Caroline: Oh I’m fish, fish, fishing for a fish.
Sam: Oh I’m fish fish fishing for a Star Wars.
Guess who had which kite?
They were birthday presents from last week, when Caroline turned 8. I do get my kids gifts on the each other’s birthdays. They’re too young to combine intellectually understanding “It’s not my birthday” with “I didn’t get any presents at all today”. In any case, I got the kites back in May, intending to give them out for Sam’s birthday. But they sat forgotten for so long that it wound up being more sensible to hand them over in September.
We lucked into a windy day this weekend and went out to fly them just before lunch on Saturday. But as soon as we admonished the kids not to poke each other, they realized kites were, after all, long, thin, and quite pointy when rolled up. They didn’t start jabbing, but they did turn them into fishing poles in the back seat.
This was something of a first for us. The last time we tried to take Caroline kite flying, I was pregnant, and we lived in Lexington. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised when the sight of her beloved Dora kite lifting into the cloudy sky provoked screams of terror. But at the time, I was sure that once she saw that it couldn’t get away, the fear would subside. I kept launching it, then reeling it in as she squealed. This was a kid who couldn’t allow her own body to fly into the air on a swing without fearing for death. No wonder the flimsy kite string failed to reassure her about Dora’s fate.
We may have done something kite-ish with Scott’s family one summer after that. But I can’t remember Caroline in that scene at all. Maybe we switched out spending time with her in another part of the park that day. Because I’m sure she wouldn’t have handled the flying lessons well.
So Saturday was the first time since the doomed Flight of the Explorer that we even attempted kites with her. With two exceptions, she loved it. The first problem came not long after takeoff. Although the kite was only maybe five feet over her head, she suddenly wanted me to hold it, because she couldn’t escape anxiety about its flying away. I said, “Honey, worst case scenario, it’s going to crash to the ground.” She believed me largely because her brother’s took a spectacular nosedive at that precise moment, landing so it pointed straight up.
After that, she abruptly calmed and let me reel out thirty, forty, fifty feet of line and pass her the handle. “Look at my kite!” she shrieked happily. But then the second problem cropped up, “Oh, no! A plane! I can’t let my kite hit that plane!” She was quite skeptical that the plane was some thousands of feet over her head.
It’s an illustration of perhaps the most identifiable element of the sensory disorder that goes hand in hand with her Asperger’s Syndrome. She has a very hard time processing visual data accurately. She needs information from her other senses to integrate images appropriately. When she was younger, this was compounded by problems with proprioceptive dysfunction. She didn’t understand where her own body was in relationship to itself, to the ground, or anything else. If you asked her to close her eyes and touch her fingers, it was possible that she wouldn’t even move her hands towards each other.
As occupational therapy has helped her gain a stronger sense of proprioception, and gross motor proficiency has increased, she’s started on her fine motor skills. Her
understanding of visual data has increased a thousand fold. But visual-motor integration is still a huge issue for her, as illustrated by the dot-to-dot imitations she can’t quite finish at school (the teacher gives her a piece of paper with a pattern drawn by connecting dots in a 3×3 square, and she is supposed to match it in a square right beside the original). And also that complete certainty that her fifty foot high kite was in danger from the plane. The best approximation I can think of to this feeling would be driving into a low parking garage and ducking your own head as if that could keep the car roof from scraping the ceiling.
The plane passed over before it could result in a panic attack, and she was able to enjoy the rest of kite flying with Sam. And for Sam, who has never suffered from her particular brand of gross motor dyspraxia, the kite flying was glorious, just as soon as
we got him to quit using his kite to catch Star Wars in the car.