Do you have a favorite song? Or get a song stuck in your head? What do you do?" They yelled out, "Sing it!" I said, "That's right. And that’s how words are for Blake, not just songs. That is kind of what Blake is doing when he repeats the same phrases over and over." A boy in the back said, "Is that why Blake says, 'Eww, that is stinky!' all the time?" I said, "Good question! What do you guys do when Blake says that?" Someone said, "We laugh!" I said, "Yep. You laugh and smile at him. He feels good about the interaction because he knows you like it. He doesn't know of a lot of ways to start a conversation with you, so that is his way of talking with you. Sometimes it is easier to talk to Blake about things when he likes the topic. When he already understands the topic, it is easier for him to find the right words to use. Kids nodded their heads like they got it.
"Fragile X causes learning to be more difficult for Blake. He needs to do things at a slower pace to learn it and he needs to practice something more times before he understands it. Fragile X also affects his senses. I know this one is an easy one for you, but can someone tell me what your senses are?" Lots of hands raised. I pick someone and he named them. I repeated them and said, "Fragile X makes Blake's senses work better than people who don’t have Fragile X. It is like super-senses! Normal brains are made to know what is important to sense and what isn’t. But Blake's brain has trouble blocking out what isn't important.
Imagine you are at your desk working on a worksheet. Your teacher is talking at her desk with another teacher who stopped by. You might be a little distracted by it, but you can probably still do your work, right? I want everyone to be quiet and listen for a second. Do you hear the clock ticking? The hum of the lights?" A girl raised her hand and pointed out the noises coming from the open window. "Those noises are just as loud to Blake as someone yelling in his ear. Then, imagine trying to concentrate on doing Math. It would be pretty hard, wouldn’t it?" Heads nodded.
"He doesn’t like noises that happen all of a sudden, because his brain reacts differently than ours does to it. What would you do if you were in a haunted house and someone jumped out and scared you? You’d scream, your heart would beat fast, you might breathe fast or start sweating. You don’t stop and think, Oh! He surprised me, I think I’ll scream now! You just react. That is what Blake does when someone makes an unexpected noise, gets in his space or touches him when he isn’t expecting it. He might even push them away or hit them. He doesn’t think about it, he just acts. I am not saying it is okay to hit or push someone, it isn’t. But it can help you understand why he does that sometimes. We are trying to teach him a better way of reacting to these situations, but it is mostly automatic. His body is always on alert because there is so much going on around him."
"What do you do when you are nervous? Do you take a deep breath to calm down? When you are at a scary movie, what do you do?" Hands shot up. I called on one boy who said, "I close my eyes!" And another girl raised her hand. I called on her and she said, "I cover my face," and she demonstrated. I nodded and said, "Blake does this too, in everyday life. He breathes very fast, trying to calm himself. But it isn’t very calming for him. And sometimes he hides under his desk or he sits on the floor with his knees up and his head between his knees. This blocks out what he sees as scary or threatening. Remember all his super-senses?
You know how I said Blake has trouble communicating because of Fragile X? That makes school tough for him because you have to do a lot of communicating at school like answering questions, talking to friends and following directions.