Alex came home today, his face streaked with dirt, even his eyelashes and eyelids had streaks of black dust from the rubber playground mulch.
The kids in his class, most of them younger than Alex, gathered around and told my husband what happened, when he came to pick kiddo up from school.
The teacher didn’t say anything, so my husband asked and was told by the teacher and the principal that the kids were playing rough today and incident reports were written up.
The little kids weren’t so gentle in their telling of the happenings on the tiny, fenced playground, today.
The group of kids that were playing rough apparently shouted “Pot!” at Alex. He often mishears things, so we don’t know if they were actually calling him “Pot!” but he is upset about it. So he yelled back “Meatball” which he thought was a terrible thing to call someone, and appropriate if someone called a person a pot.
“GET HIM!” one child shouted, and ran after Alex. They tackled him and pushed him to the ground and started kicking him. When he tried to get up they pushed him down again, and kicked him some more.
He came home and they told me this. Alex was very matter-of-fact but he was also quick to change the subject, which is what he does when he is in more of a typical, traditional, stereotypical state of his autism. When things are new or different or he is nervous he lectures, factual and emotionless. Our little professor. So he went right into his dissertation and I tried to ease him back into the more interactive kid we have started seeing more frequently at home, when it is just the three of us and everything is calm.
“He’s not ok”, I said to hubby.
I asked Alex if he would like to take a bath to get all of the dirt off as he is not a kid who handles dirt well and it’s only recently that we can get him to not compulsively wash his hands between strokes on the paper with fingerpaints.
He said yes, and I got a washcloth to try to get some of the black dirt off his face, and we talked.
I asked where they kicked him, when they kicked him when he was on the ground, and he pointed at his chest and turned around gesturing at his back. He said “my spine” and “my back hurts”
I helped him take off his school shirt and there were black dirt foot prints that had sifted through his shirt, stamped onto his skin. Between his shoulderblades, on his lower back, on his chest.
He’s in the tub now, having a bubblebath.
I’m shaking. My heart hurts.
Tomorrow we have an appointment with his headmistress, we made the appointment awhile ago, but now it is more urgent and important than ever.
Something has to change. This could happen anywhere, but we would have more options up north. Here we are all stuck, and we are all feeling a bit downtrodden and frustrated and overwhelmed.
One of the number one issues we have these days, is that Alex cannot reliably pass information to us, at least not in a timely fashion. A year from now, he will mention today. Ten years from now he will mention today, and the playground, as though it just happened. I am grateful that the other kids in his class look out for him, they know he’s different but they don’t see that as a bad thing most of the time. He always forgets to grab his lunchbag from his seat when we pick him up, so another kid will bring it to me (or hubby) as soon as one of them spots us at the door. Then all of them say “Alex, your mama is here” to him, gently coaxing him to look up and focus and see us and his face lights up.
I don’t know what happened on the playground today.
I know we will never know what happened on the playground today. I know that school won’t let us see the tape. I do know it was more than playing rough. Alex said the kids were bigger than he is. I have a feeling the set up for today’s incident was thoughtlessness and carelessness. It’s a small playground, the classrooms are mixed ages, but blending those mixed ages with the next age group up, on the playground, with non-too-diligent observation by staff, is not wise, even from a layperson’s perspective. I realize that Alex isn’t necessarily a complete innocent and I know we will be working intensively with him on this stuff throughout his life, but I also know that nothing should ever get this out of hand, in a 500 square foot playground, with supposed supervision. Kids fight, I know. But a bunch of kids chasing another child (who is 5 and small for his age and different from them…which may be why they were targeting him to begin with…) is unacceptable.
Screw survival of the fittest, this is my kid.
But I feel like this horrible thing reinforces the care and support he needs and that we need, and will hopefully open a discussion that will help all of the children in the school.
We were going into our meeting to see how all of us could work together for Alex’s benefit. Now I feel we have to fight for a basic need of all of the children, so they can learn in safety and in peace.
I need to calm myself, meditate, write down our game plan for talking to the principal tomorrow.
Perhaps we will have a more focused path after the discussion tomorrow.
I can hope though, that’s all I’ve got right now. Hope and Alex.