Learning the Gentle Art of Rejection

We’ve hit a bump in the road at school for Elliott. Not huge, monumental stuff – but not so much fun either. It happens 2-3 times per year for him, and always surprises me no matter how often it sneaks up on us.

All of a sudden, one day he wakes up, and for lack of a better description, looks like he’s had one to many cocktails. His eyes are glossy, he laughs inappropriately and for no reason, his speech is slurred and his attention is nearly non-existent. He’s also more prone to temper outbursts, which is a huge bummer because he’s come so far in this department otherwise.

After much contemplation, Elliott’s enormously talented health-care provider and I think it has something to do with allergies/mold, etc. It’s frustrating because we’ve had him tested multiple times and in various ways for allergies, and the test results are always negative. But, especially in March, just like clockwork, I call Gretchen’s office begging for her to see Elliott right away as he’s broken out in red welts, not sleeping, congested, and has a huge spike with a variety of self-stimulatory behaviors and tantrums. This year when I called, her response was, “you realize this is exactly one year and a day from when you called last March”. It’s weird, and I wish I understood it more, but I don’t. Neither Tom nor I have allergies, and we have to rely on others to share with us what it feels like, so that we can have a sense of what he might be going through. Generally, we have to increase medications and sleep aids for about two months, and then for whatever reason, things settle down into a comfortable rhythm again.

This time, it was more subtle as there were no red welts, or obvious signs of allergy. There had been no medication changes, no dietary or routine changes, no real reason at all that I could attribute to such a marked change. He just one day woke up and seemed like a completely different kid – ugh! I sense he doesn’t enjoy these phases any more than we do – when this happens to him, he’s not a real picnic to be with and very likely does not feel like himself. The quote of the day from his 5-year-old sister has been “Mom, Elliott’s bugging me again” or my personal favorite “Mom, Elliott’s being a jerk” (This one may have come from a young man whose name starts with H).
All of this fun led to some conversations with teachers – mostly to determine if they were noticing the same things at school that we were at home, and indeed – they were sharing in the fun as well. And so, although we made it almost 4 months without ADHD medication, and he’s grown like crazy all summer, it was time to gently introduce medication again with the goal of increasing his ability to focus and learn while in school. While hopefully this is just one of those funky phases that have become part of Elliott’s life, we still need to help him through it, and to give him every tool we can to allow him to learn – even when it’s extra challenging. Poor guy – it tears me apart that we can’t determine why this happens or even what exactly it is, but, thanks to a great partnership with his teachers, things are already gradually improving.

That said, on top of for whatever reason being a bit dazed and confused (is he going to be ready for his freshman year of college or what?), he had to learn a tough life lesson last week, though I only learned of it yesterday conversing with his special education teacher.

As a new student in his school this year, Elliott has been getting to know other kids in his class. He started the year knowing one classmate quite well from their pre-Kindergarten days, and has had great fun reconnecting with him, but was not really familiar with anyone else. Unfortunately for Elliott, who just genuinely likes all people, he had to learn that just because you want to play with someone does not mean they want to play with you. Yes indeed, Elliott has now experienced the scorn of a woman, and is quite devastated about it.

As I understand it, Elliott has shown an interest in this young lady since school began. She is not thrilled about having anyone too close to her (uh-oh, can you see where this is going), and has been less than subtle about not wanting E to follow her. When asked about why he is following her on the playground, he tells us “I want to play with her, and good friends hang out close to people they want to play with” Yeah, well, I kind of know where he’s coming from, and yes, we may have suggested in years past that if you go to the park with a friend, it’s a good idea to hang out together rather than run off and only do your own thing. Again, this gray area stuff is not the E man’s area of strength.

Eventually, his “following” of this young lady led to having to sit on a bench during recess, and when he returned to the classroom, his teacher told me he was distraught. He was sobbing and sad, and had to spend some time in the quiet corner in order to get himself together. His very kind and talented teacher then chatted with him, and tried to explain that even when you do all the things you’ve been taught about how to make and be a good friend, not everyone will want to be your friend. Ouch. My eyes well up even thinking about how hard that is to learn for any kid – let alone when you throw a little autism into the mix. Life does send us down some unexpected and sometimes painful paths – I am grateful he has such a wonderful support system outside of our home to help him navigate these unchartered waters.

Thankfully, that was not the only news she shared with me that day. There is a glimmer of hope so exciting that it negates all the scorn of the previously mentioned young lady. Elliott has been hanging out with a classmate from his mainstream 4th grade class, and by all accounts, they are starting to forge a friendship! This is someone he’s gotten to know all on his own without anyone suggesting it or giving him assistance. Wow – that’s the kind of news that makes me realize he is slowly and gently starting to want to work on things like forging new friendships because he feels that need himself. Yes, it’s a baby step – but we’ll take it and celebrate with him.

So, as it has always been for Elliott, we take one step back and (eventually) two steps forward (sometimes just 1 ¼). Sometimes life can be painful, but having a supportive group of family and friends around you can get you through the rough spots. I’m so glad Elliott has that kind of support system from his teachers, our always amazing extended family, and now, quite possibly a couple of awesome buddies 🙂

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2 responses to “Learning the Gentle Art of Rejection

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