Sunday, 2 February 2014

Where Did I Put My Sherlock Holmes Hat?

Last week, Alex had a very bad day.

At school, he had an abrupt meltdown and was aggressive enough that the teacher had to physically restrain him to prevent him from hurting himself and others.  At home, he would not settle into an activity and was constantly grabbing at things he knew he wasn't supposed to have.  And finally, at hockey, he was so frustrated at having to play at a different part of the rink that he just burst into tears and could not be consoled.

It doesn't take the world's greatest detective to figure out something was bothering him.  But it would take a Holmesian level of deduction to figure out what that might be.

Was he going stir-crazy with the frigid weather which has been keeping the kids inside more often than not?  Did he have an upset stomach or some other pain?  Did he not sleep well?  Was it just an off day which manage to cascade into catastrophe?

We'll probably never know.

Sadly, this is just something families with autism (and other special needs) have to deal with.  For typical children, once they reach the age of communication, there are at least some tools to help figure out what's going on.  A typical child might not be able to tell you he or she is going stir-crazy, but could let you know about an upset stomach.  The possibilities are too endless to dismiss: a buzzing light, a particular perfume ... something which he can tolerate 99 times out of a 100 suddenly becomes intolerable. 

His teacher called me to let me know what had happened and I believe she made the right call.  It drives home why Alex might not ever be integrated into a typical classroom.  He might do very well most of the time, but they could not deal with this kind of eruption.  And once a pattern was established, he wouldn't have any qualms about using it to get out of demands.  Which is precisely why he was pulled out of his integrated grade 2 class and put into the segregated system.

It's a reality check to keep expectations on a short-term level.  We are not anywhere close to being able to daydream about integration.

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