Thursday, September 2, 2010

Growing Social Awareness

Jack's first week of school was wonderful but, not surprisingly, he's showing some signs of stress. In the regular class, he has started asking for "quiet time" in the day, and they give him a two-minute break to read a book without having to pay attention to the teacher or interact in the class.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love this school district? Well, I do!

Tuesday, Jack had to go to speech therapy at Children's at 5:00. I gave him total down-time when he got off the bus, so he watched a movie and stimmed for almost an hour before we left for therapy. I kept him focused on the drive there in an attempt to get him back out of his private world. When he came out from his session with Ms. Debbie, she told me he had a horrible time focusing. He asked her not to tell me that he'd not done a good job, though both Debbie and I totally understand why he would have this problem at 5:00 PM on the seventh day of a new and challenging school year.

When Jack and I got in the car, he said, "Mommy, my brain wasn't working right today. Are you disappointed in me?" This BROKE MY HEART!!!! I explained that we all have bad days when our brains don't work very well, and that it's okay as long as he did his best. "Well, I did my best, but it wasn't very good," he said. Then he asked, "Was Ms. Debbie disappointed in me?"

As heartbreaking as this is, it's also a very good sign of growing social awareness. Jack is finally realizing that his actions affect other people...or at least finally able to verbalize his awareness. That is HUGE for a child with autism. In reading books and blogs by adults living with autism, I've been struck by how hard it is for them to understand why anyone else would care what they do or say. They don't want to hurt anyone and are hurt and confused when they realize they have.

That Jack's brain is capable of this sort of awareness at 8 years old gives me hope that he'll be able to have more appropriate empathy and social awareness as he matures. It also gives me hope that motivating him to do his work will get easier as he seeks to please the grown-ups in a more typical way. We shall see how far he can go, but for now, I'm all about teaching him that his best is quite good enough for matter what it is.

What signs of social awareness have you seen in your child with autism? How did you feel about those changes or the lack thereof?