Monday, June 10, 2013

He's Worth Knowing

I've gotten to the point where I almost hate writing posts like this. Where I'm coming off as mildly melodramatic because my son has been mistreated and I know I'm probably going to get an email, or comment, or two about how "kids will be kids" and treat each other like crap sometimes. But then, I think that if just one parent of a typical child reads this and teaches their child that it's not okay to treat a child like mine in any way but like someone worth getting to know, then my goal with writing is complete.

We went to the pool. Kids were there, kids around both of my kids ages. Yay! Right? No.

There were two boys who were older than Morgan, but the same size. Morgan has a hard time gauging age with other children. Most children, most boys, his age are smaller than him. He really does not care, but for some reason, he is gravitating to the older boys. This can sometimes spell danger.

I had been talking to these boys' moms about, ironically, an IEP for one of the boys. I walked back to my lounge chair and witnessed Morgan's interaction with these boys. God, it was painful. He was trying to tell them jokes, talk to them about Roxy (our dog); he was wanting so badly to friend them and they were going in between ignoring him and making fun of him. In the worst way possible: covert teasing.

Morgan seemed pretty oblivious to their teasing, to their making fun of his voice (he's both nasally and monotone), to them calling him fat. However, I wasn't. I was shooting them daggers to let them know while I was trying to figure out what to do. I've been trying to take a step back this summer and not engage so much on my son's behalf, to allow him to find his own footing socially because I know this is the age when most typical kids do that. At least, I seem to remember doing that.

But Morgan's Autistic, so the line for this seems blurred, to me.

The boys kept up their jerky behavior and I'd had enough. I got into the water and swam over, hoping that my presence alone would deter their stuff. It didn't. I told Morgan to show me how he could swim underwater so that I could talk to the boys. I didn't want to embarrass him.

"Hey, he's Autistic, eight years old, and just trying to make friends with you. How would YOU like it if YOUR brain was wired differently and people made fun of YOU and you weren't aware of it?" 

One of them, shame faced, answered, "I wouldn't like it."

"Nope, you wouldn't, and I'm his mom. Think about how it feels for me to see you do that. It sucks for me to watch kids be jerks to him. Do you want me to tell your mom? I'm not asking you to play with him... I'm telling you to treat him with dignity and respect. He's smart, he's nice to you, and he's worth knowing."

They apologized to me and sort of tried to play with him. But it didn't last long. About twenty minutes after that, I heard one of them- in front of his dad- ask, "Hey, where's the fat stupid kid?" Before I could react, his dad slapped him upside the back of his head. I silently cheered the dad in my head. I don't condone kids getting slapped, but wow. How dense can you be?

My message to parents reading this is to talk to your children. You might think that your child won't treat my child like those kids did, but your child might. 

Your attitude about what is acceptable behavior toward other people sets the bar for your child. 

Teach your children that people who are "different," people like my son, are worth knowing. They are worth treating with respect at all times. Just like your child is worth knowing. Just like your child is worth treating with respect. 

Morgan would do it for your child. Think about that. 

Think, too, about if you want your child to be "that kid" who ostracizes a child with differences. Do you want to be "that parent" who silently condones it by nothing?  This isn't about leading a crusade, this is about setting an example and doing the right thing. 

Our children are worth the effort to get to know. 

Life is lonely. You never know, my child could be your child's future best friend. Think about it. 



  1. I love this. I loved it when you posted it and still do. i re read it a lot.

  2. I love "my son is worth knowing." That is just such a great way to put it ... my son doesn't attempt to interact with others most of the time so I just sit on the sidelines and see the looks and sometimes hear comments that make my blood boil. When my NT son makes comments or tells me about other kids being mean, I tell him to put his brothers face on the kid they are making fun of ... that changed it for him because as much as his brother annoys him, he wishes he didn't have aspergers and could be a "real" big brother, he'd defend him to the end. I think most parents try to teach their kids to do the right thing, implementing the values parents teach is hard and that's why all kids need social skiills training! Parents of NT need to watch how their kids interact ... pay attention like we have to all the time just to keep an eye on our kids safety.