Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Quirky the Kid

So this is a blog I wrote quite awhile ago- and it never got published for some weird reason... so here ya go!

Quirky. adjective, quirk·i·er, quirk·i·est. having or full of quirks. 

Well what the hell is a “quirk”? To me quirky is liking ketchup on your scrambled eggs, or mixing polka dots and stripes- innocuous things to be sure.

How about when it comes to autism? Can “quirky” really be used to describe an autistic person’s behaviors? It all depends on where on the spectrum an individual falls I suppose, from very high functioning (like my son)and Aspergers, to low functioning, unable to communicate, unable to care for themselves, need I go on?

I think that sometimes people like to say that individuals with autism are quirky because it makes their behavior seem lovable, easier to deal with- giving you the warm fuzzies as opposed to the heebie jeebies.

Quirky sounds like fun, silly dancing in the rain behavior, NOT the behavior my son shows sometimes. Some of the behavior is seriously socially disabling. Sure, when he bows from the waist when meeting someone new like a character out of a Charles Dickens novel, that is silly and well, quirky. But-when he refuses to talk about anything except dinosaurs and has no idea how to begin or end a conversation and has no respect for personal space, or when he repeatedly hits himself in the head, or scratches his face when he is frustrated or upset – THAT is most definitely NOT quirky. That is the ugly, hard to explain behavior that is common in all forms of autism.

Now that my son had been “mainstreamed” his quirks are being noticed a lot more. The school he was in before had 2 autistic classes- the rest of the school was well aware of the autistic kids and they were just a part of the school- no biggie. Sure there was some teasing, but for the most part it was a very safe, understanding environment that I had no major concerns about at all. But from the beginning the goal was to send him back to his “home” school and when the time came I was very happy/worried/sad/ excited.

In just a few weeks of school he has already had some negative experiences .His “quirks” are looked at as “weird” (which I admit, they can be) His frustration over the higher expectations are wearing on us both already.

He i s(only) 9 years old and I know I can’t protect him from everything ( I picture myself going all Hand That Rocks the Cradle on the little punks who might tease him) but he is such a loving soul, such a trusting kid- my greatest fear is he will be taken advantage of and my helplessness is crippling at times.

For now, I can only try to teach him that sometimes his incessant chatter about dinosaurs, his wanting to hug everyone, and how he uses TV and movie dialog in conversation, and his peculiar way of greeting others might not be seen as “quirky” and might get him teasing he doesn’t understand.

He knows he is different, but he is not quite sure why. He wants acceptance, and he strives to please… just like the rest of us. I just worry about him, that’s all, not having any friends. Not knowing how to make friends. Not understanding how to be a friend. I know he wants to. He just doesn’t know how. And it's so hard to teach. Hopefully, with extracurriculars like football he will come out of school with a friend or 2. That is my ultimate hope- just one or 2 nice friends- then I can breathe.