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When ABA works too well

Special needs moms are like
superheros.They wait, perched on the ledge, for the next time they need to swoop in and save the day.

And they have a 
never-ending can 
of whoop-ass at
their disposal.When we were in #1's IEP meeting last year, the teachers told us how much the kids in his homeroom liked it when #1 sang and danced, and that they all loved him.  I had concerns.  I told them that was great, "as long as they didn't treat him like the pet monkey in class. I can see this evolving into manipulative behavior where they tell him what to do and he does it." They all said that they'd look out for a shift in behavior and I left it alone.

This year, #1 is fully mainstreamed with an aide. He spends his days with all the neuro-typical kids which allows time for spontaneous interactions. He has been happy with school and when we asked him if he wanted to have another class birthday party, he said "yes" before I even finished asking the question. 

The problem was, this year, for some reason, his BFF was not placed in the same home-room as #1. Since I could only send the invitations that were for his homeroom, I sent a text to his mom to let her know the details of the party the same morning the invites went to school.

Sometime during the invitation distribution,  some of the boys in his class came to the conclusion that #1 didn't invite his BFF to his party since there was not an invitation for him. They decided to have a little fun by manipulating #1 to tell his BFF that he didn't like him anymore and he wasn't invited to his party. 

When I heard that, my heart just sank to the pit of my stomach. His BFF is the most amazing kid. He is like a 40 year-old in the body of an 11 year-old. He is compassionate, caring and smart. Smart enough to know that when #1 said those words to him that he responded, " you don't really feel that way." And then #1 admitted, "No. They told me to say it."

I sent an email to his homeroom teacher and special education teacher and told them about the situation, and the class was reprimanded.

I thought it was over, but I was wrong. Two days later, I got an email from the teacher telling me that #1 said something that made his BFF cry and it seemed to come from him, without external influence. I was beside myself. I texted BFF's mom to give her the heads-up and then we talked.

That is when I found out that kids at school were bullying his BFF.  They were teasing him for being friends with the special-needs kids. They were asking him why he wanted to be friends with kids who couldn't think for themselves. Those little pieces of shit were f-ing with my kid's perfect BFF and I was pissed. We both agreed that it was indeed bullying but she said BFF didn't want to go down that road since it didn't bother him. 

When #1 got home, I tried to extract the story from him. "What did you say to him? Why did you say that? Who told you to say that?" But trying to get  #1 to answer questions is like trying to cut out the pit of an unripe peach; you have to make several different attempts and sometimes no matter how you cut it, the damn thing won't come out. He also has a tendency to script from books, videos and TV shows and half my time is spent distinguishing between fact and fiction. The story I got out of him was that his BFF and a few other kids were making a leaf pile and wouldn't let him wreck it, so he said to all of them "I don't want to play with you anymore. I hate you." Ok, a typical appropriate response to a frustrating situation. I'm not sure if it is accurate, but I do know that #1's intonation is so bad, that if he did say that to the group, BFF was probably the only one that understood him. 

I also managed to get the names of the boys that manipulated him to say mean things to BFF.  He did group them with the bullies in the book he was reading. Lucky for me, I was able to identify who was who. I sent an email to school with the names and both families were notified.

I was happy that his teachers handled the situation and treated it seriously. I was just surprised that it happened at all. Last year, his class was so caring and supportive to #1 and I just  assumed that since there are special education classes in the building, and many kids are mainstreamed, that the exposure alone was enough to facilitate acceptance. I guess I was wrong. I will have to contact the PTA and see how we can change that.

I had a long talk with #1 about not listening to kids who tell him to do stuff. It is hard to take a kid that was raised on ABA principles; someone gives you a task and you do it, and teach them that the rules have changed. No, you don't have to do what they say. Tell them to shove it. We had to talk to him long ago about not letting #2 boss him around. We taught him to say, "you're not my mom, you're not my dad and I don't have to listen to you." We just didn't realize that we had to give him that talk for school too.

I then had to make things right with his BFF. There was no way that #1 was going to lose that friend. I was going to move heaven and earth to make it right between them. We had him over for a play-date and they watched a movie. I explained to him that since #1 was really little he had a type of therapy called ABA, and that taught him to do things that people told him to do, and now we had to teach him that he didn't have to listen to everyone anymore. I told him I was a big fan of his and if he had anymore trouble at school, I would help. No one is messing with my kid's BFF.

I am glad that I am friends with BFF's mom and we could deal with the situation quickly and efficiently. She has raised an amazing kid and I am grateful that she understands the value we place on his role in #1's life. 

Hopefully the crisis is over and there will be no more drama. 

But until then, I will climb back onto my perch and wait for the next event.


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