Dangerous Intimacy ?

January 20, 2016

When Robert was very little, I used to kiss his hand whenever he cried.  One day as he was sitting in a circle in his special needs private preschool, the girl, sitting next to him, began crying. Robert, five years old at that time, took her hand and kissed it. The girl was so surprised (shocked?) that she stopped crying.

When Robert was six or seven years old,  he was visiting the first grade classroom for an hour or two of weekly inclusion.  Despite the fact that Robert was accompanied by the teacher from his special needs program, the main classroom teacher treated him as if he were her responsibility the same way the other children were. (This is not as natural teacher behavior as it should be. Many main classroom teachers believe that when the student has an assigned aid, the teachers are relieved of any responsibility for such a child and thus rarely address him or her directly.)  That fact was not lost on Robert, who adored her and showed it in the only way he could:  He hugged her.  The teacher, one year short of retirement, couldn’t help noticing the paradox.  Robert, the little boy with autism, was the only child who hugged her in her many years of work.

For many years, Robert had a habit of kissing me (and at least one more favorite person) in the Eskimo style, by rubbing his nose on mine.   I suspected that besides demonstrating the need for closeness, Robert was also trying to sense my emotions or get some kind of reassurance whenever he felt a little uneasy. This kind of affection, had never bothered me until I was made aware that both the behavior and my acceptance of it were considered to be  highly inappropriate display of emotions.  At least two people – one working for a state agency, one working for … ARC found it offensive and/or suspicious. I reacted with bewilderment and the lingering uneasy feeling. Nonetheless,  I had never tried to stop Robert from expressing his need for closeness in this specific way.  By the time, Robert turned 18, this behavior disappeared.

When Robert was 15 years old and joined the special need classroom in public high school, he was the youngest student there.  One day, I was told that one of the girls, kissed Robert.  There was nothing I would have wanted more than Robert being liked and kissed, but I was petrified.  I was really petrified. I was afraid that if Robert return the affection or kiss someone who didn’t wish to be kissed he might get into very serious trouble.

A few years forward, Robert was presented with The Relationship Circles, Level 1, Social Boundaries program,   I don’t think Robert understood much from this presentation. Maybe he was too young and  because of his poor social exposure he couldn’t relate what he was told to his past experiences. The program presented issues related to appropriate and inappropriate forms of contacts with others depending on their closeness to the individual in the center. The program aimed to teach how to respond to OTHER people behaviors when it is correct and when it is not.

The program didn’t, however, offer any clues to a person with developmental disability of how to appropriately initiate closer relationship with someone he or she might like.





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