Friday, June 30, 2000

He's the tops

Call the Guinness Book of World Records! Notify the medical journals! Wake the newsmagazines! The most hyperactive, most distractible, least focused, most impulsive, least containable, most unmanageable boy on the entire planet Earth has been found in the state of New Jersey. In fact, right here in my home. In the bedroom full of stuff he's picked up from all around the house and put in his room on the pretext of recycling. Yes, there, behind the pile of shopping bags and shoeboxes. It's him! The world record-holder for jumpiness. A child of unprecedented motility. The king of chaos. My sweet son.

It's not like a mother to be modest, but I have to admit, my boy doesn't seem like any sort of record-breaking creature to me. He's a busy boy, to be sure, and I certainly don't deny his many challenges, but--the most uncontrollable boy in the world? How can that be? At home, he's generally manageable, unless of course we ask him to do something like homework or eating neatly, and then all bets are off. Given the nature of his neurological problems, firm resistance to things that are difficult is to be expected. A wide range of annoying behaviors is to be expected, as a matter of fact. And yet I'm constantly told that his particular behaviors are unexpectedly disruptive, even in contexts where I would expect them to be the norm.

He's been rejected from two different groups designed to teach social skills to autistic children because the therapist thought he would distract the other kids. A therapist who just evaluated him for a therapeutic horseback riding program specifically designed for autistic, Down syndrome, and ADHD kids told me flat-out that I couldn't expect him to have as long a session as the others because he was so all-over-the-place. A child psychologist who specializes in behavior problems asked me within ten minutes of meeting my son whether he was always so annoyingly active. These are people who work with active, distractible, unfocused, impulsive, uncontainable, unmanageable kids every day, yet my son stands out as someone they don't want to deal with. So he must be exponentially more of all those things than even his most impaired comrade in brain damage.

I'd like to think that the problem lies not in my son, but in the so-called professionals. Obviously they are not skilled enough, or they would be able to engage him. Obviously they are lazy, or they would want to take on his challenge. Obviously they are inexperienced, or they would know that kids like him are like this. Obviously they are so used to seeing children who are medicated that they're too spoiled to deal with the real thing. How can you, say, bring an inquisitive and curious boy into a stable, with horses and dogs and strange smells and sights galore, and be peeved when he doesn't focus on you, a boring old human who is after all a stranger? How can you interview a child in a room full of knickknacks, as one therapist did, and be put off when he checks each one out? Are "typical" kids so different? Is this boy really so odd?

Yet I've heard the same verdict so many times that there must be something to it. He must just be Active Boy 2.0, the new improved version, faster and more frustrating. And isn't that what people want these days--to be the most, to be extreme? Perhaps I should embrace his uncontrollable nature and start exploiting it. Tell the talk shows we're ready! But make sure they bring in a few more cameras to catch all that extra action. My boy knows no boundaries.

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