Thursday, November 7, 2013

Square Peg

Ryan doesn't fit the classical picture of high-functioning autism.

She's been reading - being forced to read (by me) - Luke Jackson's book "Freaks, Geeks & Asperger Syndrome", written by a 13 year old boy with Asperger's.  We - meaning I - thought it would be a good way for Ryan to learn about and understand her autism now that she has been diagnosed.

Uh yeah.

Trying to get one autistic child to empathise with another autistic child ranges right up there with getting a playgroup together for autistic children to socialise with one another.

What, about this whole autism spectrum thing, are we parents not getting?!

An earlier counsellor with ASD herself described Ryan as "exceptional special needs."

This is not bragging.  This means that Ryan really doesn't fit the mold even within the special needs, specifically the Autistic Spectrum Disorder, category.

She doesn't flip out with sensory overstimulation.  She has certain peculiarities about clothes, but not to extremes.    She is a picky eater but not as bad as most ASD children I know.  She doesn't flip out or become violent.  She doesn't rock or moan or collect string or play with batteries or keys.  She doesn't need to cover her ears to go out.  She isn't in any way obsessive compulsive.  She isn't violent.  She doesn't disrupt the classroom.  She can handle a fairly varied lifestyle.  Although she vastly prefers routine - especially at school - she can handle change.  She doesn't have problems sleeping. 

She doesn't fit the profile of the typical nerd either.  She doesn't memorise the phone book.  She isn't uncoordinated and clumsy.  In fact, she is quite good at anything athletic, including dance, having been asked to formally study ballet in Germany, try-out for the gymnastics team as well as join the swim team here and qualify for districts in long distance running.  What she is is supremely indifferent.  When I showed up at districts with Andrew, the teacher asked me where Ryan was.  Later that day I asked her why she didn't tell me she had qualified.

"Well, they made me run in PE class but I didn't see the need to do it again."

Swim team? 

"Well, I'm swimming as slow as I can and they still tell me I'm too fast for classes and have to go on to squad training."

Ballet?  She didn't like the pink tutus.

Ryan is her own person, with her own personality within her disorder.  This is what makes all of us, not just people on the spectrum, unique.  Although I wish she was more determined in her academics, it is her easy going attitude that probably makes the autism easier on her than on most.

She is very comfortable with who she is.

She doesn't feel like an alien.

She doesn't feel like the rest of us are aliens either.  I asked.

She doesn't feel different or think about why she is different or worry about why she had such a hard time at school both socially and academically.

She just is.

Other people really piss her off.  Especially boys with Asperger's Syndrome.  What a bunch of losers.  What are they going on about?  And what's the big deal?  Get over it and move on.  Deal.

Regular people piss her off too, mostly girls her own age.  Make-up and I-phones and hanging out in groups and who is wearing what and who owns what and who wants to be friends with who.  Don't get her started.  It's all too stupid to contemplate.

We went to a party recently at a friend's home from dance class.  Her friend, a 14 year old girl, ran out excitedly and introduced Ryan to her other friends from school, including her boyfriend.  Then the went off to play Truth or Dare.  They were playing in the open, on the lawn, within view of the rest of the party and with younger siblings running back and forth, so there was no concern.  I was profoundly curious, though, as to how Ryan would like the game.

She came back quietly, bored and disgusted with the whole thing.  They had dared one of the boys to dress in girls' clothing and wear make-up.  This was a huge deal, involving much giggling and teasing.  Ryan just found the whole thing stupid.

Being a teenager is going to be hard for her because she already knows who she is.

As we contemplate sending her to secondary school next January, the problem becomes her arrogance and her LACK of behaviour problems.

She isn't going to get noticed as a special needs child because she just isn't needy enough.  Or special enough, perhaps.  Her social problem isn't really a problem.  She is happier alone.  As long as she isn't bullied by kids who find this arrogant and intimidating, she will stay by herself.  And, as long as she isn't causing a problem in the classroom, who is going to care about the seemingly dumb, quiet girl in the back of the classroom?  She will do as little as possible to get by unnoticed.  She will happily convince her teachers that she is dumb so that she doesn't have to work so hard.

And she will slip by,  the picture of the stereotypical GIRL with Asperger's Syndrome,  underachieving and ignored.

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