Parenting a spectrum of girls

I wasn’t really sure what to write about today.  So many ideas.  Such a rough day.  I don’t even have a picture today, and I’m not even totally sure where I am going.

M had a rough day.  The last 2 1/2 weeks have been a bit rough, today seemed even more so.  M was alright in the morning, for the most part, so maybe it started with me.  Maybe it started with the observation.

As some of you know, I decided, at the ancient age of 31, to go back to school.  This was 2 years ago, almost exactly 2 years ago that I signed up for my first class, and going 2 classes at a time (and taking classes every summer) I am slowly but surely chipping away at my Associate’s Degree in Early Childhood Education.  Where I was before and what influenced this decision is a long story of its own, but one day I will have a dual Master’s in Early Childhood Education and Special Education…even if all of my children graduate before I do.  😉  Today for one of my classes I went to observe M’s best friend at a different school.  These girls have been best friends since they were about 6 months old and I am so glad that they are still buds.  Her mom and I get them together as often as we can and when M is upset she will often say she doesn’t love anyone in the world except her BFF.

When you see them play together you really don’t notice much difference, sometimes no difference at all.  The only time you can really tell that they are not both neurotypical little girls is when M is overstimulated or something happens unexpectedly to throw her into a meltdown but even that has decreased since she started her mood stabilizers.  Today, however, I got to see her BFF in a different environment, a learning environment and a social environment with a number of other children.  So today, I really got to see how different they are, and it made me sad.  I saw her BFF at recess playing and planning and laughing with the other kids.  I heard her read aloud a number of books…with expression.  I saw her draw a detailed picture and write a story to go along with it.  I saw her quietly follow the rules and ask the teacher when she needed help.  I saw her touch other children without being rough and not needing her teacher’s attention constantly and not yelling out answers or comments.

It’s not that M is always or never all of these things, but watching her BFF and the other children, who were all the same age as M, was difficult because I saw how different she really is, especially from her BFF.  It made me wonder if they will continue to be best friends as they get older.  I can not imagine what it would be like for M not to have her BFF, this is the one friend she loves so much.  She will often tell me she doesn’t have any other friends, especially at school…sometimes she interacts with the other kids but other times she insists the para pro and teacher are her only friends and she only plays with the para pro at recess.  It also made me worry about my decision to put M into young 5s K this year, kind of a remedial kindergarten for kids who are old enough but need an extra year to prepare.  I really felt strongly that she needed an extra year to get used to the routine, rules and expectations as well as to grow social-emotionally even though she was mostly ready academically.  Her BFF was in Kindergarten this year, so next year when M is in Kindergarten her BFF will be in first grade, and they will never be in the same grade.  They will not graduate at the same time.  M will always be behind.  I know neither of them are aware, or would even care if they were, right now.  But in a year from now, in middle school, in high school?  Will it contribute to them growing apart, or to M feeling “different” or not as good as her BFF?

I know I’m probably being dramatic and pessimistic and reaching.  I am usually very optimistic and positive about M’s struggles and life in general.  But some days I do get a little sad and worry about the future for my sweet girl.  I don’t think it would be as bad if she weren’t going through a difficult time right now.  She has hurt A several times over the last few days, pinching twisting and hitting.  Lots of her angry words that scare me and make me sad.  She hasn’t wanted to read or work on any of her new skills, but just to play Go Fish and listen to Taylor Swift and sort the business cards in her wallet.  Right now she is asleep on her bedroom floor with a body pillow and weighted blanket on top of her and Taylor Swift blaring from her MP3 player through her headphones.  It was the only way she could calm down after initially bringing her down a little by letting her suck orange yogurt through a straw.  Her sensory issues have been getting worse lately, probably because of her anxiety from being on spring break, then going back to school, then me being gone pretty much all day Saturday.  A is having problems with her asthma and if she starts coughing M screams at her to stop, throws things at her, tells her she’s doing it on purpose and she is going to move to Texas to get away from us all so she can’t hear A cough anymore.  So I know it will get better…M will feel better and calm herself better and most importantly I will be the happy optimistic parent I need to be in the morning.  In the meantime I need to remember how silly it is to compare and that M does not do what she does on purpose or even really out of anger, but out of fight or flight response (ASD/Anxiety) and out of an overwhelming compulsion to say and do certain things over and over to help her calm down (OCD).  She is doing the best she can, as well all are.  She is a very brave girl and I need to be brave for her, too.

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