Daniel has been acting a bit strangely lately. He’s always been a sensitive wee soul, and it has never taken much to affect his spiritual well being. This week has seen something relatively new. Last weekend, he angrily announced “I am rubbish. I am rubbish at everything.” No amount of soothing and comforting would dissuade him from that view. Naturally, he’s anything but “rubbish” He’s a clever lad who is easily mastering literacy and numeracy. His reading skills are excellent. Yes, he’s reluctant to show his teachers what he’s really capable of, but he makes up for that at home, and will happily read another couple of books after doing his school reading book. He seems wise beyond his years, and can use complex words in context. He has deep thoughts – definitely too deep for a six year old. He’s a smart cookie. Where did his assertion that he was no good at anything come from?
He seemed to snap out of it the following day, but this evening, he got very upset at bedtime. He had had a meltdown in the afternoon too. Jane had attributed the meltdown to him being tense about parents consultations at school today. I went up to the school at 4pm to meet with his teacher, then Matthew’s teacher and the SEN teachers. Daniel had nothing to worry about, and was given a glowing report. His teacher had noticed him tensing up – like a coiled spring – when it got noisy. That in itself is interesting, given the lengths he goes to, to hold it together during the school day. But it was in the bedtime meltdown that had us worried again. He told Jane how he was a bad person, and had a bad heart. This is completely out of character for Daniel. Despite his meltdowns, he is such a kind-hearted, loving boy. He will share everything he has. He has said in the past how he is a good person, because he likes to help people. While we were on holiday, he would take winnings from the 2p slot machines and give it to random strangers walking past. He’s such a kind little lad. So what has happened?
Well, as some will know, one of the boys’ grannies lives with us. She has helped out with the boys over the years, particularly when they were babies up to toddler age. Trouble is, she has become lazy in many ways. She doesn’t move from the sofa during the day, hardly goes out. Often she will just sit staring into space for hours. She was always playing with Daniel before he went to school, but did little else. Back then we saw how she would be bored beyond belief when D went to school full time. So it has proven. Daniel now has other interests, and has a small circle of friends now. He just doesn’t want to play the games he used to play with Gaga. The result? She is bitterly jealous of Daniel’s other interests, so resorts to her favourite game – bating Daniel. She will be nice as you like (more-or-less) while Jane and/or I are in the room. But as soon as we leave the room, she will bully him. Mercilessly.
For example, Daniel now shares my love of Star Wars. He will often either play Lego Star Wars on the Wii, or will watch Star Wars on blu ray. His Gran doesn’t even try to hide her contempt for it. She has told Daniel several times that if he watches it, she will leave. She thinks he doesn’t talk to us I assume, but he does. Then when we ask why it was said, it will be denied. Daniel is a liar it seems. But what a cruel thing to say to any child. But an ASD child who takes everything literally? He was terrified by the thought. Now, he sees right through it, but that doesn’t stop it. Then there’s the constant goading him into doing something bad – simply for the opportunity to rip into him for bad behaviour. Things like knitting will almost be deliberately be left out, knowing he won’t be able to resist. When he picks up a ball of wool, or knitting needle, all hell breaks loose.
Occasionally we’ve left the living room, but have waited in the hall to hear what is said. The bullying can start instantly, and we’ve just got to go back in to put a stop to it. But what damage is being done from it all? Its being done to a boy who has fragile self confidence. He’s a boy who thinks he’s a bad person. I can almost hear it being said. We’re convinced its not coming from school. He and his closest bud are inseparable, and he would have said something. No, its coming from home. Yes, Matthew (his brother) can be nasty to him, but he and Daniel are actually closer together than ever. Matthew even threatened to attack a tree Daniel had hurt himself on because “I won’t let it hurt my brother.” Daniel gives as good as he gets with Matthew. But its the bullying from a person who should be supporting him that’s doing the damage. All from a refusal to try and make any life here. Refusing to do so has ended where we knew it would. Now we know we can’t even consider leaving Daniel alone with his gran for even a few minutes.
I have to say that my mum isn’t much more helpful. She is heavily involved with her church, to the point where pointless meetings there take priority over her grandchildren. Countless times when she has come over (and that’s been single figures this year) when the boys have asked her to stay for tea, she has made excuses – “I’ve got a meeting” “Someone is visiting tomorrow, and I have to clean” etc, etc. Visits over there are an afternoon of watching a DVD the boys take with them. Not even paper and crayons are there for them to play with. Its not how grandparents should be. That must also affect Daniel. He’s a boy who craves affection. He gets precious little from his grandparents (sadly for him, both grandads died before the boys were born.)
Daniel is in a difficult place at the moment, and he needs love and affection to see him through it. The senseless and thoughtless bullying, and inattention he’s getting from his grannies is damaging, to the point where leaving Daniel with them is inconceivable. He’s too young to hate himself, and Jane, Matthew and I will rally round him to remind him what a lovely, kind, wonderful little boy he is.