I write a lot about Little Miss and Captain Oblivious, our two autism-diagnosed children. Ditto Boy you hear about less. Talk about middle-child syndrome! Not only is he the middle child, he’s the second boy, AND he’s only ADD. He probably does get lost from time to time. This is an issue that comes to most families with a special-needs child. (See The Other Three Kids.)
Two years ago, we got frequent calls from the school because of his behavior. The principal always thought, and perhaps rightly so, that he was sent to school a bit early. His birthday is August 17–so he just made the Labor Day cut for five-year-olds heading for kindergarten; I know many parents make the decision to give their boys another year before public school. By that time we had our hands full, knew he was smart, and hoped he could cut it. Emotionally, he struggled, often bursting into tears when things didn’t go his way, occasionally lashing out physically.
One of his most painful interactions was with a sweet little girl named Elizabeth. (Actually, most of his interactions are with girls. Guess we’ll have something to worry about when he hits his teen years.) Anyway, Elizabeth acted like many second and third grade girls act, in a very callous way, manipulating triangular relationships, playing one friend against another, and often announcing to Ditto Boy that “You’re not my friend any more!” This would send him into depressions that would last for days. His teacher finally recommended that the two be placed in separate classrooms.
They spent fourth grade apart, but the boy spent another year without any close friends. He’s always been very sensitive, even twitchy. His dad says it’s likely his ADD, having grown up in the same situation. People with ADD vainly grasp at things they ought to remember, fail to complete tasks that should be done, often getting in trouble for it. After awhile, E says, ADD folk just assume that if something went wrong that it must have been their fault somehow, and self-esteem suffers. So we’ve tried to work with him, give him some special time, and give him some rights and privileges the others can’t handle.
And something wonderful has happened now that it’s fifth grade. We notice as the bus pulls up, that the kids on the bus yell greetings and farewells out the window with genuine affection. He calls friends on the phone now and they call him. He’s taken his adoration for Hiro Nakamura and the other Heroes to the playground, where a number of recess-mates play imaginative plots along with him.
At dinner the other night, he was describing one of these flights of fancy, and he said Elizabeth was playing along with him. Surprised, I asked if that was “the” Elizabeth. He said it was.
“I thought you two didn’t get along,” I said.
“Oh, she’s my friend!” he said, with a big smile. “Sometimes she says she doesn’t want to be my friend, but it’s fake. In a couple of days, she always be’s my friend again.”
So here’s to the growth of maturity, and patience, and to the constant chance to renew friendships with people important in our lives, on the playground or anywhere else life happens to take us.