He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.

This is James, and this is our story.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Best Friend Award

Ms. L pulled me aside one day in April when I went to pick him up after school. "I had to speak to James today. He and Nixon were joking around together during circle time. They were laughing and distracting the others. I kept trying to re-direct them, but they were being too silly. I had to tell them I was going to separate them".

With that, we immediately broke into tearful laughter and she hugged me. We knew there was no way in hell she would EVER separate those boys. No matter how much a distraction they caused.

James was 6. He was in his 3rd school in 4 years. We made the decision to repeat Kindergarten just so he wouldn't have to switch to yet another new school. All kids need consistency, but for a child with an autism spectrum disorder and anxiety about the unknown, changing schools each year is debilitating. We wanted to see if being in the same classroom, with the same teacher, in the same school might mean we didn't lose half a year trying to get him re-acclimated. Maybe he would even start to participate in class or connect with someone. It was an inclusive class, and I had hoped that just being around typical peers might help him start to form friendships. I asked him daily about his classmates. Did he like anyone? Did he want to play with anyone? Did anyone talk to him? He never answered.

I was frustrated. It was already December, and although staying in the same class had helped and he seemed comfortable (as much as he could) going to school, James wasn't showing any signs of connecting with anyone in his class. He wasn't interested in even trying to connect.

Then one day out of the blue he asked if Nixon could come over. I knew of a boy named Nixon in his class who was also on the spectrum, but didn't know much about him. I didn't need to know anything. I didn't care. James asked for someone to come play! I immediately got in touch with Nixon's mom and invited him over. I had no idea what to expect. I'd orchestrated for kids from school to come over before and it usually didn't go well. I planned for the worst.

Receiving their "Best Friend Award"
What I saw was incredible. They acted like they had been friends since the day they were born. James was like a completely different child around this boy. He was confident. He was silly. He laughed. He engaged.

After that first visit, Nixon became a fixture at our house. He came over at least once a week. Plus sleepovers. Not once did I see an argument or a moment of frustration from either of them. At the end of the school year, they got a special award in class. It was the "Best Friend Award" and it was created especially for them.
I knew it was going to get harder after that year. Our families live across the city from each other. The boys were placed in different schools. I wasn't sure they would remain friends if they didn't see each other as often.

But they did. They begged to be together all the time. We had to find a way to keep them together.

And 2 years later, we still find a way to make it work. We have to. These boys mean everything to each other and bring out the best in one another. Nixon has become part of our family. He treats Johnny like a little brother, and not in the teasing, leaving-out kind of way. He affectionately calls (my husband) Tony "Mr.-Crabs-the-fat-man-who-lives-in-his-grandmother's-house", as in:
"Hey Mr.CrabsTheFatManWhoLivesInHisGrandmother'sHouse can I have some chocolate milk?
"Mr.CrabsTheFatManWhoLivesInHisGrandmother'sHouse can we play Wii?"
"Mr.CrabsTheFatManWhoLivesInHisGrandmother'sHouse can we go outside?"

The Three Amigos at lunch today
Nixon and James have been playing Wii and legos and running around the house together since 7:30 this morning. James is laughing without a care in the world. These two boys, both of whom have significant social/ emotional challenges, have developed a strong, long lasting friendship. They told me today they are brothers. Twins.

James always tells me they are going to live together when they grow up. I believe they actually might. But even if they don't, I know they are still going to be friends WAY longer than it takes you to learn how to say  "Mr.CrabsTheFatManWhoLivesInHisGrandmother'sHouse" 5 times in a row without stumbling.

Best Friend Award 3 years running


Anonymous said...

That may be my favorite of all the "Running to be Still" blogs. I want to meet Nixon so much, although I'm afraid of what he'll name me...Uncle Mike.

Alysia said...

Oh my goodness I love this...