Chances are, he was genuinely unable to put his feelings
into words. We are neurologically
quite similar, and it took me until, oh, last year to realize that where I
stand on the spectrum, I tend to get upset before I understand exactly why I am upset (never mind putting those feelings into
words!). The overwhelming quality of intense feelings precludes clarity around
those feelings until the strong feelings subside. This can be true of
overpowering sensory feelings (such as those experienced by
sensorially-sensitive people in the average classroom), as well as emotional
Still, knowing that he needed time to process was not going
to directly aid G with his lack of popularity, or make him feel better about
crying in front of his classmates.
Outside of suspecting it would not be really, really helpful
to tell G, “But you’re my very best
friend, buddy!” I was at a loss of how to help my child.
So I wrote G’s teacher along these lines:
I love that you start morning
meeting with a question. I do the same in all my philosophy classes [read: I am
not about to bust your chops for asking big questions]. And I think yesterday's
question was a great one. I’m just unclear on exactly what happened after [G]
answered the question and then, “for some reason” (according to him), began
When you get a chance could you let
me know a bit about what happened yesterday so that I can best support [G] at
this time? Or if you have any suggestions...
I know you have your hands full, so
at your convenience.
Thanks so much,
[Full Spectrum Mama]
Responding via email, G’s teacher explained that a number of
students had been being inattentive or having side conversations while G spoke.
Other students had interrupted him, saying that he was wrong about being
unpopular. These latter, while acting with good motives, “were not speaking in
turn or being respectful to the process.” These factors contributed to G’s
He assured me that he had never seen anyone be intentionally
or directly unkind to G, but admitted that G is often left out or “not paid
He concluded with some positive thoughts: “As stressful and
unpleasant as it was, I believe that the log jam's been broken and we are going
in a positive direction with this very social class. While I apologized to [G] for him having to go through this
situation I also thanked him for giving us all the opportunity to examine our
careless and thoughtless behavior and make positive changes.”
It was a great gift to have a broader picture of events, and
to be able to engage G in a slightly more nuanced processing of what had
happened. Not that any of this is going to turn G into someone who doesn’t
sometimes get flappy, or extra-loud, or reveal new heights of dorkitude. It
might help him accept himself, though, and that’s more than good enough for
those of us who love him.
“Free to be You and Me,” with its messages of inclusion,
celebrations of difference and our family favorite song “It’s alright to cry,”
has been on pretty heavy rotation in G’s room the last month or so. He seems to
be feeling less lonely at school, but he’s still asking to spend recess reading
in the library because, for him, navigating the playground scene is
Now, over a month out, I think everybody was right: lots of
kids grew and stretched to be more inclusive and thoughtful following this
incident – but G may still have good reasons to cry in school.
Sometimes, too, he may not even know why he is crying.
This morning I ran into a colleague while having an oil
change. I told her I was “pretty excited” about something, I don’t even
remember what, because I was just chewing the fat, mmmkay?
“Well, obviously you’re a pretty hyped up person,” she
And here all these maniacally stressful years I’d thought my
hard-won (let’s not call it fake, hey?) positive attitude was coming across as,
I dunno, mellow cheer.
Also, my Very Strict Writing Group Overlords have cautioned
me that lately Full Spectrum Mama has been sounding a bit “breathless” and
overly full of “We Can Do This” attitude, leading to an overall impression that
I “have things figured out” and am a “Good Sport.” Knowing me as they do, they dared to question this state of
I had a chance to ponder their impressions the evening after
our last meeting, as my car overheated on the highway and the Full Spectrum
Family’s 3 hour trip turned into 6-plus hours with a special bonus of three
roadside diarrhea incidents and one potential car-repair-bill-induced panic
The only Good Sporty part of that whole story was when we finally got to the
convenience store and I let the kids pick ANY donut, even though it was well past
I’m horrified by the possibility of a random reader falling
upon this blog and feeling alienated and, possibly, inferior because I come
across as a Pollyanna of competence, wisdom and equanimity. Because, do I
really have things figured out? No.
So I’d like to clarify.
The following pie chart roughly illustrates a more realistic
model of Full Spectrum coping techniques: