He and I had a second opportunity to co-present to his class before the school year ended. What prompted the presentation was the fact I witnessed nine children in as many minutes offer unsolicited “help” to Thor. This included the following: Trying to pull his backpack off his back; grabbing his hand to pull him up the stairs; grabbing him on both sides of the face to make sure he listened; and, pushing him into line.
I believe the particular children involved thought what they were doing was “helpful” because each said things like; “Here, T, I’ll help you”; “No, up here, T”; and, “I’ll show you”.
I was able to intervene fairly quickly in each incident. Because I found it all ALWFUL I used interventions that did not messenged my better self:
“Hey, you, stop!”
“Do not touch him!”
“Oh, I do not like that!”
“Move away, now!”
“Hey, I’m talking to you!”
A brief thought on the role of the natural helper in a civilized society. The natural helper could also be known as “a bossy boots”, “a know-it-all” or “someone who has ego needs met by helping others”. Think about “the adult” you know who is always trying to “fix shit”.
A brief reflection on the celebrity status of ‘the disabled student’. I wrote about Thor being seen as the Little Big Man on Campus. This is a status I mistakenly thought would protect him in a inclusive school setting. I realized too late that status denotes here-is-someone-with-a-disability-let’s help-him.”
It was not until I got home I realized this must happen all the time to him. At dinner that night, Ward and I talked to Thor about what I had witnessed.
“I saw some stuff at school today like…and I was wondering how you feel about that?”
T slammed his fork down on the table. He made jabbing and smashing gestures and said, “Mad!” He amended it, “Hulk mad!”
A brief moment of introspection. I am a complete asshole for not knowing this. (I get we do the best we can with what we have but introspection is a good thing for humans particularly parent one’s.)
Why didn’t I know? Is it a communication issue? Is it a Ds issue? Is it a six year old issue? Is it a six year old boy issue? Does it matter?
I asked T if he and I could do another presentation together to tell his class how he feels about the whole thing.
A resounding cheer, “Yea!”
A brief aside on enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is really under-valued.
The next day I informed his kindergarten teacher we were doing another presentation. Fortunately, for her she was thrilled.
Thor and I discussed what buttons to create in Proloquo2Go®.
His recommendations were:
“I am mad.”
“I want to hit.”
My recommendations which were approved by him:
“Just because I am smaller than you I don’t need help.”
“You may not understand me but I understand you.”
I was nervous about the presentation. What if they asked about Down syndrome?
The presentation itself went well. In fact, it was great. I think the kids were shocked T understood things the same way they do. I also think they understood they were not actually being helpful.
As we finished and before the teacher had the chance to ask for questions Michael’s hand shot up. I had a sensation of dread in the pit of my stomach. The teacher asked for questions. This was Michael’s cue to go all Horshack from ‘Welcome Back Kotter’.
Thorin pointed to him, “Michael.”
In my head, “Please don’t say it.”
The “dah-dah-dah-DAH!” soundtrack from hokey suspense films was pounding in my chest.
“Yea, T. I just want to know why…yea…why…”
In my head: “Michael, give a mother a break here.”
“Yea…um…T…T…why you like ‘Captain America’ so much?”