passed with him never touching glue or sequins or finger paint. He made Yoda and a light saber out of clay –without wearing surgical gloves.

We decided he could try Kindergarten. We knew he would still need support to ensure his experience was positive and focused on his abilities, not his disability. But what I’ve learned since I made that decision five years ago is that what he needed most was an understanding teacher. If I ever doubted that one person can make a difference, she taught me there is no doubt. In fact, one person can be a village.

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Comments

Iris Morales03.04.2011

Hi, I am the grandmother of an almost 6 year old boy who shared many of the behaviors that your son did, from the time he was about three. Jacob (not his real name) also had his emotional meltdowns, shouting spells, and uncontrollable crying, unable to explain why he felt the way he did, or the reasons his body did not feel comfortable to him. Jacob was diagnosed with sensitivity integration disorder. Thankfully, with knowledge of the what and why, his parents have been able to provide Jacob the tools that he needs in order to deal with SID. It has not been an easy journey for the family. I do not mean to play medical expert, but as I researched for articles/stories related to SID, I came across yours, and I could not help but wonder if this particular physiological dysfunction of the nervous system ---of which the brain is so central!---was ever tested for your son? MANY children with SID are found to also have Aspergers, autism, and other diagnoses, and many are found to be quite gifted. If your interest is peaked, I invite you to check out the website of the Sensory Integration Center of Long Island, at
www.sensorykids.com
Quite a few of the things that you relate in your article are so very similar to what other children with SID experience, and what has been observed/documented by several experts in the field, including those at the Center of Long Island. I have been doing MUCH research, reading, contacting on the topic of SID and co-existing disorders.
I have become very involved with the mission of having SID officially recognized and accepted as a diagnosis that will be then entered into the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM), and the International Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD), due to many reasons. Should you be interested, I would feel honored to engage in email correspondence with you. And thank you for the beautiful article.

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