Who’s the Teacher, the Parent or the Child?
Yesterday there was an opportunity during a heart to heart conversation with my pre-teen Asperger’s son to break the news to him that his favorite teacher of all time might not return to the school. It should have been filmed for a documentary on how parents can learn from their children!
My Asperger’s boy is very emotionally sensitive. I don’t really know if that comes with the territory – you know, sensory integration syndrome, not so in synch with others but very introspective, wears his emotions on his sleeves, or if he’s unique. But I bet the high intelligence leads many AS kids to try and deal with complex emotional states cerebrally.I was looking for the chance to mention the possible upset to his universe, even though it might not happen, because he needs time to react, assimilate, and move on. It would be catastrophic to learn, say, the week before school starts. That would start the whole school year on a bad note. The opening presented itself and I dove in.
I couched the beginning with “I have some bad news” so he could gird himself emotionally, paused, and went on with the announcement. He tried to handle it nonchalantly and nodded saying “OK, OK”, but the waves of emotion went too deep. It was if the realization had to penetrate all the levels of his consciousness.
I waited, my mind searching for ways to comfort. I try and look on the bright side for myself and wanted to ask the leading questions to get him to say “hey, at least I had her for two years!” So I asked what positive spin we could put on it.
With bottom lip quivering and tears in his eyes, he looked away, held up his index finger and said “wait. No. No.” We sat in silence. It’s not often that I can keep quiet and I am so proud of myself for listening to his curt words and body language and not bowling him over with conversation.
After a deep breath and brushing away tears, he pointed to the computer screen and made a joke. Then, and this is the part that took my breath away, he looked at me knowingly and said “this is a better way to handle people. First tell them and let them sit with it, and then distract them with humor! That’s better than ‘a positive spin’. You should do it that way”.