The other day I was thinking back on K's end of year performance with her Adaptive Dance class. It made me smile, how she took her part so seriously. How proud and excited she was to "lead" the group. How she got everyone to bow at the end.
K is a verbal kid, but rarely, if ever, will she speak up for herself. There have been times in dance class when she's had a really rough time. Something bothers her, words fail, and she just walks out in tears.
It's not because she doesn't enjoy class. It's not because we are forcing her into an activity that just isn't the right fit. It's because verbal doesn't always equal having words. She still has language deficits that make it near impossible for her to say what she's thinking, sometime.
So behaviors happen, and I am sure those around us are thinking, why does her mother drag her here every week if she's not happy?
The truth is, I don't drag her anywhere. Anyone who knows K knows that's impossible, anyway. If she hates something, she won't do it. I am certainly not driving an hour each way, early on a Saturday morning, for my own benefit. She wants to go. She wants to be part of the class. Sometimes things get hard because of how her autism affects her. Because of the language issues being autistic brings to her table. Language issues that fuel her anxiety, and lead to meltdowns. Everything is intertwined.
I'm not saying that in a derogatory way, it's just reality. Each autistic person has their own strengths and weaknesses, and I won't deny that being autistic comes with challenges. There are things I love about K that I know only exist because of her neurology, but turning a blind eye to the other side of that doesn't help anyone.
There's been a lot going around, lately, saying what autism is, and what it isn't. While I agree with some of it, I'm not on board with it all. I think there are a lot of things that go hand in hand with autism, and some of those things make life a bit more difficult for K. Even when she's doing something she loves. Seeing that, understanding that, will help me in situations like dance. I can pass along what I've learned...what I've seen...and hopefully ease the burden for K.
Her teacher knowing that she so badly wants to be given extra responsibility, but doesn't know how to ask, will help. Him understanding that sometimes K just needs a break because she becomes overwhelmed will help. Knowing what doesn't help, like trying to cheer her up when she's devolving into her own, personal, sensory nightmare, is also important.
I want to walk in on that first day and tell him how proud K was during the performance, and how much we want her to keep that feeling. K can tend to get lost in the crowd, and it's our job to help her find her place, and know that she's valued, loved, and understood.
I guess the moral of my story is, I don't force K to do anything she doesn't want to do, and, yes, like it or not, being autistic sometimes makes even the things she loves, hard. That's just reality.
Just her flavor of autism.