June 5, 2007
Schuyler has an incident like this about once a year, which is probably not too bad for a seven year-old. Today she got frustrated and kicked a kid, and then one of the program workers as well. I'm still not sure we've gotten the whole story, but she admitted that she kicked them on her device. She said the boy hurt her first, but she didn't have an explanation for kicking the staffer. She shrugged miserably when we asked her why she did it, because I don't think she understands having a temper, or how to respond to frustration.
It's a particular difficulty with nonverbal kids, especially when they are interacting with new people who don't understand how to communicate with her. That doesn't excuse her behavior, but this sort of thing doesn't just occur in a vacuum. The Big Box of Words requires patience from everyone, since it takes her some time to respond to questions or express what she's feeling. It's only the second day, but I'm getting the feeling that her summer program staff just doesn't quite get it yet.
Her classes have gone great, she got a glowing report today from her teacher. I was a little surprised since she's in class for four straight hours in the morning, which is a lot for a seven year-old. It would be a lot for me, come to think of it. But her class is fine. It's the after school program that's giving her fits, and we don't yet understand why.
One clue may have been the fact that they said she wouldn't use her device. That sent up a red flag because in the past, she's only balked at using the device when she was made to feel weird about using it, or when it was made unavailable to her. That's when she gets frustrated, when she can't be understood. She's in a situation now with people who can't understand any of her moonman words or her signs and who might not be encouraging her to use her device. That doesn't leave her with much, and that's when she typically feels trapped and lashes out.
Well, it's only the second day. She promised to apologize on her device to the people she kicked and to be the very best little girl she can be tomorrow, and I believe that she'll do just that. My friend Tracy wrote once that Schuyler's sorrow at disappointing me was a powerful thing, and Julie said the same thing tonight. I don't know if it's a "Daddy's little girl" thing or what, but it's a little heartbreaking.
After our long talk and mutual agreement on her punishment this evening and what would happen tomorrow if things don't improve, she looked at me sadly and started punching buttons on her device.
"I love you," she said.
"I love you, too, Schuyler," I said. "I love you so, so much."
She smiled for the first time all evening and climbed out of her chair. She came over and put her arms around my neck and hugged me as hard as she's ever hugged me, and for a long time.
All the people out there who feel like we need to be disciplining her physically (and I'm sure I'll hear from them again like I did last summer; maybe they'll pronounce her name correctly this time when they call me on the phone), they have no idea.
I'll never raise a hand to her, ever. I don't think either of us would be able to bear it.