"We worked him pretty hard today," his therapist told me when I went to pick him up from his second social-skills group session.
Working hard, for N, meant that they had played "Duck, Duck, Goose," and the prospect of being in a circle of peers, of having them touch his head--and, worse, of not knowing if they would say 'duck' or 'goose' and thus not being able to prepare--was apparently more than he could handle.
He had, the therapist said, initially refused to play at all, until she got him to agree to be the 'example' of how the game is played. That way, he knew she was going to pick him. Negotiations almost broke down, she said, when he wanted to leave the circle after he'd done his part as the example. No, she told him, you need to be part of the group. Then he said he didn't want anyone touching his head. No, she told him, that's part of being in the group. But how about if I promise nobody will pick you? That way, you know that when they touch your head, they're only going to say 'duck' and not 'goose' and you don't have to worry.
She told me all this very seriously, with pride at the way he'd been able to get past at least some of his fears to be at least a nominal part of the group. But here's where I reveal myself to be a horrible person. Because, while she was telling me all this? I have to admit that I maybe rolled my eyes a little. Only internally, I swear. But they definitely rolled. They did that because sometimes I am not the world's best special-needs parent. Maybe even most times. And, at those times, having to consider with due gravity a game of "Duck, Duck, Goose," and to think of it as hard, serious work is more than I am capable of.
The fact that he threw three huge tantrums in a row beginning almost immediately upon arriving home...the fact that I ended up putting him into bed an hour early while he shrieked at the top of his lungs, begging me to let him watch TV instead...the fact that he needed to lie on top of me for 15 minutes before he could catch his breath...Well, that should have clued me in that 'work' means different things to different people.
I'm ashamed to say that, caught up in the fever-pitched hysteria that was my son that night, I couldn't see that particular forest for the tantrumming trees.
"N's having a difficult time today," the director of the religious school told me last night, when I went to pick him and Em up at the end of the day. "He's been needing me to hold him a lot; he's been coming over and putting his head on my knee, and asking me to rub his forehead and his hair. I totally don't mind, but I thought you should know."
I nodded. "It's not that surprising," I confided to her, without even hesitating. "He's started this new OT program, and they told me yesterday that they worked him pretty hard. I think he'll probably just need a little 'extra' for a day or two after his sessions, until he starts to get acclimated."
I'm ashamed to say that it was only then, as the words came out of my mouth, that I realized what I'd missed the night before. Because I am an idiot.
On an oddly related note: Earlier today, Kristen sent out a Twitter link to a post from a teenager who has Asperger's Syndrome. It describes, I imagine, exactly what N was going through on Monday. Except he can't yet explain what that feels like to me, and so I don't always get just how hard stuff like that can be, and just how hard he's working--yes, working--to get past it.
If I hadn't finally gotten it yesterday, this would have been the lightbulb moment for me.
But I get it. I get it now.