January 20th, 2008

The Very Beginning is a Very Good Place To Start

Part I:

When Jack’s school teachers suggested in November that “something might be up” with him, we had a rather convoluted set of reactions. The first was, of course, to get defensive: obviously, the teachers who looked after him were incompetent assholes. Because he wasn’t fitting into some dull, cookie-cutter image of a “normal” child, they immediately jumped on the Label Wagon, and we honestly didn’t need nor want him to be like all the other kids. Our kid, you see, is a freaking delight. Smart, funny, imaginative beyond belief, he can already identify all letters in the alphabet (both lower and upper case) and knows what sounds the letters make, just because he thinks it’s fun. He plays with cars and trucks like other two and a half year olds, except that he likes to build roads for his wheels, starting with the “excavator” that first digs up the ground and loads the dirt into the waiting dump truck, which itself has been carried to the construction site by a flat bed truck. Cranes carry in the heavy materials; there are welders and jackhammers and lunch carts for the “worker mens” snack breaks. We’re not sure how he’s figured out how all the moving parts work together in tandem to create something like a road, but he has, and there you pretty much have it. So anyone who couldn’t see how perfectly amazing our kid is was obviously impaired.

But then…then there was the time last summer when we took Jack to a toddler gym class. Because he’s such an active boy and loves to climb, we thought he would love it. Yet, while all of the children somersaulted and crawled through padded tunnels like cats, Jack was frantically running along the exterior of the floor and walls, ostensibly looking for the nearest escape route. He couldn’t stand to be in a group with the other children. It was torture for him to sit and listen to the instructor’s directions and then be made to follow them. And the whole time, he did not stop moving. Not once. And his eyes would move a million miles an hour, scanning every minute surface in the gym except my own eyes. In fact, when I sat down to think about it, Jack’s eyes never really held my own. Even as a small baby, he would avoid a direct gaze. I remember these things being a nagging, prickly worry. Is this normal? This doesn’t feel normal. I was reassured by the most well-intentioned that yes, surely, this was entirely normal and their own children did the same things when they were as young… And then, of course, I felt neurotic and psycho-analyzed my concerns as part of my overall tendency to find something to worry about because nothing that is real can really be perfect. Blah blah blah.

So, moving on. At school, Jack refuses to sit in “Circle Time.” He hates participating in group activities and even has trouble sitting down at the lunch table with the other children. He will not go for a walk with the class without pulling or dragging or laying on the ground or insisting on being held. He doesn’t settle down to take naps. In fact, he doesn’t settle down, really, ever. Not that he’s hyper, but he’s just always going. His hands are always moving, his eyes are always moving, his feet are always moving. He walks on his tip-toes. A lot. So after a lot of time (perhaps since birth) of being reassured that his behavior was developmentally appropriate, and even more time hoping that this was true, and then, especially as he grew into this incredibly funny and sensitive and intuitive little guy, to be told that it might not be all green pastures, it felt as though we’d been kicked in the stomach.

Posted by: Sarah on January 20th, 2008
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