Spelling tests are on Tuesday and Wolfie loves this. He is an excellent speller. I think he must have a photographic memory because if he has seen the word, he can spell it. Practicing his spelling words is a lot of fun. They are words meant to challenge him as they have been picked to match his reading level. This weeks spelling words included adequate, occasionally, apparatus and rapport.
To practice for the test, we hold a home spelling bee. Eliot and I, and sometimes Hammy, will give Wolfie a word and watch as he closes his eyes, and twitches his arms as he spells out the word with a huge smile on his face. When he is finished, he opens his eyes and asks very excitedly, “Is that right?”
Each time was “Yes! High five, you got it right!” We went beyond the spelling words into words like philosophy and tyrannosaurus. He got them all right and he was so proud. So proud, in fact, that at one point he started to cry. He was just so happy! He was literally smiling, laughing and crying all at the same time. Which, of course, made me fall to pieces. I get so overwhelmed with emotion when I see either of my boys do things that make them feel proud. I remember how it felt as a child to be proud of myself. It was one of the best feelings ever. The build-up of sharing the news that had me so proud or that brief moment between accomplishing something and turning my head to meet the gaze of one of my parents is a feeling that I will remember always. And it isn’t just about how I felt. It’s also that moment of sharing. It wasn’t just my moment. It was our moment. I remember the pure pride and happiness on my parents’ faces and the obvious pleasure they got out of my success, and I understand what they were feeling now that I have my own children.
Asperger’s can be isolating. It is difficult for Wolfie to connect with peers in a way that is meaningful to the other person. It has plenty of meaning for Wolfie, it’s just that for the other person the meaning is somewhat cloudy. It is interesting and sometimes painful to watch Wolfie with his classmates or his brother. He comes across steamroller-ish a lot of the time because he is excited. Maybe he knows the answer or has something he feels is important to offer and it is hard for him to think before sharing.
Just last night we were hanging out together by the fire doing homework. Wolfie was working on new spelling words and Hammy wanted to join in the fun. We started taking turns giving the boys words to spell. Hammy was so patient as he waited for Wolfie to spell his word. This may have been because there was no way he could spell the words that Wolfie was given, but he was patient none-the-less. Wolfie, on the other hand, couldn’t wait to “help” Hammy spell his words. Hammy didn’t want his help. We didn’t want him to help. We kept giving him reminders that it was Hammy’s turn. It was so clear that he just couldn’t help himself. He knew the answer and it was demanding to come out! Eventually, he settled down and got the message to wait his turn, or at least, wait for someone to ask for his help.
It is hard sometimes in those moments not to steamroll right over him because he is being so overbearing. Recognizing that it is excitement that is motivating him is so important in order to teach him a different approach. He is much more receptive to our suggestions when he doesn’t feel attacked, which is so interesting to me since he is usually the verbally aggressive one first.
It’s strange, he doesn’t feel it when he is overbearing but is very sensitive when he is on the receiving end. I guess the difference is where the motivations lie. He is excited or has something to share, and because of his lack of filter for his emotions, he comes across aggressive or larger than the situation calls for. He knows he isn’t trying to be aggressive, but his peers don’t. When I am impatient is when I come across as a steamroller to him. My motivation is not excitement or anything positive in those moments. I’m just impatient in that moment, and he knows it.
Of course, there are those times when he is aggressive when he is angry or impatient, but that is for another story.
I think participating in a real spelling bee would be good for him someday. He would love it. And I love the pleasure that exudes from him when he is successfully spelling a word. The way that he spells them out has a definite rhythm. He breaks the word up into parts and spells each part pretty quick and I get a kick out of that too. The whole time he is smiling his infectious smile and looking to us to share in his pride. It’s impossible not to enjoy.