Playing a video game.
*tap tap* pause *tap tap*…
Answering a question.
*tap tap* answer *tap tap*
Playing with blocks.
*tap tap*…*tap tap*…*tap tap*…
Ahhhh! What IS that!?!?
Random moments throughout the day.
*tap tap*tap tap* tap tap*…a *tap tap* here and a *tap tap* there. Here a *tap*. There a *tap*. Everywhere a *tap tap*…
It’s not something I can hear. It’s something I can see. *tap tap*
It started this summer. *tap tap* Henry began taking his left hand and tapping the top left side of his head twice *tap tap* with the back of his thumb and index finger.
We tried to ignore it. It became so frequent and so seemingly random that I began to try to not only count how many times he did it in an hour, in a minute; I also tried to note the activities and time of day. After a few days of scattered pieces of scrap paper with scrawled times of day and tally marks I gave up.
When I finally couldn’t take is anymore, after several weeks of this *tap tapping* clearly becoming more frequent, I flat out ASKED Henry what it meant and why.
“Oh, it helps me remember things, Mom.” *tap tap*
And I was pretty much never able to get more than that from him about it. Okay. Whatever. Moving on…
Until it was really starting to bug me and then I asked our OT about it. She tried to gather some information and insight into this as well but with no more success that what we were having at home. The more we asked about it the more he would get agitated. Sometimes I would try to distract Henry just before he would raise his arm if given the right moment. A couple of times I was able to gently take is left arm like I was going to guide him somewhere. Up popped the right arm. *tap tap* Ugh! Now he is an ambidextrous *tapper*. Super.
So between our OT, Maya, and family, we decided that we would just ignore it. This time we really did even though some days it just got on my last *tap tap* NERVE. And really, it was harmless enough. He was quiet. He certainly wasn’t bothering anyone. Why was this driving me nuts?
Well…this fall he would be heading into Kindergarten. Just in time. *tap tap*. Swell. (Mainstream. Full day. Big yellow bus filled with all grades of elementary students). This would just be one more “odd” thing that would bring attention to him. And Henry doesn’t really have the pragmatic language or social skills to get by with this sort of “oddness” yet. What 5 or 6 year really does? But when you are a 5 or 6 year old on the Spectrum…well, you know, it’s just more things to fuel the fire for teasing and the like.
Sure enough, one day shortly after school began, I met Henry at the bus stop and as he turned to get off the bus, a couple of the kids mimicked his taping behind his back. It was like a fist suddenly had a grip on my heart but I continued to smile at Henry and he was just as happy as a lark telling me about his great day, completely oblivious that the kids were making fun of him.
I had a brief, friendly meeting with Henry’s new teacher in those first few weeks of school. (I wrote about that meeting here.) I did ask her about the tapping and she said she did notice it sometimes but no one else seemed to notice it and if they did, it was not an issue. It was not interfering with his work or play and it was not setting him apart from his peers in the classroom. About this same time I also talked to our pediatrician about it and his thoughts were similar, that if it wasn’t causing a problem or issues in Henry’s daily functioning then for now it would probably be best to let it go.
One evening at dinner shortly thereafter, Henry was sharing about his day with Maya and Lucy and me. Very matter-of-factly he said, “The kids on the bus hit their heads too.”
So now they did it in front of him. Great. But still…he didn’t quite seem to make a connection that they were making fun. We asked about whether other kids were bothering him, because a few times, I KNOW they were messing with him because he will tell you that he doesn’t like to be touched. This is another bit of fuel for the fire. I mean, really, as a kid, if another kid tells you not to touch them…what are ya gonna want to do? *poke* Then Henry really gets agitated and will start yelling and *tap tapping*.
A call to the principal about the bus situation in particular did seem to help. And I think some of the kids either got used to Henry’s “oddness” or got bored with it. Or both. For whatever reason, things seemed to have calmed down a bit. (Although every day, twice a day, I worry about how the bus ride is going to go).
Over the last several weeks the tapping seems to be waning. Whatever this *tap tapping* was…is…does seem to be passing. And I hope it stays away; not for the act of the tapping itself, because to me, it is just one more endearing oddity that I love about my son. But for outsiders, particularly his peers, it brings negative attention. I grew up having been teased, picked on, and downright bullied for most of what I remember of my grade school years. I KNOW what it feels like. And even though Henry doesn’t seem to understand it, I’m quite sure he FEELS something about it.
For me, this *tap tap* is like a knock on a door of more oddities and differences and social challenges to come. And that is what hurts my heart.