Monday, September 05, 2011

Oh Ahren

  For the first time in 8 years we do not have an in-home sitter watching kids in our house. We signed the boys up for the very-cost-effective after-school program run by the YMCA. They stay at their school (I like the idea that no one is driving my kids around) get a snack, do their homework and play until one of us picks them up. Levi and Seth LOVE it. But Ahren? Well, he has an issue. (But of course, it was never meant to go smoothly, right? Someone had to have an issue.)

  It seems that there is an older girl, probably 19-20 years old, who has special needs and is the daughter of one of the teachers. She still attends the high school and they bus her to her mom's school at the end of the day. She waits in the after-school program for the 20 minutes or so until her mom is done and then they leave. It appears that she has the mental capacity of a small child. She is non-verbal but makes loud keening noises when excited. More than anything, she wants to play with the other kids.

  Ahren developed a huge fear of her and we were stumped as to why. All he could tell us was that she kept smiling at him and he was scared. The teachers intervened, the counselor tried to help, and even the Principal stepped in. Still, we could not figure out why he was so afraid of her. He has seen many special needs kids since he spends every Saturday at work with me. Of course, they were all closer to his age and size. It seemed that he wasn't being overly dramatic for attention, either, since he was shaking, crying and truly scared. Each day, once she left he was totally fine and loved the program. I have to admit I was a bit embarrassed. We teach tolerance and acceptance, that God makes people just the way he intends and that we should love people for what is on the inside. So why was my sweet boy being so, should I say, MEAN to this girl?

  I decided to step in and try and work things out. I went to school before the last bell and waited outside his classroom. Once they called the Y program kids, I walked with him to the cafeteria. Hew began to tremble and cry silently as we entered the room. He also got me in a choke hold and I was surprised he had that much strength! We sat down on a bench and I spotted the girl. She was staring intently at Ahren, and moved to sit close to us. She had a Barbie doll that she kept waving at him to try and get his attention. This made him more upset so we moved across the room. She followed us, all the time smiling and trying to get Ahren's attention. Then, frustrated by his lack of interest she moved off and tried to play with some other kids. When she couldn't get their attention, she smacked one boy upside the head with her doll, much like a toddler will do when they can't express themselves with words yet.

  Lightbulb moment. Ahren, does she hit kids often? Yes Mommy, every day, and she pulls hair and slaps them too. Is that why you are scared? Yes, she is always smiling at me and I think she is going to get me. Ahren, do you realize that inside she is really just a big baby and she hits because she wants to play and can't talk? Oh, mommy, she is half grown-up and half baby? Yes, honey. If she hits, tell her No, No, just like you would a little baby.  Oh, I can do that.

  And ever since then he has been fine. One more child will go out into the world understanding the special needs of another person and adjusting their mindset to accept them. (Does anyone else see the irony that Ahren is a special needs kid himself?)

1 comment:

Reba said...

Wow! What a big lesson for a little boy. Bless his heart (and hers and yours...).