Last Thursday was Kindergarten Kickoff at the boys’ new school. It was a time for the kids to have a little while to explore their new school and for the parents to get informed about everything we need to know.
We were excited about it for many reasons, but mostly because we were going to meet Matthew’s friend. THE friend.
You see, after 2 years of preschool, Matthew has identified one child as Friend. His name is Sam, and Matthew talks about him with a smile on his face. Matthew plays with Sam and if Sam isn’t at school, Matthew plays alone (this is his choice).
Actually, there are many kids who would like to be Matthew’s friend, and perhaps he is friendly with them at school. I’m not really privy to what goes on there. But I can tell you this–we have run into kids from Matthew’s school out in the real world….at parks, at stores, at the doctor’s office. And the same thing happens every time. Their face lights up, they say, “Hi Matthew!” and he immediately says “NO” and walks away. Matthew consistently denies even knowing them and then leaves me standing there trying to smooth things over with a confused child.
So we were overjoyed to find out that out of every single child in Matthew’s preschool, there was only one going to the same elementary school as our boys. And it was Sam. Better yet, Sam’s mother is part of the instructional support staff at this school and she has recommended that Matthew and Sam be in the same class to help ease their transition into kindergarten.
We were going to meet Sam and his mom at kindergarten kickoff and for 2 days when we talked about it, Matthew would say, “we see MY FRIEND there.” He was so excited.
When we got there, we scanned the crowded lunchroom and Matthew identified his friend, and then he did what I had hoped against hope wouldn’t happen. He cried, he refused to look at or speak to his friend, he wouldn’t sit at a table with him. All the kids were supposed to get nametags and have their picture taken. When Matthew realized that they needed a picture of him with nametag clearly displayed, he crumpled up the nametag on his shirt, shoved the whole thing in his mouth and hid his face. It would have almost been funny if the situation was different.
I was so disappointed. Sam was disappointed. Isaac was disappointed (and I’m sure annoyed, because most of the important occasions like this take this sort of stressful turn. One day in another post, I will have to write about how my heart breaks for Isaac in situations like these).
Sam’s mom came to talk to me and asked me what it was that Matthew had been receiving services for (she was aware that he had “graduated” from the special ed program). My answer was speech, but the glaring elephant in the room was that there are serious issues going on here, and speech is basically the least of our concerns.
But I have no name for this.
My son is socially and emotionally crippled in a lot of ways. But he is not autistic. He is not “on the spectrum”.
My son has some sensory issues. But he does not have a sensory disorder.
My son has some attachment problems, but he does not have reactive attachment disorder (and yes, I am thankful for this).
And I don’t wish these diagnoses on him, I don’t. But sometimes I think it would be easier if I had something like this to fall back on. Some explanation of his behavior. And I also know that I don’t owe anyone an explanation of his behavior, but it is hard to see these searching looks from people, wondering what is wrong. And maybe if there was a diagnosis, it would make me feel a little better at night as I lay in bed thinking about all of it, worrying if he will every really have friends. Because I know that soon, no kids are going to want to put up with that kind of reaction from him. I can’t blame them.
My son has special needs. Glaring special needs that don’t really have a name, and that is harder than a diagnosis, I think. Because when they don’t have a name, there is also no clear treatment.
And that is hard.
After kindergarten kickoff, as we walked to the car, Matthew looked around expectantly and asked, “where’s my friend?”.
“Matthew, we saw your friend, and you wouldn’t talk to him. He talked to you and you wouldn’t even look at him. Kindergarten kickoff is over now.”
“Oh,” he said as his smile disappeared.
We climbed into the van and buckled up.
“Matthew, why didn’t you talk to your friend? He likes you and it made him sad when you wouldn’t talk to him.”
His face clouded over as he looked out the window and whispered, “I don’t know”.