Thursday, December 15, 2011

another red letter day

i decided that this was the year Malachi could handle the information regarding his autism diagnosis.
mostly because I see a lot more awareness on his part this year, much more growth, and I see him hitting a lot of walls. not understanding why he doesn't have friendships the way other kids do..not sure why he can't stop thinking about the same thing(s) over and over.. but I wasn't sure exactly how to go about this process either.
thankfully at just the right moment a special ed teacher came into Malachi's life and asked if she could meet with him weekly to prepare him for the information and also to help him cope with it.
in talking with her i found that her philosophy was very similar to mine and her approach was just an extension of what I have already been telling all our kids, which is that we are all different. We all have our strengths , we are all unique and not one of us is like the other nor are we intended to be, and that we should love everyone . I have also talked about how different people learn in different ways, some people learn well by seeing pictures, others by listening...some of us like being around lots of people, some like to be alone or just with one person at a time. ..
I was thankful to hear the teacher tell me that her goal was to emphasize what Malachi is good at, where his strengths are, and give him ways to cope with the things that come harder. But that over all we wanted to present it to him in a way that was to say this is a learning style, this is something unique about some people and they happened to give that special way of thinking/learning a name. Autism.
we also felt that it made sense to have him "learn" about this in a school setting where he is open to learning new concepts and it was a natural step in the social curriculum he's been doing.

Today I had a meeting at school first thing this morning regarding general progress for malachi at school. This specific teacher was there and I asked her- as I always do- if she had used the " A" word yet. she said she had brought it up last week , but not specifically about Malachi, and was planning to talk about it today.

it has weighed on me heavily all day. feelings of guilt that someone else would be presenting this information. worrying that he might think we are telling him something is WRONG and he would be worried or upset by it. And even worrying that he would not even give it a single thought too.

Tonight as he was getting into bed I asked him if he met with Mrs S. today. He said " yeah"
me: " what did you talk about?"
Malachi: " we read a book about a boy who had (something I can't understand)
me: " ..what? oxygen?"
Malachi: " no, not your brain.."
me: " a boy who has AUTISM?"
Malachi: " YES"
me:" ohh yes. autism. what did you think about the story?"
Malachi: " it was good. I liked it"
me: " did you feel like the story was about you?"
malachi: " well, yes"

we went back and forth a little as he tried (rather sleepily) to ask me/ tell me that autism was a thing..
I felt he was a little confused and I re-explained that Autism is just a name for a certain way some people have of thinking/ learning.
" like you"
I said.
" how do you feel about that?"
Malachi: " good. fine"

he's very sleepy at this point so I just let the conversation wane and brushed the hair out of his eyes as he closed them and started to drift off to sleep.

and thus begins Chapter 4 .

PS I have since received this explanation from his teacher:
" We did read a book called "Taking Autism to School." It was about a boy named Sam who has Autism.

As ideas were presented about Sam that "matched" Malachi, I'd prompt and say something like, "Do you feel frustrated with loud noises?" He would answer "yes".

At the end, I said, "Malachi, do you think you're like Sam? "

Malachi answered, "Yes."

I said, "Do you think you have Autism?"

He answered, "Yes."

There wasn't any emotion with it, so I think the concept still might be a bit abstract for him yet. "


  1. (letter i received from the teacher working with malachi on this)

    Hi Nina,

    I went to school on Tuesday to check in with Malachi. We spent about 30 minutes talking.

    We reread a story called "Taking Autism to School". We tried to compare character traits of the boy named Sam with some of Malachi's traits. I have officially told him that he has Autism.

    What was interesting then is that he said..."Everyone has Autism." So I told him, "I don't have Autism."

    He was stunned!

    I then tried to explain my contact lenses to him. He was very fascinated by them and wanted me to take them out. If I remember for next week I will wear my contacts, but take along my glasses. My point in this is that we all differences which make certain things difficult for us.

    We have started creating two pictures of Malachi's brain. What I plan to do is create what makes Malachi's brain calm and happy in a picture, and what makes Malachi's brain irritable/agitated/frustrated/sad because of Autism.

    I'll keep you posted as we go.

    Take care!