Here’s another installment from my memoir-in-progress about raising a son with Asperger’s Syndrome while working as a school psychologist.
I’m sitting across the table from a kindergarten girl with Down’s Syndrome when she lets go an explosive, uncovered sneeze. The droplets land on my face like rain from a cloudburst. One drop lands in the recess of my right nostril so perfectly I can still feel it once the skies have cleared. If I swipe it, I’ll only push it farther into my nose, guaranteeing I will catch her cold. I grab a tissue and dab in a downward motion. Then I put my face in the crook of my elbow. “Look,” I say to the girl. “When you need to sneeze, cover up. Like this.” With other people’s children, I am so patient.
On our way to kindergarten, Ben presses his palm to mine and every block or so stops to readjust our grasp. He needs our palms connected at all possible points and we must maintain a precise, tight hold. At first, I imagine this is simply an expression of his love—the tighter he holds my hand the more he loves me. But I soon realize it only means he needs firm pressure where our skin touches.
The Pain of Embracing
When Pam or I hug him while wearing a wool sweater, he pushes us away. “Itchy,” he says, his face contorted. At bedtime, so he can get his ritual hug, he covers his body with a sheet or blanket to avoid the offensive sweater. When we hug him without wool sweaters, our hugs must be firm. If the joints in our backs pop with the pressure of the squeeze, it was a good hug.
Tonight before dinner I screamed at Pam because I was angry at Ben and she told me not to be angry. That made me angrier, and I wanted so badly to yell, “F-- off,” but the boys were right there so I screamed, “Leave me alone.” It doesn’t have quite the same feeling of release as “F-- off.” I have to edit my anger, hold something back.
There is so much crying, whining, arguing, pushing, punching between the boys that I am weak from absorbing all the anger. I’m calm until something whips up my own anger, and it spews, foaming and writhing.
First day of Kindergarten
“It was like preschool,” Ben says, and I hear relief in his voice. “We played Lego.”
I’m relieved, too. I feared worksheets and too much time at desks. “What’s your teacher like?”
“She’s like you.”
He is smiling. “What do you mean?” I’m expecting him to say she played games with us, she hugged me, and she was silly.
“She screamed at us once in a while.”
“She screamed at you? What did she need to scream at you for on the first day of school?”
“Some of the kids didn’t do what she asked them to.”
Recess was short, he says. There were muffins for snack and he peed in the boys’ bathroom. He will be a good student; he wants to please, do what he is told.
“When will I get homework, Mommy?”
At home he will cry, yell, kick a hole in his wall, but not at school. At school he is stoic.
Causes Kathy Briccetti Supports
Berkeley-East Bay Humane Society
Women's Educational Media