I’m parked in front of Blake’s high school waiting for the kids to be dismissed and I’m talking on my phone to a friend whose son just finished military boot camp. She is jubilant about how well he is doing. As we talk, most of the kids stream out of school. I haven’t seen Blake yet, which is working out well, since my friend has so much to share. Finally, I see him head out of the building and toward the car. As he gets closer, I can see that his face is blotchy red from crying. I wait for my friend to pause for a breath in her story and I abruptly tell her that I’ve got to go.
“Hi Blake. What’s going on, sweetheart? You look like you’ve been crying.”
“I stayed after to talk to Mr. S,” he says.
A silent alarm goes off in my brain. Mr. S is the history teacher I mentioned in my post “OCD and Misdiagnosis.” He’s the one who thought Blake might be autistic. I try not to sound overly worried.
“Oh, what about?” I ask.
“I finally went to him to talk about the problems I’ve been having with my friends.”
I wonder what the teacher’s response was. I have mentioned before that Blake is struggling socially at school. To make matters worse, the guys who are supposed to be his friends have been telling him to “shut up” or to “go away,” and they’ve been talking in front of him about a laser tag birthday party they are all going to that he was clearly not invited to. To be fair to these kids, it could be that they are just being teenage boys. To Blake, however, it makes no sense to tell someone who is your friend to “shut up,” even if it’s just in jest, and especially if that person keeps asking you to stop.
“So, what did he say?” I ask him.
“He said he’s going to help me.”
“So, how come you were crying? Did he say something that made you cry? Did he say something that made you feel at fault for what’s going on?” The Momma Bear in me is showing. I don’t want anybody saying anything hurtful to my son.
“I really want to keep it just between me and Mr. S for right now, Mom. What he said…it made me feel supported.”
The tears stream down his face as he says this to me and I realize that my son has felt touched by this teacher’s show of support for him. He feels accepted.
Dr. Tamar Chansky, author of “Freeing Your Child From Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” says, “It takes just one understanding teacher to make it
possible for a child struggling with OCD to feel understood. That sense of
safety and acceptance can make the difference between a child attending and
thriving at school, or not.”
While Blake’s particular issue may not have directly been about OCD, OCD is part of the reason he struggles socially. It makes him distracted and sometimes, when he’s caught up in a ritual, it makes him look like the weird kid.
In keeping with the November and Thanksgiving spirit, I give thanks for Mr. S. Thank you, Mr. S, for being one of those understanding teachers. You made a difference for my boy, and I’m sure you make a difference for many more.