I could tell right away this afternoon, as soon as Aaron came in the door and found me downstairs, that something wasn’t quite right. As I looked at him I knew that he had been crying, and that was confirmed as soon as he began to tell me about his day. He was trying to smile but his mouth had that familiar taut look that told me he could easily cry at any moment. I tried to just listen, but his version of events is usually very hard to follow. Therefore, I had to ask questions, which frustrated him……especially when he was already frustrated. That led to me giving him a lecture about what he told me had happened. I wasn’t helping at all.
After listening to Aaron, and especially after talking to Misty, one of his staff – I was able to piece together what had transpired. Apparently, at the theater, Aaron had given Rosie a playful whack on her rear as she passed him in the aisle on her way to sit beside him. Rosie didn’t think a thing about this behavior of Aaron’s. One of the staff told Aaron that he was being rude, and for some reason Aaron became very sad about what he had done. He finally got up during the movie and sat outside in the hallway on a couch.
Let me explain some things about Aaron. He does not have the filters that you and I have. He has an almost uncontrollable urge to whack us on the back or on the rear or maybe on top of our heads. He doesn’t do it all the time, but often enough that he gets fussed at regularly. Aaron also has a very hard time controlling his mouth. Often he is funny, as you know from what I write about him, but he can also be very insulting and frustrating. He might call someone weirdo or stupid or dumb or many other names.
It’s complicated, but Aaron’s brain literally doesn’t connect things the way that others do. We have worked and worked with him from the time that he was a very little boy over these issues……and many more. He is high functioning enough that you would think he could control these impulses, but he often cannot. We still correct him……we still reward him, especially with praise, when he shows restraint……..we still caution him about correct behaviors and speech before he goes to his day group………but we still see these same behaviors over and over. We can’t even tease Aaron very often because if you give him an inch he will take a mile. In other words, if he sees a small opportunity that teasing may afford to tease us back, then he will strike with both barrels. How often have we all heard Aaron say, “Oh yeah?”…….and then launch into some verbal or physical barrage, all “in fun.” Therefore, we have to discourage physical play with Aaron as well as verbal bantering.
Aaron’s mouth and his hitting are a very large part of his disability when it comes to getting along in groups of people. When his staff understands this, and loves and understands Aaron, then things run smoothly. We are very thankful for the understanding and loving staff that he has at Paradigm.
Now back to today. For some reason, Aaron was very emotional today. Recently we’ve noticed that he wants to be pleasing, and that he talks a lot about having friends. He wonders why certain of his peers at Paradigm like him, which is both sweet and sad to hear. He and Rosie are very special friends, and they understand one another. They can poke each other or step on each other’s foot on purpose, and know that it’s all in fun. So when Aaron gave her a little hit on her rear, it was no big deal to him or to Rosie. It was also appropriate for one of the staff to tell Aaron that he was being rude. Gary or I certainly would have done the same thing.
But for some reason, today, it got to Aaron. He didn’t want to be rude, especially to Rosie, and he didn’t want to have to come home and tell me that he had been rude and that he had hit Rosie when I told him once again this morning not to hit anybody. So he left the movie that he really wanted to see, and he sat out on the couch. He said to me, “I sat on the couch and was thinking. What do you think of me thinking?”
I had to smile at that. And I told him I thought it was a very good thing to be thinking. He continued, “What does that mean to you, that I was thinking? That was new to me.” As he talked and talked, I felt like I understood what he was trying to convey. He was upset that he had whacked Rosie and he was upset that he was rude and he was upset that he had to come home and tell me about it. But it went even deeper than that. I learned from talking to Misty on the phone that Aaron had told her the most amazing thing.
As they drove away from the theater, with Aaron crying, he said to Misty, “Do you know why my brain doesn’t work like everybody else’s brain? I tell my brain to not do something but it does it anyway.”
My Aaron expressed himself in a way seldom heard from him. It was both eye-opening and heart breaking. How I wish I could reach inside his head and rearrange all of his neurons for him as easily as I can gently put a band-aid on his wounds! How I wish I could give him a magic pill that could control his impulses! How I wish that I could make his life easier.
What can I do? I can, along with Gary, love our Aaron. I can listen a little longer before I jump in with a lecture, assuming I know the whole story as I did today before he has time to slowly sort it out in his head and tell me. I can, like Aaron, learn to sit on the couch and do some thinking……….some thinking about what Aaron is thinking. And that can be some deep thinking right there, trust me. For what Aaron is thinking is complex and puzzling and confused…..and sometimes just sad. His tears today showed me that.
Well, he’s in the family room right now crunching on some cucumbers that Gary sliced for him. I hope he’s done with the crunching before I go down. He wants me to do something with him, and I hope that I have the time. Maybe I’ll give his back a good tickle with the back scratcher, and listen to him talk.
No telling what I’ll learn if I just listen.