Friday, September 17, 2010

School Lunch

Decided on a whim last night that I needed to go have lunch with Liam at school today. Michelle has done so with the other kids, but as a modern, groovy, late 2010s quality Dad, I wanted to get involved too.

So I packed a sandwich, some carrots and SUn chips in a leftover Spider-Man lunch box and walked over to the school. Checked in at the office, then sat like the lonely child I am in the foyer waiting for his class to wander by. They did eventually, and we sat and had our lunch.

Like father, like son, I've noticed. More and more as time goes on.

Neither one of us talked much. We sat next to each other, ate our food, and occasionally glanced in each other's direction. I made a few attempts at small talk -- you shouldn't have to do that with your kids, but being the socially inhibited person I am, that's what you do, especially when your kids is socially inhibited as well. Then we left the cafeteria and he went off to recess, after an awkward hug -- again, neither one of us are comfortable in such situations.

I watched him wander off as I walked home. Just mooning around the playground. That's what I did when I was a kid. I remember it vividly. I never liked recess all that much because there wasn't anything to do and certainly nobody to do it with. Oh, I had the occasional friend, but in that odd kind of way that you see a lot with kids who are shy and socially backward -- we'd hang around through happenstance -- my most common denominator with friends in elementary school was that we were mutually part of one single bully's corral of victims. So we became friends out of mutual self-defense. They were vivid enough that even now thinking about them, decades later, the thought of encountering some of these bullies still makes my skin crawl and wants to make me hide. I actually ran into one of them several years ago at Sears and, though we had a nice little chat as will any adults, the "flee" part of my midbrain was still firing actively.

I survived, obviously. And so will Liam. We'll be meeting with a group at school next week to get him some counseling in social skills -- something I wish I had had at his age -- under the Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973 -- something else Richard Nixon did but never got the credit for, speaking of socially-inept individuals. I hope with us workign with him at home and the school folks working with him there, we can help him find better coping strategies for social situations than I found.

I shouldn't be gloomy. By midway through junior high, I developed coping strategies of my own that served me well through high school, college, and nearly a decade of working as a newspaper journalist. I have noted, however, that in the five years I've spent now as a tech writer, those skills and the desire to exercise them have atrophied. I'm not as willing to go outside of my own little comfortable world as I once was, because the job and social situation now don't call for exiting that box as much as it used to. Better re-learn them.

Urgh. Just read this. Despite the stupid nickname for kids with asperger's syndrome -- which Liam has and I suspect I had the more I read about it -- it's good info, certainly the bits under "classroom solutions:"

Many children with Asperger Syndrome are very bright, and may even excel academically in one or more subjects. However, they often need protection from other students who bully or take advantage of them. Aspies do not know which students to avoid. For example, if an Aspie makes a friend, that "friend" may make him do assignments for him, break rules, take the blame and otherwise put the Aspie in jeopardy.

Aspies usually do not understand the "hidden rules" of school but take all rules at face value. They may memorize the rule "Don't swear in middle school." Yet they don't know that all middle students swear, but you don't swear in front of adults, and you don't swear in front of a certain prissy teacher in particular. Aspies also do not understand "hidden social agendas." If an Aspie participates on a high school debate team that meets in a coffee house, she comes prepared like a little professor to talk about the subject at hand. She does not understand that the other students are there to socialize as well as practice for the team.

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