Do NOT Touch!

To enroll Aaron in the job skills school that he attended for two years involved weeks of testing through our local high school.  We had home schooled Aaron for 8 years and so there was the process of also enrolling him at Goddard High School so that they could refer him on to the special school.  Finally everything was done and Aaron was ready to go.  He hopped on the bus – his first bus! – and seemed completely at home.  I was a mess! 

The testing had taken longer than planned and so Aaron was a few days late in starting his new school.  On his first day, the staff assigned a student to be Aaron’s shadow all day.  She was to help Aaron learn the ropes and understand his new routine.  Ashley was a very nice girl, but Ashley was also very bossy.  Aaron doesn’t do bossy.  All day long, this is what Aaron was hearing:  “Aaron, don’t sit there.  Aaron, sit here.  Aaron, don’t pick up that pen.  Aaron, don’t put that in your pocket.  Aaron, put your notebook here.  Aaron, don’t go in that room.  Aaron, be quiet!  Aaron, don’t go outside.  Aaron, don’t eat that!”   As the day wore on, he was becoming more and more agitated until finally he started flicking Ashley on her arm with his finger and thumb.  Those little stinging reminders to Ashley were Aaron’s way of telling Ashley to please hush and leave him alone!  The school called me that afternoon, telling me the situation, and reminding me that what Aaron was doing was considered assault.  Assault?!  Oh my!  We had some work to do. 

That night as we ate supper, Gary and I asked Aaron all about his day.  He was not impressed with his experience, mostly because of his bossy shadow.  We tried to smooth the situation and then we told Aaron over and over during supper, “Aaron, tomorrow do NOT touch Ashley.”  All evening, at every opportunity, we reminded him, “Aaron, tomorrow do NOT touch Ashley.”  Before he left on the bus the next morning my parting words were, “Aaron, remember, do NOT touch Ashley.”  Amazingly, I didn’t receive a call from the school that day and so we were very hopeful.

We were anxious to hear all about Aaron’s day as we sat down to eat that night.  We didn’t want to harp on the negative and so we listened to Aaron describe the events of his day.  Finally, I asked the question – “Aaron, did you touch Ashley?”    He quickly answered, “No!………………….but I hit her with my notebook.”  Oh, my literal Aaron!  We didn’t tell him not to hit her with his notebook.  It’s hard to cover all the bases with such a black and white, literal thinker.  And so we had to change our instruction to, “Aaron, don’t touch Ashley with your hands or ANYTHING else!”  He and Ashley were never good friends.  Go figure. 

Bugger!

Aaron really doesn’t like being “bossed.” This morning he was on the verge of being grouchy – thankfully he leveled out and was fine. Anyway, I had to direct him a few times about what he needed to do and he commented that he didn’t like me bugging him. Later he wanted me to come downstairs and so he said, “Come on, Bugger!” I have to smile. He gives us names based on how he’s perceiving us at the time. Today I’m Bugger. Wait til Gary gets home and I have someone else to bug!

The Introduction

Sharing stories about Aaron is the best way to have insight into how Asperger’s Syndrome affects not only him, but all those who live and work with Aaron.  A key to surviving life with Aaron is to understand what makes him tick.  Then you can better function yourself and not live in constant frustration or bewilderment.  Training and directing him is also accomplished with better results when you can get inside his head and realize just how and when to redirect or when to wait it out. 

We moved to Wichita (Goddard), Kansas in 1999 when Gary retired from the military and accepted a job here.  A couple years later we enrolled Aaron in a school here that offers training to high functioning special needs students.  This training prepares them for being able to get a job upon graduation.  There were many great aspects of this school and its program, but it never was a good fit for Aaron.  One big reason is that the staff never understood him and so didn’t react correctly to what he said or did. 

I’ll never forget the open house and parent night during Aaron’s first year.  The students were to accompany their parents into each of their classrooms and introduce us to their teachers.  The students were treated as adults and so were to address each teacher by their first name.  The evening was going very well and Aaron was doing a great job.  It was nice to meet each teacher and to see his new environment that he was to be a part of now.  The evening was winding down and we had one more teacher to meet.  As we stood in the hallway, waiting for the family ahead of us to come out of the room, Aaron was beside himself with excitement.  When he’s excited he bends over and rubs his hands together, over and over.  He hadn’t acted this way with any of the other teachers and so we were perplexed at this behavior.  We tried to get him to calm down but to no avail.

Finally, the room was empty and we walked inside.  There stood his teacher, with a very pronounced spiked haircut.  Aaron quickly walked over to her, rubbing his hands together, and said, “Mom and Dad, this is Cindy (name changed).  She looks like a hedgehog, doesn’t she?!”   Oh.  My.  Goodness.  Time stood still.  We were horrified.  Aaron was delighted.  Cindy was unhappy.  Her reaction told us that things would not be easy for Aaron in this school.  Yes, Aaron needed to be corrected but not with disapproval or anger.  The battle stage was being set and Aaron will never give up.  It was a very long two years.  But Aaron did LOVE that haircut!

Football and Jailhouse Refs

Aaron has never shown any interest in sports at all, so it surprised us last year when he wanted to watch football with us.  It’s been interesting, to say the least, to try to explain the rules to him and to hear his take on all that he sees and hears as he watches the games.  Here are examples of some of his comments:

    “So who are you voting for in this game?”

    “Why are those men wearing those striped suits?”

    “Those referees look like they’ve been in jail.”

    “Those cheerleaders are weird.”

    “Those people who are yelling are crazy.”

    “Why do some of those football players have long hair?”

    “Those referees move their hands funny.”

    “Why did those people paint their bodies?”

And so we now watch football through Aaron’s eyes and it’s really quite entertaining.  Especially the part about the referees being in jail – but I’ll stop there. 

Random!

Oh, the randomness of Aaron’s conversations! Our lunch topics, thanks to Aaron, included: upcoming movies; Jackson’s (our Great Dane) tongue; typewriters; steam engines; Andrea’s new car; automatic toilets; ugly bar dancing women (something he saw on TV – honest!); a pregnant staff member at his day group……..and I’m sure I left something out but my brain is a little jumbled right now.