April 30, 2010

A crush

Alex has two social/emotional goals on her IEP as follows:

• Alex will work cooperatively and appropriately with peers in a structured setting
• Alex will interact and respond appropriately in a reciprocal manner with peers and adults in a structured setting.

I had to aggressively ask for these goals to be on her IEP, as well as time with the school counselor. It took two years, and although I was told she was meeting with the school counselor last year, she was not. Water under the bridge at this point.

To me, it is very important Alex act appropriately with her peers as well as be respectful to adults. In school this can be problematic; kids can make fun of her, and avoid her for “odd” behavior. It is hard for young teenagers to understand her maturity level is merely a delay and just part of being Alex. I strive to reinforce behaviors that will not ostracize her, despite down syndrome, especially around boys.

Since reaching her teens Alex has always had trouble reconciling her feelings around the opposite sex. Just like her peers, and the Disney Channel actresses, Alex wants a boy friend. She is not timid about letting boys know she has a crush on them. I have mentioned before, she writes notes, texts and lets the cute boys in her school know their crush status. This is grossly inappropriate conduct.

Granted, there are always those awesome kids who understand this part of Alex’s personality. I have discovered these are the kids who have been exposed to disabled children or adults in their lives; kids with special need siblings or parents who have taken the time to explain Alex.

This is my argument for inclusion and integration; the earlier our children learn about diversity, the better. Just like my kids, who are kind and caring to those different from them, I believe these kids grow up to be better people. I digress, just another one of my many soapboxes.

The school counselor has been working on this boy behavior with Alex, using peer mentors, and made some progress. She has taught Alex to journal her feelings, and not share with the objects of her affection. Alex writes in her journal every day, and not only is this helping her social/emotional goals; she is working on her communication/writing goals.

However, recently at Alex’s soccer game I realized that his lesson maybe working in school, but Alex still has a lot of learning to do in her real life. I need to figure out how to bring these lessons home in a real way for Alex. I perceive an execution gap.

Alex has had a crush on a 40 something, single male, for about three years. This person, “D” is involved with WindWalkers, and was the ranch manager at WindWalkers’ facility. He bonds well with the kids, and has always been gracious and kind to Alex, as well as the other disabled riders in the program. He has not encouraged any special recognition from Alex.

Alex has turned his kindness in to a deep and heartfelt crush. It has almost become a joke between us and D – but it hurts me to see her so star struck. She pretty much obsesses about D when he is in the room, and stalks him. Sometimes I get sick of hearing his name in our house.

D is a fireman/paramedic on the weekends. This soccer game in question was on a Saturday, and one of the girls on the opposing team passed out during the game; 911 was called. The ambulance drove on to the field; the paramedics stepped out and treated the athlete. Thankfully the girl was okay, but Alex was not; she realized one of the paramedics was D.

Alex broke out in tears; her teammates walked away to avoid her scene, and the coaches tried to console her to no avail. I had to step in, but Alex ran away from me, it was not a pleasant sight. When I caught Alex she said was mad D had not come to any of her soccer games. I have absolutely no idea where that came from.

D drove the ambulance off the field, but stopped to say hello to us. Alex could not even speak to him and ran away. I explained her unhappiness, and we both sort of rolled our eyes. I am lucky D gets it, but I am also unlucky I cannot manage this heart ache for Alex.

When we got home, Alex ran up to her room and wrote in her journal for about three hours. She told me she wanted me to read the note she was writing to D. This is another sign perhaps her lessons about appropriate behavior are working at school. I have yet to see this note, and am nervous as to its contents. I do know that D has not received any correspondence from Alex; perhaps I need to search her room for the promised letter!

I learned the journaling technique is working, as far as I can tell. Alex’s counselor says she has been more appropriate with boys in school. However, I also learned Alex has not been able to take this behavior lesson outside of school. Her inconsolability and inappropriateness at the soccer game were not good. She cannot be inn public situations and loose her cool. She needs to learn how to control her emotions, and be calm.

I will go back to the Counselor. We need to amend her goals to include “structured and unstructured setting”. This is a tough one; how do we recreate an unstructured setting, isn’t that an oxymoron?

We do need to work this out; perhaps it is just a case of maturity, perhaps a lesson of life. In either case, Alex needs to conduct herself differently to succeed as an independent person and adult. Another lesson learned, another goal established….sometimes that darned extra chromosome confounds me.

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