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Category Archives: mean kids

The Chicken Patty Friendship Club

Since Bailey started her new school I have witnessed some of the friendliest children try to engage her. The kindness that the kids (and adults) have shown her leaves me utterly speechless. It’s such a breath of fresh air after the negative experiences she had at her previous school.

I have noticed a few instances, however, where Bailey has flat-out ignored a person who greets her. One morning as I walked her up to the school building, she was anxious while going over her little laundry list of worries. A boy called out to her from a few yards away and asked if she wanted to walk with him to class. Without a word she quickly looked in the opposite direction. The snub wasn’t directed at me but I sure felt the sting. When she’s so caught up with what is going on in her mind, she just refuses to give anyone else the time of day.

Another day, not long after moving here, we went to check out the local library and a little girl approached me to ask if she could say hello to Bailey. I was delighted and said “sure!” but Bailey just stood there and look everywhere but at the girl. Soon after the mother approached us and asked if this was the new girl at school. We made a little small tall, all the while I’m gently nudging Bailey to speak but instead she abruptly spins around and walks away. I felt a twinge of embarrassment that Bailey had once again come across a bit snobby, so I threw the “she’s a little shy” comment out there, which was such a lie. I’m not in the habit of dropping the “A” bomb just as I’m meeting new people. Usually that comes if we spend any significant amount of time getting to know each other. Even with all that we did manage to set up a play date, which wasn’t any more successful. It started out promising with Bailey being a lot more enthusiastic and outgoing, but her perservating on certain topics quickly turned the little girl off and she obviously became annoyed with Bailey very quickly. When we left I was not so confident that we would be invited back.

Over the weeks Bailey has come home with stories from her classmates, such as the world coming to an end in May. June has safely arrived but having to reassure her all through the months of April and May was extremely tiresome. I also found her in her bed a few nights ago terrified and crying because some little jerk (sorry, I don’t typically call children jerks, but this kid was a big jerk) told her that her stuffed animals can come to life while she’s sleeping and kill her. My child has always loved her stuffed animals more than any of her other toys and usually will carry one or two wherever she goes. So you can imagine her horror at hearing that her precious, fluff-filled friends would do her in. The effort it takes to calm her anxiety is so emotionally draining, and the little turkeys who tell her these absurd stories are really starting to tick me off. I get the impression that little girls this age typically ignore the nonsense and tell the stinky boys to ‘shut up’, but Bailey takes every word that is spoken to her to heart. She carries them around with her. They affect her entire being. The “that’s just kids being kids” business does not fly with me, especially when my little girl is left in a puddle and I’m the one cleaning up the mess.

There was also a recent birthday party that inevitably and glaringly put Bailey’s awkwardness on display. First it was all the sideways glances Bailey got from so many of the girls as if they were looking at a two-headed monkey. Then one little girl asked her why she kept making strange noises. But what really made my heart sink was when Bailey walked past two of the girls – with her noises and hand flapping – and watching them whisper and frown as they stared at Bailey walking away.

When it’s just me and her, Bailey is just Bailey… Quirky, silly, fun, sometimes moody like she’s 5 or 6 years older than she actually is. I love to hear the crazy made up songs she sings, filled with nonsensical words. I don’t mind the pacing because I know it’s calming for her. I don’t mind the crashing noises or contorted facial expressions. I’ve come to just expect those little things as part of the day. But seeing her in a group of her peers, Asperger’s screams at me. Out of control, noisy, different, loud, odd, fixated, annoying, emotionally immature like she’s 3 or 4 years younger than she actually is.

I worry so much about her making friends. I worry that all the moving we’ve done so early in her life has prevented her from even having the desire to make friends. I worry about her being made fun of, being bullied, pressured into doing things a more socially savvy child wouldn’t be suckered into doing. I also worry about her turning potential friends off by coming across cold, loud, and annoying. I worry about kids who don’t take the time to look past all the quirks and strange echolalia to get to know that bubbly, energetic, imaginative and adventurous little girl that I know.

But in the midst of all the disappointing encounters that squash my hopes of solid friendships for her, sometimes little things happen that make me feel lighter than air and replenish that hope.

One of the first few days I went into the school office to pick Bailey up, I noticed a little boy walk in with Bailey and Miss T, the Special Education teacher. Adam was in a pretty rotten mood and obviously annoyed by anything and everything. Over the next few days seeing him come in every afternoon, I got the distinct impression that he was a bit more profoundly affected by ASD than Bailey.

Over time I noticed him coming out of his shell a bit, making a point to say goodbye to Bailey as we would leave, and eventually he even started saying goodbye to me too. One day after she told him she would see him the following day, he enthusiastically sat up straight and said “Bye Bailey, I love you!” Miss. T and I looked at each other with eyes as wide as saucers. Miss T said, “wow things move pretty fast in the second grade!” and I laughed so hard. It was incredibly sweet and innocent, and it made me happy to know that my Bailey, as difficult as she can be sometimes, has managed to get through the wall that Adam built for himself.

Weeks later when I was in the office to pick Bailey up, she and Adam were deep in conversation as Miss T and I talked about their day. She began telling me that she was amazed at how they are with each other. That Adam has never responded to anyone like he has with Bailey. She told me of how patient Bailey is with him when no other child in the school has been, and how he holds appropriate conversations with her when he usually struggles with them.

As I stood there watching them hug each other goodbye, it hit me. I’ve been so concerned with neurotypical kids accepting and understanding Bailey, and her not driving them away with her quirkiness, that I didn’t stop to realize what an awesome friend SHE can be to someone even further down the spectrum. Someone who looks straight through her quirkiness to see her, just like she looks through his quirkiness to see him. Bailey is capable of being the one that offers comfort to the child who is high-strung and gets hysterical over discomfort (when she herself is not in the middle of hysterics, that is). Bailey is the one that says “cool!” to the child who comes up with the oddest name for a friendship group. Bailey is the one who has patience with the child who refuses to stop talking about chicken patties. Her responses may not be appropriate or on topic, and may even include ToonTown references, but she is still showing great patience.

Now when I see Adam, he is relaxed and cheerful. It’s the best feeling in the world knowing that my girl played a part in that. All the things I have desperately wanted for her to receive, she already has in her heart to give to others. I just need to focus on helping her pull those things out more, instead of focusing on what others give her. I can’t make her peers magically accept all the little things about her that may turn them off. I would rather put my energy into making sure she’s equipped with all the ingredients to make the best chicken patty on the planet, so she is that special friend to someone who needs her the most.

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Colors

Last night I jolted awake at around 2 a.m. as I normally do when my husband is away on business. While I pile Bailey and Cookie in the bed with me to keep us all together and feeling secure, I feel overwhelmed at being left as the “protector” of the household. I mean, let’s face it, Cookie may annoy an intruder to tears with her yiping, but she’s certainly not going to fight one off.

After waking up like that my brain is wide awake. I usually jump on the computer, but last night I was determined to stay away from it and try to get back to sleep. That leaves my mind open to letting worrisome thoughts run amok. Worry over getting Bailey the help she needs, worry about her future, worry over the past, worry about how she’s being treated at school. Then it occurs to me that the very-unlike-her quiet spells that I’ve noticed in her lately may be related to school. She’s only been this way in the past week or so and it seems to happen after we get home, after she’s had time to check on her toons and terrorize the dog. Add that to her “crazy” question the other day and I’m starting to get really concerned.

Unfortunately this morning was one of those rushing-out-the-door-with-her-breakfast-in-one-hand-and-me-in-my-PJs-kind of morning. But after parking the car and walking with her up to the building I asked her the question I usually ask her after school.

“How is school going?” I ask.

“Great!” she replies.

“Are the other kids nice to you?”

Even though I can only see her profile I immediately notice her expression change.

*mumble*

“What baby?”

*mumble* “Fine”

“You can tell me.” I say.

“Not right now” she snaps.

Alrighty then. *Red flag*

I go into pissed-off-mama-bear mode because I just know there is a little twirp inside who has been mean to my baby. But I put on a smile, kiss her, and tell her she can tell me later. I emailed the special services teacher when I got home to ask her to check on Bailey today, to see if she can get Bailey to open up to her. So far I’m really not impressed with how they run things there but I’ll be darned if I’m going to sit by and let them ignore me on this. All this makes me really miss the special education teacher at Bailey’s last school. If she were handling this situation I wouldn’t have to give it another thought.

I know there will be mean kids out there. I know she will struggle with making friends. I know her peers will have a hard time understanding her. But I will not stand by and accept cruel treatment of her. Especially after the pool incident…

A  few weeks ago, Bailey and I were having a particularly rough day. After we both had meltdowns, I decided we should try to turn the day around and head to our community pool. When we first arrived she was the only child there and she made several remarks about hoping some kids would show up. You see, she has a great desire to make friends, but her quirks most often times get in the way, never allowing new friendships to last longer than 20 minutes. Aside from the remarkably awesome army of 22 kids in her 1st grade class, there has been only 1 or 2 children that have gravitated towards Bailey and proved to be true friends.

After a while a group of five girls showed up. I would say their ages ranged from 4 to 9. They proceeded to get in the water, squealing and playing games. After watching Bailey pretending not to watch them for a good 10 minutes, I encouraged her to go over and play. She followed her normal “I’m Bailey. You wanna be friends?” script and for a little while things went swimmingly, pardon the pun.

Enter the made up game “Colors” for which I still can’t say I’m clear on the rules. But it involved tagging and one person being “it”. I could see trouble brewing from a mile away, but I try to give Bailey a chance to work through things without me always jumping to her defense. That’s what we’re supposed to do right? Throw the kid in the ocean and let them fight off the sharks, otherwise they’ll never learn to take care of themselves. Right? OK, that is a bit dramatic, but you get my point. Anyway, I’ve been accused by her in the past of being too “there” and embarrassing her, so I try to give her space. So with her anti-executive functioning mind, Bailey has a difficult time comprehending instructions and you have to break them out in small steps. She’s not dumb by any means. In fact, she scored gifted on verbal IQ. But her filing cabinets are all mixed up and the incoming mail she receives gets dumped in a messy heap on the floor of her brain.

Now, when you have a group of little girls throwing rules out to a made up game, and the rules are changing with the wind, she’s definitely not going to be able to keep up. Along with the fact that she is not a great swimmer and graceful she definitely is not. It was obvious that she was struggling. So her frustration got the best of her. She quit twice and reluctantly rejoined twice. But after being ridiculed for being a quitter and a sore loser by the oldest girl, and breaking down into tears, I finally stepped in to pull her out of the pool. My heart was breaking and I couldn’t stand it anymore. Knowing how bad she wants friends and how excited she gets when kids are around…and this is the result. Of course Bailey didn’t want to get out of the pool. She wanted to stay in and continue the torture. So the girls got one last show, as did the two dads and grandmother who were sitting idly by, wearing their smirks. I could read their expressions… “What a brat. Can’t even handle a simple game at the pool.” I wanted to run away and hide. But I had to rescue my girl from those rotten baby sharks first.

After having to threaten to go in after her and throwing out a bunch of “I know, I know” while she’s yelling loud enough for Texas to hear her, I managed to get her dried off. I noticed the parents trying to gather their girls up to leave and I hear the oldest girl speak so firmly and disrespectfully to her grandmother, and I shake my head at what is tolerated by adults from their children. They won’t step in to keep their child from bullying mine, because they themselves allow their little monsters to bully them.

In the girls’ defense, do they really know any better? As I mentioned in a previous post, Bailey doesn’t have a sign hanging from her shoulders that lets people know the potential for fireworks shooting out of her ears and they don’t know how difficult it is for her to process rules that aren’t her own. But I would like to think that just one out of the group would’ve managed a little bit of compassion for the tears and obvious frustration. The adults…they do know better. And they should teach better. Any grown up that sits by and watches their children treating another child that way and not encourage them to show a little patience and kindness should be ashamed of themselves.

I try my best not to worry. But when I settle for any amount of time on thoughts of her in the near future, at the stage in her life when friends and being accepted are so important, I feel sheer panic in my chest at what she will most likely endure. Right now she is so incredibly sensitive about feeling or looking different from her peers. As true as it is, she doesn’t buy the “everyone’s different” business. In her 7-year-old, Asperger’s mind she wants more than anything to be the same. I’m so afraid that she is going to sacrifice her true self in an effort to be like everyone else.

So the other day I made a point to catch her when she was calm and quiet. That time that I know she will hear me and it will sink in, and maybe what I have to say will even be filed in the right place. I said, “Will you promise me something?”

“What?” she asked.

“Promise me that, no matter what, you will never change who you are to make someone like you.”

“I promise.”

For now that little promise will have to do. I know it’s not going to be that easy in the long run. But for now it will do. And even though I know there will come a day when I’ll be the uncoolest person in the world, I will always fight for her, I will always be her biggest fan and I will never let her forget it.

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