Every morning when I take him to school, after we make the five minute trip down the hallway, I linger in the classroom for awhile. Connor and I seem to be part of the "early club" along with a little girl with Down's Syndrome and her Mom, the twin boys that wear hearing aides and their dad, and the little girl who has just arrived in America with her family and learning English.
At first being in the same room with other children only awoke his need to claim what was his and remove it from peer infested areas. When the twins started showing interest in what I was doing when playing with Connor and responding with "I love you too." or "Bye Mom." when telling Connor goodbye, I became one of the items he needed to claim. This forced him to recognize that he was not the soul person in the class. He had to make eye contact to glare and give sidelong looks as he pulled me in the other direction.
There is a poster of different animals in his class that shows his favorite, the elephant, and he makes a point to show me so we can clap our hands to the syllables as we sing "El-e-phant, el-e-phant, eh, eh, eh." The sound of my elephant noise, which is very good, draws the twins over. They want to sing and label and hear the elephant noise again and after Connor takes my hand and makes sure I only have eyes for him, he allows it.
The day following when the twins come in to the classroom Connor is ready to show them that he has found even another elephant in the room. "Elephant? Elephant?" he says and pulls one of their little hands to place on the picture. The one shows interest and is rewarded with Connor taking the boy's hand and putting it up to his face and squeezing so hard I can see the back of Connor's head shaking. The DI and I know right away that this says "I am so glad to see you, buddy!" the little boy however doesn't know this and turns to me with a look that says "What the hell did he just do to me."
"That means he is glad to see you." I offer.
"Oh" and the little boy continues playing after finding out that he wasn't really assaulted.
I am beside myself that he has shown interest in making friends and interacting and then I am hit with a second surprise, his aide tells me that Connor no longer walks to lunch holding a teacher's hand. He now has a friend that he holds hands with and walks to lunch with her. I had never met of this little girl as she arrives on the bus. She is normally developing.
I get to see this phenomena that very afternoon as I watch the children walking toward the front doors to be released. I pick out where the teachers are and then look at the child they are leading. None of them are mine. Not to be fooled again, I assume he has pilfered another armload of toys, shame on me. Near the end of the line I see them, Connor and M. They are holding hands and walking with the rest of the class. I see him notice different things as they walk and M gives gentle tugs and pats to keep him in line.
As he sees me his eyes widen as much as his smile and he runs through the doors to me. I pick him up and carry him to the car asking him if he had a good day. I'm happy to report that I actually made it out of the parking lot before my eyes started leaking.