Ryan is in a class with a child who has autism. I met P when I did diabetes education in his class several weeks back. He is a sweet child that spoke to me and said something about Ryan being his friend (I can’t remember exactly how he said it). Ryan enjoys being around P, talks to him, works to include him. His teacher has always been very impressed how Ryan doesn’t shy away from P.
Last week, and for about ten days, P’s teacher that goes with him to classes, was out on sick leave (minor surgery or something). P had a sub all ten days.
And about that time, Ryan started to show a little bit of anxiety going to school, that seemed to get worse every day.
Last Thursday, I was called by the nurse. She said I probably should come get Ryan. He was weepy and inconsolable. What had happened was P had an “outburst” (forgive me if that’s not the correct word to use) and had to be removed from the classroom. P was very upset. And it scared Ryan to death. I tried to get him to stay. But the nurse got back on the phone and recommended I come pick him up because she did not want him to be afraid at school. On Friday, Ryan said P wasn’t in class (perhaps he was absent). 😦
Monday, P was back in the classroom but I was called again because he was upset again. He feared P having bad day. The “unknown” got the best of Ryan. So, I decided to go get him, but as timing would have it, I went in time for lunch and he thought I was just coming to eat with him. So, I did and then told him I would see him in a few hours. He was reluctant, but went on with his class.
During this time from Thursday to Monday, I spoke with two administrators and his teacher to try to get some advise on how to 1) calm Ryan and teach him how to deal with HIS anxiety and 2) the correct vocabulary and explanation specific to P to help him understand where P was coming from. I cannot stress enough how compliant and helpful these three key players at school were and how they so magnificently worked to meet P’s needs along with Ryan’s anxiety and putting neither above the other.
On Monday night, we talked a lot about P. As God would have it, all this happened during the month of April, Autism Awareness Month. And because of the month, one of my friends, who has a child with autism, posted daily facts and helpful suggestions/hints/insights about Autism and raising a child with autism. I cannot stress enough, Angie, how this gave me wisdom and insight in talking to my boy.
The main thing that I stressed with Ryan is schedule. How P needed schedule, that it made him feel safe and secure. And I compared that to Ryan with diabetes. Ryan checks his sugar at school at 10:30a, 12:30a (at lunch) and 2:30p and if someone told Ryan that IF he could not check his sugar at his scheduled time (because he gets up and goes completely on his own at the right times), that it would be very upsetting and that maybe he would cry or tell someone and be upset and be nervous. I told him it was the same with P. That he has a schedule. He has classes he goes to at certain times and has all year. But the big thing those 10 days is that he had a substitute teacher and that he was probably missing Mrs. F and the “acting out” is how he showed it. And I told him that just like Ryan has a special schedule he needs to follow to feel safe, P has the same. And from that point, he seemed to get it despite his nervousness.
On Wednesday, Mrs. F, P’s regular teacher, returned. Ryan’s teacher talked to him privately that it may take P a few days or so to get settled back in to routine and that if P has a bad day, he shouldn’t be afraid, that Mrs. F was back and it would all be okay.
At 1:00 on Wednesday, I got a phone call from school. It was Ryan’s teacher. She started to conversation with, “I felt I needed to call and tell you about something that happened today.”
My heart sank.
She said she had told Mrs. F about Ryan’s anxiety with the difficult days she was absent and said they needed to pay special attention to Ryan as well to make sure he’s okay. She requested that in media (library class) that Mrs. F do what she could to have them sitting apart, just for a few days, until Ryan felt more settled with the situation. Mrs. F agreed and said she’d see to it.
So in media, they were sitting at different tables. The librarian gave a little lesson then had them partner up for an activity/assignment. The librarian asked the class, who would like to be P’s partner for this assignment. Mrs F said that after a moment’s pause, a little hand slowly raised until it was fully extended in the air.
The raised hand was Ryan’s.
Mrs. F said she started to redirect the situation, and choose a new partner for P. But then she thought, “Why?” He’s volunteering. Leave it alone.
She said that it went perfectly. They worked together well and that both boys were so proud of what they had done together with the assignment.
And I have to tell you I burst into tears on the phone and was so stinkin’ proud.
When he got home that day, I asked him how his day was and he said “Good.” That he wasn’t nervous at all. But said nothing specifically about P. So I waited. I wanted him to tell me.
But he didn’t. So finally, that evening, I asked him about media and partnering with P. He acted like it was no big deal. And so I tried to follow suit with that. He talked about how he likes P and how he likes to “watch him learn.” “He’s so smart,” he said. And continued to tell me how they’re kinda the same. That P does things best for his autism and how Ryan does things best for his diabetes.
I could not have taught him that. That’s God given. That’s compassion. And dare I say, that’s diabetes given?
Would Ryan have understood that sometimes we all just need to do things a certain way to feel secure, to get the job done, to be our best WITHOUT diabetes? Maybe. But in my heart of hearts, I believe diabetes has heightened his awareness that we are all different in our own way and he doesn’t have to be afraid of what he doesn’t know or maybe doesn’t fully understand.
We all need to be more like Ryan and P. Friends. Different, but the same.
“I will praise You
because I have been remarkably and wonderfully made.
Your works are wonderful,
and I know this very well.”