Early in the school year, Riley witnessed a fellow third grade girl kick a boy at the drinking fountain, sending him on his butt. The boy and the girl are actually friends, and he was laughing after he fell, (which confused Riley to no end). She has been scared to death of this girl ever since.
The girl is in a class that lines up parallel to Riley's class every morning. She's a big girl, easily outweighing me by 30+ pounds. She definitely is a ring leader, but she doesn't seem too far gone. She has a heart. You can see it in her eyes. One time last year, I saw her from across the playground, walking home from school, terribly agitated, crying, because some boys had been calling her fat. (The weight is the size of the wound.- Marianne Williamson).
"I shouldn't have to put up with it! I shouldn't have to deal with this!" she shrieked.
I was in the middle of a playground crises with Riley, so I couldn't go to her, but I wanted to. I wanted to look her in the eye and agree with her.
"You are so right. You shouldn't have to put up with people picking on you. Ever."
But I didn't. My hands were full.
Whenever Riley sees this girl, she folds inward in terror. So far, Riley had pretty much not even been on her radar. We liked it like that.
Yesterday, Riley told me just before winter break, the girl approached her in the hall at school. Riley was standing with two aides and a teacher, and the girl said, "Hey, Riley."
Riley put up her hand in stop position, and screamed, "Please leave me alone!"
Firmly on the radar now, aren't we?
"Riley, did she sound friendly when she said hi?"
"Then why did you say that to her?"
"Because I saw her kick that boy (15 weeks ago) and I was afraid she was going to be mean to me too."
"But she wasn't being mean to you, was she?"
"No. But how can she be nice when she was so mean?"
Riley threw herself on my shoulder and cried,
"I'm such a stupid person. I'm so confused. I'm sorry I said that to her Mommy!"
Social nuance comes natural to most. It is difficult to teach. This is one of the things that keeps me up late at night, worrying that through no fault of her own, Riley will set someone off and be physically assaulted as a result.
At the recent birthday party she attended there were some older, fifth grade girls who knew each other well. They were all, "Shut up!" and shoving each other on the shoulder, etc. Riley assumed they were very mean, because they said "shut up" and they were being rough. They frightened her. She looked at them only out of the corner of her eye, and didn't talk to them at all, coming off as unfriendly.
This is where people with Asperger's get a raw deal.
This is where it would be so much easier if her disability were more visible.
This is why, if a service dog makes her stand out, I am all for it. If having a doggie in a little vest beside her causes folks to give her the benefit of the doubt? Good. If the dog offers her comfort in this confusing world? Great.
And if they want to give us a German Shepherd? Something a little intimidating? I wouldn't be opposed to that either.