The Dreaded Check Mark

Jay had an off day at school yesterday. I could tell something was up when I picked him up because he was twitching… something I have noticed him doing more and more often. He twitches rather than flap now. Anyway… he was twitching so I asked him if something happened at school. “I don’t want to talk about it now”, he replied in a slightly edgy voice. I did not push the issue because we were walking home and well… I wanted to make it home. He did tell me that his best friend was not in school today. I knew that alone must have thrown his whole day off.

We arrived home. Kids unpacked their backpacks and set upstairs to start their homework. I started putting away all the groceries that I had left on the counter when I realized it was time to go get the kids. As I was putting the Special K into the cereal container Grace came down the stairs looking for a snack. I poured her a drink and gave her an apple. She started telling me all about her day and how she was invited to a Pedicure Party on Saturday. (Seriously… at 7 the kid has better nails than I do! ) She finished her snack and was about to head back upstairs when she said over her shoulder, “Oh I forgot… Jay is crying in his room.” I held my tongue and counted to 10. I guess she needed alone time first before telling me. I thanked her and told her to go back to her homework and then taking the steps two at a time I ran up to see what the problem was.

Jay was sitting in his closet. He was bright red and his cheeks were stained with tears. He looked up at me with his big hazel eyes and said, “I can’t stop crying!” This is not the first time he has said this to me. I sat down on the floor next to him and told him it was okay. I told him how sometimes I cry when I am frustrated, “Are you frustrated about something Jay?”, I asked. He shook his head yes. I asked him if we could step out of the closet and perhaps sit on his bed and talk. He also said yes. I internally breathed a sigh of release. He was being agreeable… that meant this was nothing too major.

“I got 2 check marks in school today mom. But I didn’t cry… I wanted to, but I didn’t mom.!” Before even trying to figure out why he got the check marks I knew I had to address the fact that he did not cry when he got into trouble. Jay cries at everything… especially if he gets in trouble. The fact that he held it together was huge! No wonder he was sitting in the closet… he had to let it out and well he did. He then told me why he got the check marks. The first one was for calling some boy a Joke. His version of the story was that the boy was telling really bad riddles so he called him a joke. He understood that the boy was hurt by the comment and that was why he got into the trouble. The second check mark he did not really want to tell me about. I assured him that I would not yell at him and that he would not be in trouble. I just wanted to know what happened so that we could talk about what might have been a better choice to have made. He told me it happened at lunch. Ahhhh… the lunch room. The very loud lunch room which he usually sits in the same place every day with his best friend who was out sick today. I asked what happened there and here was what he said. “I wanted to talk to someone so I made up a story. I told this boy that this other girl said he was a looser. Mom everyone was talking to me then to find out what happened. But the girl got upset because she did not say that and everyone thought she was lying. I told her I was sorry but I got a check mark anyway.”

These are the situations that make my heart just melt. My son does not know how to talk to the other kids. He does not know how to start a conversation or contribute to one that has already begun. He does not pick up on the social cues or body language of others. He just doesn’t get it. And the really hard part is… he is so smart that he KNOWS this. This is why he gets frustrated. He knows he needs to do something if he wants to talk to the other kids, he just does not know what. Obviously we talked about what would have been a better choice he could have made if he wanted to talk to the kids. We will create a social story to go with this which we will add to our book which he refers to every so often. Eventually… I pray, one day Jay will get this skill. He will understand how to initiate a conversation without starting rumors or problems. But until that day, we will have many more conversations in the closet, many more dreaded check marks on the board.

4 thoughts on “The Dreaded Check Mark

  1. My dearest cousin, sometimes I can so relate to this, there is a piece of our boys that match so perfect. This is one of them. Although they go about it differently, it is the same thing. So I will tell you this, with the help of OT and Speech (at school) my son has learned how to start a conversation. Pragmatic language is a big issue when your brain works differently. Give it time J will get it. And it wouldnt hurt to see if the school will support him with Speech for pragmatic language. This summer we will have to have get the boys together to practice this skill 🙂

  2. So very familiar…Jay will get better at his social skills!! My son has been doing very well keeping it together in school over the past year or two and getting along with other kids. I even dropped him off (that’s a huge thing, to “drop him off” and not have him request that I stick around) at a school party last weekend, but he said the gym activities were too loud and unorganized so he mainly stayed in the cafeteria and hung out with friends (it had food and some other small games to play). When some of his friends went to play in the gym, he said he was able to join a new group in the cafeteria. No problems (and his teacher confirmed that). But you wouldn’t know it when I picked him up. He was pouting and said it didn’t go that well because the gym was too loud and had bothered him and also that his gift that they handed out had broke. I had to remind him of past school parties and how this one really had gone well. He can’t always see his progress so I need to point it out and then he feels a bit better. Creating a social stories book will really help Jay.

  3. Is there a class we can all take on how to start a conversation? It is really a skill that most people are lacking. It took me getting into my 40s before I realized that a lot of people just don’t know how to converse. Suggest that Jay ask questions, like “what do you like to do after school? What’s your favorite show?” and he has to let them answer and talk. People like to talk about themselves. Maybe it would help if he has 3-4 standard questions that he can ask. My new favorite is “what do you like to do for fun?” It’s great that he waited for the privacy of his closet to cry. I have space in my closet so I think I will be retreating there more. I hadn’t thought of that as an escape place.

  4. I know that this is difficult for you but Jay is lucky… He is lucky to have you for his mother, someone that is doing all the right things to help him learn to fit in. Perhaps if the parents of “normal” kids would work on teaching their kids appropriate social skills, Jay wouldn’t have to make up stories to feel welcomed by his peers. Stay strong for Jay.

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