In the last blog I wrote about Aaron, I talked about how much it means to us when others treat him with kindness. Simple Kindnesses Even the smallest kindness shown to Aaron is just huge to us, and to him.
On the flip side of kindnesses being shown to Aaron is the issue of Aaron showing kindness to others. Sometimes we’re happily surprised at how Aaron will be kind to others. Sometimes we’re sadly embarrassed at his total lack of kindness. We never know what a day will hold. We never know what an hour will hold. We actually never know from minute to minute what Aaron will display toward others.
Aaron is pretty self-centered, which is common for those with Asperger’s. Empathy doesn’t come naturally to him most of the time. For instance, if I’m crying it makes Aaron either angry or scared. He doesn’t ask what’s wrong or ask me if I’m OK. Instead, he might make fun of me or get very agitated. I know that about him, so I try to never let him see me cry. I can’t invent that sort of empathy in Aaron, try as I might.
Therefore, when Aaron shows that he cares about someone, those of us who live and work with Aaron are delighted. I wrote a few months ago about how I saw Aaron walking to Quik Trip with his day group. Pictures of Kindness He purposely waited to be the last in line so that he could walk with his friend, S., who is in a wheelchair. It melted my heart to see that about him.
We make it a purpose to help Aaron see practical ways that he can be kind. For instance, when we eat out I make sure that Aaron always says thank-you to our server. The same goes for thanking those who help us at Wal-Mart or the grocery store, Great Clips, or anywhere else we go where we receive assistance from others. I don’t think Aaron would do that by himself if we didn’t remind him over and over to do so. Verbal kindness is very important to all of us, and we want Aaron to be verbally kind to everyone. Trust me, sometimes his verbage is anything but that, yet we have to keep reminding and reminding.
A couple weeks ago, when I went to pick Aaron up at his day group at the end of the day, one of his staff came out to tell me that it was a rough day with Aaron. I still feel like the parent of a disobedient, still learning kindergartner on those days. Yet we need and want to know what’s going on so that we can help deal with it and address it at home. A couple days later, this same staff headed for my car as I waited for Aaron. Aaron ran behind her, all smiles, and opened the passenger door with gusto as I rolled down my window to talk to Melinda. I was dreading what I would hear, but right away I was all smiles like Aaron as I listened to Melinda tell me that Aaron was awesome and wonderful and fabulous, and all other sorts of affirming adjectives. I think I was happier than Aaron was to hear those words!
And there on Melinda’s shirt, like a name tag, was a note that she pointed out to me…….a note that Aaron had written. It said, “Melinda is cool.” She was wearing it with pride, all the while confirming to Aaron that sweet behaviors bring sweet rewards of praise and smiles. Aaron had written a note to another staff that day as well, on her calendar. It was just extra sweet and funny.
At his day group, Aaron also loves to give things away. We’ve really had to work with him to quit giving away his money. He’ll give others candy, gum, fruit or sliced veggies from home, whole cucumbers or squash from our garden that he has sometimes hidden in his shorts pockets…….you name it, Aaron has probably tried to give it away at one time or another. And while that’s nice, there are times we have to draw the line and say no.
There are times that helping Aaron to be kind doesn’t necessarily work into my schedule, but I have to remind myself that he needs help with carrying out some of the things he really wants to do. For instance, a couple weeks ago he wanted me to bring Jackson with us when I dropped Aaron off in the morning at Paradigm. I wasn’t really in the mood to do that, but finally I agreed and off we went, Jackson sitting on the seat in the back of the van looking all around and Aaron happily talking in the front seat.
Once at Paradigm, I attached Jackson’s leash to his collar and we went inside. The other clients love Jackson, so he was received with lots of petting and hugs. But the one person that Aaron wanted the most to see Jackson was his friend S., who is wheelchair bound and bent over with her disease.
“Mom!! Come over here and let S. see Jackson!” Aaron loudly told me from across the room.
So I took Jackson over to S., and I was so happy to realize that big old Jackson was just the perfect height for S. to just reach over and pet his head. She doesn’t move well, but Jackson was able to stand there and let her pet him easily. Aaron stood there rubbing his hands together the way he does when he’s very happy, his face just one big smile.
And the smile on her face was worth every single extra minute it took me to bring Jackson with us that morning. I left there later with a huge smile on my face that matched hers……and Aaron’s.
Aaron has also shown kindness to S. by giving her food. He has told me that sometimes he has to put it in her mouth, and that it seems weird to him to do that. But then we talk about her limitations and I remind him that he is being a true friend to her.
He is also sad when he sees her sitting alone. I’m not there to see how much time he spends with her, but he has said that he does talk to her sometimes when she’s alone. It makes Aaron sad to see her lonely, and it makes us very glad in that case to see Aaron sad.
One other thing we recently did was to make cookies for Aaron to take to his friends. It was a week ago on Sunday afternoon that we made the cookies after I suggested it to Aaron the day before. He was very happy about this idea. I had him help measure and pour and scoop so that the cookies were genuinely from his hand.
He enjoyed taking them the next day and sharing them, giving the whole bag with the remaining cookies to one of the guys when I picked him up that day.
However, we got an incident report concerning the cookies, too. I think Aaron wasn’t so nice sometimes with sharing his cookies. This is so typical. I can’t let it stop us from doing this nice gesture that others enjoy, but it is discouraging sometimes to see Aaron take something good and make it an ugly issue. We’ll talk about it during our next baking session, and I’ll drop Aaron off that morning hoping and praying that he’ll be nice to everyone and share equally.
It’s all a lesson to me on how we can’t give up on Aaron. We have to keep reminding……and training……and instructing…….and teaching…..
And putting ourselves out there in order to help Aaron become the young man we want him to be, at least most of the time. We can’t expect it all of the time, but we can’t quit trying.
Parenting never quits for any of us with children, but with our Aaron the parenting REALLY never stops. Other special needs parents can certainly agree to that.
May as well make cookies, right? And be sure to eat some while they’re warm!