Little Bear has been getting 15 hours a week of ABA for about 3 weeks now and the improvements have been measurable. Today he was eating his dinner in his high chair and he pointed to the napkin holder and said, “Yo ee ne.” Which is close enough to, “Yo quiero (whatever – you pointed!)” for me to be thrilled. Tuesdays are always especially hard for him because we have PT at my mother’s house, ABA for three hours at home, barely a 2 hour nap, then SL, followed by another hour of ABA. Since he did so well, I took him and his brother to the park.
The boys were running around, having a great time. Big Bear, who is four, insisted on taking his matchbox space shuttle with him. He was running around the playground, climbing and playing with the shuttle when this slightly older child, maybe 5 or a young six, came over and tried to take it from him. I noticed immediately that the child was almost certainly on the spectrum. He was not making eye contact, he was not noticing anything except the space shuttle – even when he pushed my son, he never looked away from the toy. I intervened and told the child, “Let’s put the toy away so we can play together.” The child did not look at me and said, “My shuttle.”
The boy’s mother came over and looked mortified. I said, “Oh, don’t worry. My younger child is similar.” I smiled, trying to signal, “It’s okay. My son’s on the spectrum, too. It happens.” Her response was, “I hope not. Of course I have the kid who likes to mug other kids on the playground. It’s because he’s an only child. He doesn’t understand that he needs to share.” She reminded her son that he has five shuttles of his own at home. I later saw her leading him around with a backpack style leash on him.
It was at that moment that I felt a profound pity for that child. Could it be that his mother didn’t realize or want to admit that he has special needs? This child was at least kindergarten age, if not first grade, and he spoke to me on the level of a young two year old. It really hurt to see a child that may have had the potential to obtain fluent language and develop social skill muted by a parent who just explained away the differences.
I sincerely hope, with all my heart, that she was simply embarrassed by her child’s behavior and that he is, in fact, receiving a full schedule of therapy. No child deserves to be denied his or her future.