I love a child with autism

Love Child
Never meant to be
Love Child
(Scorned by) Society
Love Child
Always second best
Love Child 
(Different from) Different from the rest…

…Love Child
Love Child
Never quite as good
Afraid, ashamed

~Diana Ross & the Supremes

So, I was listening to this popular song from the sixties.  Most of my friends will know the one, and you kids out there, well, just go and google it… heh.

I couldn’t get over the images of labels, labels, labels.  I kept singing, “LOVE child, LOVE child….” and kept thinking about the labels.  Like what being a love child meant back then.  It meant that you were born out of wedlock.  It meant shame for the child and the whole family, mostly the innocent child and their mother.  This label that carries shame is “love”.  That doesn’t make sense.  Oh yes, I’m familiar with how loosely the word love (can I stop with the quotation marks, already) was used.  I’m also thinking about all the kids born inside of wedlock into loveless and dysfunctional homes.

How cruel we can be by placing labels on people…. and those labels run the gambit.  Fat, skinny, midget, dummy, freak, retard, bastard.  See, I’ve not even gotten into racist names.  This is a sensitive issue for me.  You see, I’ve had labels thrown at me my whole life.  I survived–physically.  But now, my son is in danger of being wrongly labeled and I’m walking on eggshells.  I’m wildly reaching for ideas on how to handle this issue when it comes up in the future.

My little guy is the most amazing, loving, affectionate, smart, witty (developing), opinionated… and I could go on and on.  AND, I’d like him to carry these labels, not ones that will find him.  I’ll just say he’s MINE and I’m feeling very protective right now over something that’s on the verge of happening.  He is six years old and in the next year or few years his peers will notice that there is something different about him.  I think they notice it now, but they are too young yet to get really mean… well most of them.

For those who do not know, my son is autistic.  He’s different, but not all that different.  He loves trains, Curious George, and Thomas and Friends.  He gets bossy like most every kid out there his age, and he gets disciplined when he needs to be.  He is learning very nicely how to share.  What is different is that his brain does not work like everyone else’s.  He learns differently than other kids do, too.  Where the problem lies is that there is no bridge between him and his peers, and getting this bridge built seems to be impossible.

Our goal is to keep our son integrated with the general ed kids.  He can learn social skills, but not in the way that other kids do, instinctually.  He needs to be taught that skill like any other subject in school.  His brain cannot deduct how to act in a social situation on it’s own by detecting the normal social queues given by his peers.  (what a mouthful)  While he does make attempts at social interaction, it’s not what would normally be expected by other children and as a result, they back away (or run) in confusion or they push him away, physically. I’ve heard other kids say that he’s weird and strange.  I’ve seen this happen and realize that other kids simply do not understand that Gabe is not being “weird”, his actions do not follow socially acknowledged rules, or whatever you want to call it. There is such a need for the formation of social skills groups in schools. Educators might see these groups as solely to benefit the special needs kids, and as such, probably deem it an unnecessary expense that would be geared toward just one or a few kids.  I believe that the general ed kids can benefit as well.  They also need to be taught about the autistic child, their classmates, and need to be shown that they can successfully have a friendship with these children. Recognition, acknowledgement, tolerance, acceptance.   All of these children, normal or not, share more similarities than differences.

You may be thinking that a social skills group has nothing to do with education and should not be the responsibility of the school system.  When there are no groups in our immediate area and the school system extends the school day by almost two hours, well, there is really no time enough to get to an outside group, get home, do homework, cook and eat dinner, and make sure the child gets to bed at a decent hour for the next day of school.  It’s totally impossible and unfair to a six year old.  That was from my personal perspective.  From the perspective of education, inadequate social skills WILL interfere with learning, and not just for him, trust me.   I’m getting reports from the inside.

Everyone I have spoken to at school, agrees with me about needing a group in the school setting.  This setting IS my son’s social setting.  Of course, however, the child study team is not happy about me bringing this up.  So, this will be my battle.  I will be a courteous warrior, training for my next battle.  There’s that Viking reference again.  Oh, reference slipped over from ravelry.

Ok… Not sure how to end this.  I don’t feel as if I’m finished.  I feel as if I have more to say, but it’s not seeping up to the surface… yet.