Becoming Aware

Posted by on Mar 30, 2011 | 1 comment

One of the things I wonder about is how Jack will be when he grows up.  Will he be self-sufficient?  Will he have an amazing job?  Will he have a wife and children?  And also, at what age will he “become aware” of how his brain is different?

Becoming

All parents wonder and worry about their child’s future.  Special needs parents worry on a different level, hoping the child will be able to cope and make their way without constant support.  And for those children who cannot, we hope the safety net will always be strong.

Jack is only five and a half years old, so while I think about those long-term things, I’m focused on the “right now.”  And right now, I’m thinking about grade one.  How will he be in a class where he’s required to sit at a desk most of the day?  What will he be like as the school structure tightens?  At what point will Jack begin to realize that he’s slightly “different?”

We’ve never sheltered Jack.  He’s always been in “inclusive” or “collaborative” classrooms, which are integrated with both special needs and neuro-typical children.  He’s almost always had a Behavioural Interventionist (BI in the US) or Special Education Assistant (SEA in Canada), but the other children have merely treated those individuals as an additional teacher, not a thing that makes Jack different.   Perhaps at this age children are just still blissfully ignorant of difference.

We have, however, noticed little signs that Jack is recognizing his quirks and needs.  In the classroom, Jack knows when he is overwhelmed and needs to to take a “break” (he can go out into the hall or another room to escape the chaos).   At home, he often spends hours building train tracks, or sometimes he sits and watches Treehouse.  I know that sounds like every other five-year-old, but in Jack’s case, he seems pretty in tune with what activity suits his sensory needs at any given time.

It’s the wild card situations that still give me pause and worry – will Jack be ok in a new hotel on our vacation?  Will he enjoy the various activities we have planned over spring break?  Will Jack integrate well at a friend’s birthday party?  In our five-and-a-half years together, I’ve gotten pretty good at anticipating Jack’s needs and acting accordingly, but as he gets older, I am surprised more and more with how much less I need to do.  Of course I still need to manage our time (time spent at an activity, time spent away from routine, time until meals and bedtime, etc), but that is the endless job of a mother – Time Manager.  Nowadays, if I do my job well, Jack is fine and thrives.

We took a short trip to Victoria, BC for spring break, and got to see and do a lot of wonderful things.  We planned a visit to the Victoria Butterfly Gardens to spend some time with the butterflies.  Jack was excited, but I wondered what he’d do once we got there.  We had visited the Vancouver Aquarium the week before, and he had been overwhelmed by the Amazon exhibit that included butterflies.  He swore this time would be different, and he was all in.

Due to perfect time management on my part, we arrived right in the middle of naptime.  Peak problem time for not only Jack, but all three boys.  Lennon whined to go home immediately, Kieran kept trying to get into the river that ran throughout the sanctuary, and Jack swatted at the beautiful Blue Morpho butterflies soaring past him.   As much as he swore he loved them, every time they came near he jumped and batted at them.

We persevered, and eventually got what we had hoped for – a butterfly encounter, thanks to a box of brand-new baby butterflies who much more amenable to being touched and worn by little boys.

 

Jack and The Butterfly

Jack had a great time, and loved every part of it.   Hindsight saved the experience.  Well, hindsight and some baby butterflies with a lot of patience.

So I guess the wild card situations are getting better, too.  Perhaps it’s as much Jack getting to know himself as it is my awesome time management skills.   At a birthday party recently, he said something that gave me a little glimpse of things to come.   I was concerned about a party with a lot of children Jack didn’t know, right in the middle of the afternoon (again, naptime).  The party was close to home, though, so I figured we could always leave if things got hairy for him.

As the children mingled and played before the party activities, Jack was buzzing around the house like a little bee checking everything out.

“There’s a lot of stuff to see here,” he told me.

“Yup.”

Jack went on.  “It makes my motor go all weird.”  He gave me a big smile and moved on to the next thing.

(I am always impressed with this home, let me add.  They have three little boys about the same age as mine, yet manage to somehow make it look as if adults live there, too.  I haven’t quite conquered the monkey to big people ratio and am infinitely jealous.)

Jack finished his tour of the home, and settled in to check out their toys, in a playroom separate from most of the other kids.  He played every party game, he ate hot dogs and cake, and had a ball.

When we got home, I asked Jack what his favourite part of the party was.  He told me he liked being able to go back and forth between the party and the toy room.  Adaptation, realized.

I have fears and anticipation for Jack’s future, but I’m slowly recognizing that I am not in control – Jack is.  And as Jack gets to know himself, he’ll take the reigns from me.  I’m not sure I’ll be ready to turn them over when the time comes, but then, what mother ever is?

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  • Marie

    Thank you so much for sharing Jacks story. He sounds so much like my 5yr old Sammy.
    Sammy has High Functioning Autism and like Jack he gets focused on one thing and it seems to consume him.
    I worry so much about Sammy’s future. He is incredibly smart and knowledgeable but at the same time he still struggles with social cues and gets frustrated easily. Some days are definitely better than others but everyday seems to present itself with new challenges. We defeat old challenges only to be faced with new ones to over come.