Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Boys in the Yard

The kids in my apartment complex spend every afternoon playing on the patio and lawn between the two buildings. Norman Rockwellian wholesomeness. They're mostly good kids, ages 4 through 11, and a couple of them live in garden apartments, so the toys are always readily available. They ride bikes and scooters, blow bubbles, play kickball (the bikes and scooters serve as bases). Since I'm usually the only adult out there, and always the only one willing to participate, they often try to rope me into their games; sometimes I have to remind them that I'm an adult, and they can not use me as a shield in a water gun fight.

Ryan enjoys playing in the backyard as well. I draw hopscotch numbers on the patio squares and he runs/jumps from one to the other. We play a lot of tag. We've also been working on his socialization, especially sharing the bubble wand. I can coax him into playing with most of the kids. He's better with the older ones - they are more patient and less threatening, and they seem to understand that Ryan is more in the "little kid" category than the other 3-4 year olds. He's understandably indifferent to the aggressively-friendly girl closest to his age.

And then there's Jonathan. Ryan hates Jonathan.

Jonathan is around 7 years old, and has only recently started playing in the backyard, usually without his mother and almost always "supervising" his 4-year-old little sister. Jonathan really, really wants Ryan to play with him, and will not take no for an answer. Neither will he be deterred by Ryan shoving him, yelling at him to go away, shrieking, throwing himself crying on the patio, or running away screaming. I think Jonathan makes a point of getting into Ryan's space just to watch him freak out.

I've tried to explain to Jonathan that Ryan needs time to warm up to a group before jumping in; I've gotten nowhere. I've told him and the other kids that some children have a harder time playing with other kids. But Jonathan will still piss him off, and then will whine, "Does he need to warm up again?" And forget about convincing that kid not to shoot Ryan with a water gun...

How can I explain PDD to the kids in the back yard? How can I prepare Ryan to be able to express his needs when I'm not around? I can't control what the Jonathans of the world do, so I will have to focus on what Ryan can do. In this case, Ryan did express himself: he told Jonathan quite clearly that he didn't want to play with him. But Ryan still didn't get what he wanted, which was to be left alone. He has to learn how to behave when his needs are not met. I don't want to have to teach him to handle being bullied, because that means admitting that my baby is in for more than the average amount of kid-on-kid abuse we all suffer throughout childhood.

For now, I'm with him to stand up for him.

1 comment:

  1. I have finally been able to sit down and read every posting you have done so far. Meredith, I am blown away by the little details you have shown to be so important in life. Both my husband and I have Autistic members in our families, so we are preparing ourselves for the possibility that our child may be diagnosed as well.
    As someone who has been working with children with special needs for the last 10 years, I think it is so important to get the word out there to start at a young age with helping them.
    Your blog is providing a great service, and I am proud to say "I knew her when".....

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