March 11, 2010
Social skills are still a struggle for Noah. "Social skills" being probably the most vague and imprecise bucket of Early Intervention nonsense we have come across so far. People hear "social skill problems" and immediately assume that Noah hits or bites or plays roughly or...I don't. Spits and hisses, like he's spent his life locked in a closet. So when those people meet him, all charming and bubbly and eager to please, they wonder what in sam hill we're talking about. "Social skill problems. My ass. That I just farted out of. Loudly. In an elevator. NOW who's got 'SOCIAL SKILL PROBLEMS'?"
So...yeah, it's not exactly something that makes a lot of sense the first time you meet Noah. Especially if you're an adult. It's subtle. It's more of an inability to connect with peers. Other children. (Someone once sent me a link to a blog entry they wrote about dyspraxia being a "social planning disorder" in addition to motor planning and it was absolutely perfect and I cannot for the life of me find the link now.) Noah likes the IDEA of other kids, but not much else. Mostly he just wants to go to their houses and play with their toys. Over here, by himself. You go over there and do something else, preferably something that will allow him to keep 10 feet of personal space at all times. Independent or parallel play, but no cooperative play. No turn-taking, no engagement, blah dee bleep bloop blah go the assessments. Questions like "what is your name?" or "how old are you?" are not things he knows to ask -- hell, getting him to answer those questions is still a crapshoot. He gets anxious and unnerved around groups, easily annoyed by any inadvertent bumping or touching, tantrums when another child wants things done slightly different from him, is apt to wander away mid-conversation and avoid eye contact and generally just seems painfully aware of how painfully awkward the whole thing is.
But oh, he's definitely improving. The private school, in particular, has been AMAZING at helping us with the more vague big-picture sort stuff like this. (The public school basically classifies social skills as "HITS, IS TROUBLE" or "DOESN'T HIT, THEREFORE FINE.") I've seen the improvements. I've written about the improvements!
Here is another improvement:
There's a slightly older boy who lives next door. I don't really know how old he is -- they're a diplomat family, the mother doesn't speak very much English and/or seems terrifyingly shy. Every morning she takes her son to the main bus stop around the corner where all the kids from the public elementary school get picked up, and most mornings she's just returning as Noah's bus picks him up right at our door before taking him to the exact same school. She wonders what's up with that, I can tell, but she doesn't ask. Her son is probably first or second grade, at least.
Sometimes the boy comes outside and joins Noah on his scooter. He's got a bigger, faster one, but slows down to indulge Noah's attempts to keep up with him. Noah refused to ask his name at first, but instead shrieked "LITTLE BOY! COME BACK HERE LITTLE BOY!" after him until I finally asked him myself.
"Noah talks funny," he said to Jason a few days ago, but he didn't seem too bothered by it.
Yesterday, after school, I was unloading Noah and Ezra from the car and told Noah he could play outside for a bit, since the weather was so nice. "Maybe your friend will come out and join you," I suggested, gesturing at their front door.
Noah had a better idea. He walked up to their house and knocked on the door. Then he turned back to me, terrified. What had he done? What was he supposed to do now? He looked like he was about to turn and flee when the little boy came to door and opened it.
Noah stood there, completelysilent, while I watched from back on the sidewalk, wondering how much coaching I was supposed to provide. After what felt like hours but was probably seconds, Noah pointed at the boy's scooter parked in their foyer, then back at himself.
"Okay," the little boy said. "Let me ask my mom."
He emerged with his helmet on a few minutes later and they were off. He attempted to teach Noah how to play tag but goodnaturedly let it drop when it was clear Noah didn't understand how to play. They took a break and sat side by side on the curb for awhile, chatting about something I couldn't quite hear.
Ezra was hungry, so we came inside and I kept poking my head out the door or window, chewing on my fingers and generally not really knowing whether it was okay to let Noah be so...free and unsupervised, just out there on the sidewalk. I started to head back outside when I heard Noah ask the question:
"Do you want to come to my house and play?"
"Okay," the little boy said. "Let me ask my mom."
She arrived a minute or so later, struggling to explain that she needed to go pick up her husband, so actually if he could stay with us for 20 minutes or so, that would be really helpful. I assured her that it was fine.
Fine! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? DOES HE WANT DINNER? PIZZA? I COULD MAKE CUPCAKES. WHATEVER. NO BIG THING, EXCEPT OH MY GOD YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
The boys marched down to the basement and Noah stopped on the stairs and looked back at me. "You keep Ezra up there. Not down here. This is my friend."
I know, Noah. I know!