Dar is this week’s Special Person in his kindergarten classroom. Most of the other kids have already had a turn as the class’s special person, because his teacher goes in alphabetical order by last name, and Dar is hovering near the rear with his connection to the world’s many Smiths. In this case, that came as a relief, because I was able to see what other parents did before having to do it for Dar himself.
So the teacher gave me this box:
Wherein lay a folder with these instructions:
So I went down to the CVS and printed photos. For Monday, I made this:
I tried to have some fun with it. Do I really know if Dar wants to be a rebel leader from Star Wars when he grows up? No. Do I even know if Tilden is his favorite place? Not really. But maybe all parents make up these things to some extent. Seemed like the thing to do.
For Tuesday we were asked to do some kind of family collage. I’d seen many other ones for many other kids, and I just tried to emulate. Bought a 90-cent posterboard because that’s what you do.
So Dar’s teacher hung them here:
The Wednesday step, as eagle-eyed readers will note, was for me to bring in Dar’s favorite book. This wasn’t as easy as it might sound. Dar tends to push away books when I try to sit and read with him. He likes to hover when I read to his brother, but when I grab his hand to sit him with us, he flits away. Every once in a while, he will finger a book, and I will run over and start reading it, often ruining the experience for him. I might ask him to point to the cow or horse or whatever is in the book. Once in a blue moon, this will work, but usually that “point to this” experience works better on his iPad programs.
During his (endless) potty training, we sometimes read him books; the aide is better about this. I can hear her voice saying, “Schlopp, schlopp, beautiful schlopp, beautiful schlopp with a cherry on top.” So I decided to bring in Dr. Seuss’ “Oh The Thinks You Can Think.” Actually he used to love it back when we didn’t know he was autistic.
But then, we couldn’t be there for today’s scheduled 8:20 reading, because Dar had his weekly speech therapy appointment from 8 to 9. We rolled into school at our usual 9:15, just as Dar’s class is going to recess, and I said to the teacher and Dar’s aide sheepishly, “here’s the book, can I read it after recess?” And the teacher said yes, but recess wasn’t going to be over for a half-hour, and I didn’t have to stay because Sophie, the aide, could read it. Sophie surprised me by looking happy to do it. Probably beats the heck out of changing Dar’s diaper and some of the other things she does for us. So that was that, I came home and worked, and then wrote this.
Tomorrow I’ll put a couple of Dar’s toys in the box. Not sure if I should put his actual favorite toys, which are sorta-Barbie-like dolls that he strips and stims with, or something less, uh, eyebrow-raising.
Friday I guess I have to make up something that he did with this bear here from the box:
Actually, Dar likes bears, probably not least because his teacher’s “bear cave” (full of stuffed bears) has become his unofficial break room. He says “bea” reliably upon being presented a bear. The folder has pages of other kids writing about what they did with the bear. Hmm, well, I should probably write on Dar’s behalf:
“I walked around the house with Billy Bear and I said tee-tee-tee. I stretched Billy Bear to see if he would break. I said ‘bea.’ I love this bear.”
I find myself grateful for every moment that I see Dar’s classmates looking at or talking about him where I don’t hear “oh he’s so weird” or “Dar doesn’t get it” or anything like that. I guess they’re too young for their judgiest, bullying-est instincts to come out. I presume I’ll look back in appreciation.
I wonder what these 5- and 6-year-olds get out of a week where Dar is anointed a special person. Perhaps they, like every adult I meet, will react to the next time someone brings up autism by declaring their knowledge and association, in their case: “Oh yeah, I know autism, my classmate has (had) that.” Maybe Dar will be a perk on their college applications.
As for Dar, it’s impossible to tell if he notices any of this. He can’t say how his day was. It would be nice to know if he’s one of THOSE autistic kids who doesn’t want any attention (and then we would significantly dial down a week like this) or one of THOSE who revels in it. He might be really happy one minute and screaming the next, with a lot less antecedent than anything I’ve written here.
I guess that’s life when you’re a Special Person Every Week.