Preschool conference ~ 2007
“So, now that we have some strategies in place for facilitating play for Brooke at home, we’d really like to try to come up with some play dates for her.”
“That’s a great idea.”
“So we we’re hoping to get your feedback on who might be a good fit for her. We were thinking about starting with Lizzie. They seem to have so much fun together.”
The BCBA’s face has changed. Bubbly and smiling has turned to quiet and concerned.
There’s an awkward pause, then she haltingly continues, obviously measuring her words.
“It’s just that well .. they aren’t exactly .. um .. I’m not sure how to say this. They’re not really such good influences on one another.”
She says influences as one would say cancer. But ya know, contagious.
I picture Brooke and Lizzie, doing what they do every time they see each other.
They have this silly script they’ve fallen into. We call it doing the Doh Kas. They jump up and down and say “Doh Ka!” together again and again. It has meaning to no one but them. It’s their thing. Two little girls who thrive on knowing what to expect have come to know exactly what to expect from one another. It’s just not what’s expected by the rest of the world. So it’s not ok.
“Oh,” I say, deflated. “I guess that makes sense.”
We’re all so focused on giving Brooke the tools to interact ‘typically’ that I accept this as an answer.
For a while.
Meeting with Dr Dreamy ~ 2009
“I just .. God, I just know how desperate she is to connect with people, Dreamy. I see it every day. She tries so damn hard to reach out. I just want her to have a friend. Just one damn friend.”
He hands me the tissues that he always keeps handy for our visits, then looks at Luau and me thoughtfully.
“Have you sought out any other children on the spectrum for her to spend time with? I would imagine that she would find some sense of connection in those relationships.”
I nod, but I am quiet.
Evolution is afoot, but deconstruction takes time.
The BCBA’s face – quiet, concerned – looms.
1:2 Specialized Yoga class – April, 2012
Becky’s Mom, Mary and I are sitting in the lobby waiting for our girls. We’ve struck up a chat with another mom, there with her two children – both on the spectrum. Mary is telling her how before we arrived, Becky was worried that Brooke might not be coming.
“She misses her so much,” she explains. “They used to be in the same class. Every year from preschool up until second grade, they were together.”
“We used to joke that they’d be going to prom together,” I interject.
The other mom laughs.
Mary smiles. “Yup, they were so good together. It was really difficult when Becky went into a different classroom this year. Every day she asked where Brooke was. It broke my heart to see her without her buddy.”
“So this is a huge treat for them,” I say. “We’re thrilled that they’re able to do yoga together and spend time with each other.”
When Luau and I met with the yoga teacher and she asked if I might know of someone who would be a good fit to share the time slot, it had taken me about twenty seconds to come up with Becky.
When their session is over, the girls come bounding out of the room – separately, but together. Mary and I bid the other mom goodbye and gather the girls into the elevator. Even before the door closes, Becky walks over to Brooke and asks to hold her hand. “Sure, Becky,” she says. Mary and I look at our girls, then at each other. We are both beaming.
The four of us get out of the elevator and step out into the fresh air. Within thirty seconds, the girls are doing ring-around-the-rosy. Yup. Two nine year-old girls holding hands, ringing-around-the-rosy on the sidewalk.
Mary looks at me. “They just get each other, you know?”
Oh how I know.
My heart swells watching my girl – our girls, together.
Their connection to one another and their joy in each other’s presence is palpable.
Is their interaction ‘typical’?
No, it’s far more than that.
*photo used with permission, names changed as always