He is an artist, loves to draw and paint and create. He loves to build with cardboard and duct tape and sticks. Playing out in the wooded area behind our home is high atop his list of favorite things to do. He builds stick forts and cuts down tiny trees and enjoys nature. He looks like other boys his age but he is not like them. His brain does not work like other boys. When we give him directions, they must be concise and even though he looks like he is listening to us he may not recall what we said after the first or second step. He does not understand many social cues. Perhaps someone is smiling at him because they are enjoying his artwork and he will think they are staring at him and being mean. Perhaps someone is saying mean things to him and he will think they are his best friend.
He is an amazing child to hang out with and talk to. He comes up with the most interesting ideas and questions! However, he may not remember why you are answering those very questions just a few moments later.
This school year he is very lucky that the children are understanding and kind with him but that is not always the case. I try to explain him in a manner that everyone can understand:
We all have issues or problems. Some of us even have disabilities. You may have diabetes, depression, or scoliosis. These things may not be visible to others but can cause difficulties for the person who has them. Perhaps you have ADHD, know someone with cancer or bipolar disorder? Some problems we have can be more serious than others. Do you need glasses to see well at school or to read a book? Do you know someone who needs a hearing aid or is blind? Some problems we have are obvious to others. We all have some problem whether we are aware of it or not and whether another person can look at us and determine our problems or not.
You may notice that sometimes he sings quietly during class or taps on his desk. Maybe you have noticed that he does not like for you to touch him or stand too close? Do you wonder why he has more of these behaviors than other kids in your class? He was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. This is something that occurred because his birth mother chose to drink alcohol while pregnant with him. The alcohol went into his system and damaged parts of his developing brain. This means that parts of his brain do not always work right and it affects his behavior. Sometimes he may forget what you just told him or he may not be able to stop singing even when you ask him nicely. He just can not always control what he says or does. He may do things without considering the consequences, like eat a bug or run out into the road to get a ball he was playing with. Sometimes when he is playing with you, he may act extra silly. He may not understand the game you are playing even though you just told him how to play. He may act more like a little kid than you do. The thing is that sometimes he can remember and sometimes he can control his behavior but sometimes he just cannot. It can be really frustrating to be around him when he cannot control his behavior but remember that it is really frustrating for him too. He just wants to be like you but he isn’t. He tries very hard to have friends and to be a friend and he very much wants to make others happy. But sometimes he just cannot. He may get frustrated and rudely walk away from you or yell at you. Sometimes to him it doesn’t seem fair that you understand or CAN do something and he cannot. Sometimes the harder he tries the more his brain fights and does not let him.
We worry that next year he is going to really struggle as he moves to middle school. He will be in 7 different classes daily with 7 different teachers and many different students. At his middle school, the classes are luckily close together so he will be able to navigate the halls but we fear he will face social ostracization. It is so hard to sit back and wait for your child to fail. It is so hard to know that your child is going to struggle and