Sunday, October 9, 2011


GL has always liked girls. And not just because many of the people, both professionals and volunteers, who assist him in enjoyable activities happen to be female. He has said about more than one therapist, "I like her because she's pretty."

I can't count the number of times one or more young ladies (who may not know him from Adam) have seen him looking sad or worried or distressed and come to his aid. But he is fourteen, and has the feelings common to teenage boys. After meeting with his teacher at Parent-Teacher Conferences (I'll blog about that later) we stopped by the office to pick up school pictures. The office was crowded, so I waited in the hall while GL and MB stood in line. A girl in line behind them recognized GL and tried to introduce him to two of her friends. I can't get over how friendly and polite the students from his school are. If I'm walking down the sidewalk on Main Street and a high school student I don't know is passing the other way, he or she will invariably offer a friendly greeting. He glanced at them, ran away, and stood in the corner. MB told him he didn't have to talk with them if he was uncomfortable; he could just say, "No thank you. I don't want to talk." and he did not have to stand in the corner. 

He came back, glanced at them again, and said, "No thank you. I don't want to talk." MB got the pictures and they left. 

A few days later, when he was relaxed enough to talk about it, he asked MB, "Remember when we got those pictures?"

She said, "Yes, were those girls making you uncomfortable?" 

He said, "They were trying to be nice to me, but all I could think about was boobies!"

He wanted to go to the Homecoming Dance last week. He had never been to a dance before, and I didn't know how he would handle the noise, the dim light possibly combined with flashing and/or colored lights, the crowd of students, or the social complexities, all in the unfamiliar gymnasium (he hasn't had P.E. yet) with hundreds of students he doesn't know, and possibly no one there he does know. I asked if anyone from his class were attending, and at that point, no one was.

My attitude toward new activities is to encourage him to try them if he is interested and to help him participate as fully as he can, but have an escape plan ready in case he needs it. I talked to the administration, and they said I could wait in the cafeteria so if he needed to leave, he wouldn't have to wait for a ride, we could just go. We bought him a ticket.

MB was worried about how he might respond if the dance were too much for him. She was also concerned that he might insist on dancing with someone without asking first, or even if she (or he) said no. In the next few days, he asked several times what he would do at the dance, and we told him there would be music, it would be very loud, but he could leave if it bothered him, he could dance to the music, and he could dance with someone, but only if they asked first. 

The dance was scheduled to start at GL's usual bedtime. His behaviors tend to come out if his meds are late, but his bedtime meds put him to sleep. MB was concerned that sensory overload might trigger a meltdown. Lately most of his meltdowns have been less physically intense; he mostly yells at people, but he keeps getting louder and more belligerent, and absolutely does not calm down without the right intervention. I pointed out that if he started yelling, no one would be able to hear him anyway, and if he started pounding on walls or slamming doors as he usually does when he begins to spiral out of control, I could still get him to the car pretty quickly, then medicate him and put him to bed. But in a new situation, you can never be 100% certain what GL will do. What if he pushed or hit someone? So I gave him his bedtime meds just as we headed out the door, but kept his PRN in reserve. 

I had made him change his clothes because, as usual, the ones he was wearing were covered with peanut butter. He selected his dinosaur shirt, the one he wore the first day of school, and a pair of jeans. When we got to the dance, I explained at the ticket table that this was his first dance, and I wasn't sure how he would handle it, but I would be waiting in the cafeteria if he needed me. He handed over his ticket and got a wristband, which I helped him put on. Then I showed him the cafeteria, told him he could come there and get me if he needed me, and sent him down the hall to the gym. My heart left my body and walked away from me.

I sat at a cafeteria table with my book and my earplugs. Even without the earplugs, I couldn't hear the music, but I could hear the beat. I was glad for my earplugs, not because of the music, but because of the noise the students were making in the cafeteria. The music in the gym was too loud to allow conversation, so whenever anyone had something to say, they would grab their friends and run down the hall and through the cafeteria doorway. The girls would all shriek, "I'm having such a good time!" and hug each other. The boys would goof around a bit, and they would all run out the other cafeteria doorway, and up the other hall to the gym. 

I managed to read a few pages. After fifteen minutes, I became uneasy. I hadn't expected him to last this long. Was he panicking somewhere? Would he stay for the whole dance? Almost exactly half an hour after we arrived, he returned to the cafeteria between two young ladies.

He looked dazed. They said they had found him standing in the corner by himself, looking worried. I asked him if he was having a good time. He said it was okay. I asked him if he wanted to dance some more. He said it was too loud. I asked him if he wanted to go home. He said he did. Both girls offered to dance with him. He didn't answer. I asked him if he'd like to dance with the girls. He said no, he was tired and wanted to go home. I thanked the girls, and we left.

As we passed the ticket table, I told the woman I'd talked to earlier that he had lasted half an hour, and that that was longer than I'd expected. I was just sharing the good news, but she offered a refund. Feeling a little awkward, I said she didn't have to, but it would be fine if she wanted to. She said it was only fair because he only got to stay half an hour, and handed me the door price. I told her we'd only paid the advance price, so I handed the money back. She ran back to the table, got the proper change, and refunded the advance price. I thanked her, and we walked out to the car. On the way home, GL said, "It was two times too loud."

I asked him if he would like to try going to another dance sometime if we could protect his ears. He thought he would, if he weren't so tired. I asked if he'd like to have some ice cream at home. He said he would. When we got home, he told MB, "It was too loud, I was too tired, and I thought Daddy was lost."

He went straight to bed, apparently forgetting all about the ice cream. And that's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all of the women are strong, all of the men are good-looking, and all of the children are above average.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! This post is chock-full of awesomeness. I am always wondering what life with a teenager with autism might look like. I am so thankful there are bloggers like you and Rhonda at Pugarrific to give me a little insight!

Love, love, love this post!

October 10, 2011 at 7:36 AM  
Blogger Papa Bear said...

Thanks! Could you post a link to her blog, please?

October 10, 2011 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger DeeAnn said...

Thanks for sharing this. I loved reading about GL's first dance. ;)

October 11, 2011 at 8:59 PM  

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