It is one that I write with some (ok, a lot) of hesitation, because I know it makes me sound like a horribly inadequate parent and I am feeling like one when it comes to this issue. Because it is hard to admit (at least for me) one's struggles and that I am not sure what to do.
But at the same time, I have confidence and trust in this community of bloggers who walk with me on this road we call the autism spectrum. For as much as I need your help with this, I think I need to know that I am doing the best I can.
Even if that doesn't seem to be nearly enough.
OK. Enough of my melodrama. Out with it.
We are having a tough time explaining racial equality to Boo. As most of you probably know, Boo has Asperger's. He is, like many on the autism spectrum, a very literal-minded person. There is not much gray area in his world. Things are very much black and white.
You see where I am going with this? Hence the problem.
He came home from after-school care one day this week, proudly explaining to us that he organized a basketball game that day. The Blacks versus the Whites. He himself apparently grouped the kids by color to form the teams.
To say that we were utterly aghast at this is putting it mildly - and how the hell we didn't get a phone call or an expulsion notice is beyond me. But to Boo, it was a logical way of creating two teams. We tried to explain that this wasn't right, that you can't separate people based on the color of their skin, that this is not fair.
And he asked why and the best we could come up with was, "Because it Is. Not. Fair." That there are laws, that people fought and died so that everyone could be equal and treated fairly. We reminded him of Martin Luther King Jr. Of Rosa Parks.
We talked to him about people we know personally who are African-American. Who are in inter-racial relationships, and what if someone said they couldn't get married? "I dunno," was the response. We talked about his friends, his classmates, our neighbors. (One of the selling points of this school district and neighborhood for us was that it is much more racially diverse than the lilly-white one we moved from.) About President Obama.
I cannot find many resources online for teaching racial equality to kids with autism. Like everything else with parenting this particular individual child on the autism spectrum, they must have forgotten to give me the manual when we left the hospital eight years ago, so we're making this (all of this) up as we go. On Friday, I had occasion to go to the library sans kids, and I took advantage of that to check out some children's biographies, in hopes that the stories of African-American heroes will help.
We have read several of these books before. We have talked about these issues before, particularly during the 2008 Presidential election. And yet, my kid is the one who organizes a segregated basketball game and when you try to talk to him about it, it is an instantaneous tantrum from him, a scream-fest from him, a complete meltdown from him and a psychic meltdown from us.
This year especially, I welcome and embrace February as Black History Month. I'm hopeful that some of Boo's homework and worksheets that he will be bringing home will help reinforce and prompt additional dinner-table discussion.
And yet I know all of this might not make a difference. That it might not be what Boo needs - whatever that is - to change what I fear is something stuck in his mind.
Maybe there aren't any right-and-wrong, black-and-white answers to this. Maybe all we can do is continue the dialogue, providing examples. Maybe we are talking too much. Maybe we need to be doing more, or doing something different.
Because right now, like so much of the quagmire of emotions that accompanies having a child on the autism spectrum, this feels as if we went astray, that we did something wrong. That we are doing something horribly wrong, that we are bad people.
That we are flailing and failing as parents and as people.
copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.