A fine line

I went into Frances’s school with concerns that a boy in her class was having angry outbursts and making her feel unsafe.

The school denied that he was having outbursts, and they didn’t think Frances was in any danger.

I mentioned a recent incident in which Frances was hit by a ball thrown by him.

A witness says he merely threw the ball with the expectation that Frances would catch it. 

So, here is the problem: Frances has great difficulty discerning motive or intention in others. (It was first noticeable during her year of junior kindergarten, and it has not changed in degree or severity during these past five years.)

If a kid brushes past her in the hallway, she thinks it was done on purpose. Every. Single. Time. If someone walks past her table and causes a crayon to fall off, she thinks it was done intentionally. Every. Single. Time. 

You can reason with her and explain the events as accidents, but she won’t believe you. She actually doesn’t know why someone did something, and thinking the worst, in a way, protects her. (It’s not hard to imagine the ways in which someone who doesn’t read motive in others could be led into danger.)

So, you can understand how she might not have known that the boy intended to include her in a game of catch.

People, social situations, interactions, expectations, and rules: they confuse and frighten my daughter.

As a mother, you want your child to be believed and to know that she is believed; however, when your child has ASD with this particular challenge, you walk a fine line with everyone: (1) you can’t accuse the teachers of lying, and (2) you can’t tell your child that something she experienced didn’t really happen.

What did I do? I concluded that, regardless of the reality, Frances needs to feel safe, and we came up with a plan of action that Frances can take when she doesn’t feel safe at school.

Then, I went home and cried. 

When Frances got home, I made no mention of her ongoing experiences with the boy, but I told her of the plan that she can use when she doesn’t feel safe for any reason.

Then, for much of the night, I wondered who was right. 

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