It all started with an email where I, in my long-winded nature, told Evan’s new fourth grade teacher about the problems Evan has had the past couple of years. I knew she listened because, last Wednesday, after reading of our nightly homework struggles, she left a note in his student planner that she had him complete his homework for her. Just like I said, it only took him ten minutes. It’s never been a question of ability. We had a much better night without the turmoil that comes with trying to get the child to complete a few math problems. And we agreed to meet up Thursday afternoon.
She had taken the time to read the email and come up with three pieces of paper: one for Evan, one for her, and one for us. It was a gameplan, individualized for the person, on how to help Evan with the struggles he has been having. I was beyond touched that she took such time. And we talked. And I got to see her interact with my son, and I love the woman as a result. For the first time with formal education, someone was focusing on Evan’s strengths. She told me of how he will be the first one to pick something up or help her put desks in order. One day, she said she had placed something on the floor as part of the lesson, getting set up for when the children returned from a restroom break. Immediately upon walking into the room, Evan tried to pick the items up for her until she finally explained that they were supposed to be there. We spoke of his handwriting, and she showed me his handwriting workbook full of beautifully formed letters. I never knew he could do that. I was honestly worried that his fine motor control was deteriorating or something from his inability to write clearly. She showed me he could. I honestly cried. But there was one problem.
Evan wouldn’t look her in the eye.
It’s a symptom of Asperger’s, and I have never seen Evan do it, but he looked everywhere else. She would gently reach out and cup his chin in her hand and tell him to look at her face, time and time again, never losing her patience. Or she would tap her own chin, saying, “Evan, look at me.” He would, but then, as if it were painful to do so, he would look away. It was the only sign of Asperger’s I was not seeing in him at home. And now I realize that he just doesn’t do it with us, but does with others. I told his teacher that we were having him evaluated this Tuesday (today) for the disorder, and I didn’t have to say a word. She mentioned the failure to make eye contact immediately, telling me she knew what it was, had some sort of experience with it, and, should Evan have it, will most likely be the best thing to happen to our family.
She didn’t harp at Evan for his behavior. Instead she remained gentle and positive, focusing on his sweetness, his intelligence. All of the things that make Evan, well, Evan. For the negative behaviors, she had a plan of action in place. We’ve already worked on some of it. Evan now has a homework “office” instead of just sitting at the kitchen table like before. He also has a dry erase board filled in with his after-school schedule. We are going to try to give him some time to decompress after school, to have a little fun and maybe grab a snack, before we force him to do more work. Maybe that is what he needs.
All I know is that I left there feeling a little better about this school year.
As for the diagnosis, we shall see. His much anticipated appointment with the specialists is today. We are going to pay someone $295 per hour to tell us exactly where our child is flawed. And while I know there are problems, it is always gut-wrenching for a mother to hear of their child’s faults through the eyes of someone else. I know he needs this, but I still have that instinct to take him and run before any diagnosis or label taints what is left of his childhood. I obviously will not. But despite it all, he will remain perfect in my eyes. Thus the song. I think of him everytime I hear it.