Last night, I went to the holiday concert at Freddy's school. Freddy wasn't in the concert, but my friend's daughter was, and I love hearing the music. It was a great night, with lots of different music groups performing.
During one of the sets, I found myself unable to stop looking at a girl playing in the back row. She had on a dress that is a type I love---a fair isle sweater dress, like from the Hanna Andersson catalog. I didn't know they made them in her size---she was as tall as a tall adult. It was the kind of dress either a misguided parent would pick out for a girl who wouldn't know to object to it, or a dress that a girl would want to wear that didn't realize how odd it looked on. Her hair was done in an unusual way, and she had a look, a look that I think I know. She was "on the spectrum", I'm fairly sure. She'd be on the very, very high end of the spectrum, as Freddy's school is an exam school, accepting only pretty strong students, and she was in one of the more selective music groups there. She was on the far opposite side of the spectrum from Janey, I think. I could be wrong, but I don't think I was.
It's a dirty little secret, maybe in my own mind only, but I think not, that there is some jealousy and nasty thoughts by those of us with low functioning kids toward high functioning kids. I shouldn't have it. I have a child that was once considered on the high functioning level, and I know it's not easy. But there are times I think "Yeah, you worry your child might have trouble making friends, you work on workplace issues, you talk about how their disability might lower their SAT scores. Cry me a river. I'm dealing with smeared diapers, hoping someday my child might be able to do well enough to live in a group home, wishing they could some day read a simple sentence. My sympathies are limited" But last night, I got a little perspective, if only due to my own imagining.
I projected about that girl, and a few other kids I saw---a boy in one of the choirs that was not with the program, not in rhythm, another boy who played like a professional but looked hugely awkward and unhappy. I thought about what life must be like on the very edge of fitting in. I thought of the lack of sympathy that must exist for kids that can score high on tests, can play instruments amazingly, can be there almost part of it all.
Janey will never fit in. The older she gets, the less she fits in. And that, in some small ways, is easier than the alternative. When we go to a store or other public place, it's immediately obvious she is not typical. She makes her "Ahhh-ahhh-ahhh" sound, she waves her hands, she sings to herself, she has to have her hand held every second. People, the vast majority of people, look at us with kindness, or if not that, at least some degree of sympathy. Many people love Janey. She doesn't have to struggle socially, as she has no idea whatsoever she doesn't fit in. She doesn't try to fit in. She is low functioning enough that unless someone is extremely judgmental or clueless, they don't assume she's just a naughty or loud or ill-disciplined little girl.
But that girl in the Hanna Andersson dress, the girl that might actually be just fine, but the girl I used as a jumping ground for thoughts---she probably lives a daily struggle, unable to quite keep up, being very bright but not able to use that to fit in. I am going to keep her in mind, and be grateful, in an odd way, for Janey's obvious disabilities.