Bees buzz around a thick evergreen some 15 feet from where I sit. I wonder whether there is a hive in there. I’ve moved to the shade of the overhang. The sun on the nearby worn bench was too hot. Not too far away, I hear two maintenance men talk to each other over the sound of a vacuum.
“I don’t like Disneyland, but that new Cars thing sounds cool,”
“I hate Disneyland. You have to pay 12 bucks for a hamburger. And you can’t bring in any of your own food,”
“Yeah. Just gotta find a funnel cake.”
I think to myself how Disneyland must be universal summertime conversation.
Off in the distance I see four children, most younger than my son, holding on to a long nylon blue rope, their indistinct voices blending with the vacuum, coming from the opposite direction.
As other families work, vacation, and go about their daily lives, I am waiting. Waiting for the school district’s staff to finish the first half of assessing my son for an upcoming mid-July Individualized Education Program meeting. My son hasn’t seen these people in several months but he goes in like it was yesterday.
He liked his old therapists, but could run circles around one of them. When I used to watch them together, I could see her composure change as she lost more and more control, her mouth turning down in frustration. Not that I’d ever expect her to act inappropriately, but it was that glimpse of an edge to her sugary, sweet demeanor that lent itself to falseness.
The tell-tale facial expressions that broke through revealed a lack of understanding, lack of underlying affection toward my little boy, an inability to empathize. How ironic.
She always lacked control with no perceptible vicissitude to gain it. In the end, trying to “compliment” me for raising my child, she foolishly said she doesn’t know what she would do if she had a child ‘like’ mine.
She should be so lucky, but she could never understand that.
A gentle breeze blows by as if mother nature was attempting to soothe me into a belief that everything will be all right. Vacuums from my left and leaf blowers to the right, keep me from using that breeze to find relaxation or peace. The aloneness of the moment was not lost on me.
My little innocent, happy boy and I had just walked across the school grounds from an assessment by his old occupational therapist. As I sat in the trailer where OT took place, I listened to my son’s nonstop echolalia. His repetition of the words “McClaren”, “Las Vegas” “Bugatti” and “Need for Speed”. Now and then, he would emerge.
“I want to go to California,” he said. When told he was silly and he lived in California, he repeated, “I live in California. Wanna go there!” and he pointed out the window, suddenly excited to see the park next to the trailer and school. As though he’d never seen it before.
Seconds later, the park forgotten, he wanted to swing, play with a scooter, jump on a bouncy pogo stick, crawl through a fabric tunnel and bounce on a trampoline. Like a bee flying a jagged path, he buzzed from item to item, only joining the reality of his OT’s instructions and demands when it suited his fancy.
His smile never stopped. Asked to stand on one foot and balance, he seemed completely oblivious to the concept. He made no eye contact with his OT but smiling, he tried to hold onto her for balance, momentarily lifting one foot off the ground. Repeatedly, the therapist attempted gently to instruct him, using the word, “Look!” to copy her actions. He never did appear to look. Repeatedly, he echoed his own mantra about cars, trying only for the briefest of seconds to accomplish the task requested of him, before physically moving to the next item that caught his eye.
I wondered if this approximated anything like he behaved at school. Logically, I know it would have been reported to me had he been this inattentive and distracted. Logically, I knew there were tons of items in the OT trailer that any child would want to play with. Logically, I knew my son missed “Ms. G” and was happy to see her. But deep in my heart, I hurt.
He is different from “the majority”. He does not react in a social exchange so the other person knows he takes in what he is given, for communication. I know he hears, processes and responds but he does it all so differently. I know it is not my place to do it for him. I must give him room to respond and grow on his own. Yet, even those who know autism, who work with differences in their career, they don’t get that or get him.
They just follow the “rules” to assess his comparison with “typical children”. To score him on the meter of the perfect “typical” child. There is an inbred prejudice to the testing. An inbred perception that different from that imaginary “perfect typical” is less. And that makes me angry because it is wholly not true.
UNDERSTAND HIM! SEE HIS TALENTS! I want to shout at them. But they are living in their “majority” world, one in which we only exist to be reshapen to their standards. Even the place of “OT” is a trailer, apart from the rest of the school, in the back, in a corner, away.
As I sit in the trailer with my son, I can (mostly) read him. His looks, movement, echolalia. Those are the communications that tell me where he is and what he is thinking, not their standardized tests. I understand better than those who test him and flit in and out of his life, what he is about, what he knows and feels.
But I’m not always there. Nor should I be as he grows. And now, as life foreshadows the future, he is in a room closed off from me, being “assessed”, and I remain outside.
The breeze blows my hair back again. It’s almost over for the day.
When he comes out, I will hear a second-hand report of how he has done. And it will mean nothing more than the breeze in the end. Some things I cannot see, but only feel in the moment and they’re gone.
With a chill, I let the peace and beauty of summer pass me by. The leaf blowers have gone silent now as have the vacuums. The other children have left. And I wait for the buzzing child that is my bee to return to me, where he is home.