Thursday, April 5, 2007

What's right?

Things have been conspiring to get me to write about what's right. First of all there was Joel over at NTs are Weird asking what we liked about our auties, then Along The Spectrum wrote a wonderful post ending with:
In the eleven years that have passed since I first asked the question “Will my son be OK?”, I’ve recognized that it wasn’t even the right question to ask. Instead the questions to ask are “Are my kids OK today?” and “Am I doing things to make tomorrow the same or better?”
Very nicely said.

So, I ask myself what I like about my guy, and whether he is he doing OK today, and the first answer that comes back is that one of the things I love about my guy is that he is doing great today. He is a guy who is naturally beset by anxiety and self-doubt but -- odd as this may sound -- he does not let that get him down and he does not let that get in his way.

I know that school is a strain for him, as he is constantly up against uncomfortable social situations (shunning, teasing, patronizing teachers, lessons that he doesn't understand, disappointing marks without explanations, pestering by another special needs kid who he is often paired with and who cannot understand that the guy needs his space) and yet he comes home every day with a smile and a hug and is ready to fall to the floor in giggles when tickled. When I ask him how his day was he always replies either "good" or "great." That is partially because that is the shortest possible response to the question and the least likely to generate follow-up questions, but only partially.

When I push for details, I'll hear about a yummy lunch, or a good mark on a spelling or math test. I'll hear a few complaints too (usually about the other kid with special needs, some change in his schedule or an injustice -- often as not concerning some third party). But the complaints don't change his assessment of the day, which remains great. And it is great. Nothing disastrous happened, things are more-or-less interesting, and he's home and happy and ready to play video games. What could be better?

Here is another example. A few weeks back I bought some badminton rackets because, being a complete klutz at all ball-sports, I remembered that badminton is not so bad, seeing as the shuttlecock falls relatively slowly. My guy was totally against me buying the equipment because they had been "teaching" them badminton at school and he had been unable to hit the shuttlecock, even when he was serving. Despite this, he was willing to give it an honest go when I insisted that there was an easy way to play. As soon as I had watched what he was doing, adjusted his stance and grip and explained a few basics, he got it. By "got it" I mean that he was able to serve most of the time, only missing his own dropped shuttlecock about 20% of the time. And right away he loved it. Soon he was able to return a serve about half the time. What joy!

Now I am required to play every day. As I am no better at it than my son, we consider a four-hit rally a major success. The great thing is that our guy focuses on those shots that work, where the racket connects with the soft popping sound. He doesn't linger over the more numerous ones where there is nothing but the hiss of the racket passing through the air next to its intended target. That's not to say that he doesn't get mad, scowl, shake his racket, pick up the shuttlecock and stare at it with his most intimidating stare, and shout "my arms are not working!" He does all that, and then, one minute later, delights in a well placed hit. And on the balance, a game that contains 70% misses and 30% hits will only include about 20% grimaces and attempts to stare down the offending shuttlecock. What is more, in the overall our guy will give the whole game a rating of "really fun."

Yesterday was after-school reading help day. It's an 8 km bike ride up and down hills each way. There are plenty of kids, NT or otherwise, who would have quite a bit to say about riding 16 clicks to fill in work sheets. What my guy said, on the way back was, "That was a really fun day, today!" And because we weren't back until seven, there was no time for after-school backyard badminton. Did he complain and give up? No. At 9:30 he pointed out that there were streetlights in the back ally. So, before bed, we were out there smacking at the birdie. It's hard to play badminton in the dark, even with street lights, and we never even got a four hit rally. But on each of the three times that I asked permission to hang up the rackets for the night, I was rebuffed. The game didn't end until nearly ten, when we lost the shuttlecock over a neighbor's fence.

So, as just a few items in the very long list of things that I love about my best buddy, I will mention tenacity, good spirits, hard work, positive outlook, and plain old being a fun guy to hang out with. Those same elements of his character tell me not only that he is doing great today, but also that, if he can stay just as he is, he'll do great tomorrow, too.

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