Friday, November 22, 2013

A Non Verbal Incident

Today, I did the overachieving mom thing and helping out at the school with the PTA. I helped out with something we do called "Snack Shack" where the kids can buy snacks super cheap. BOTH boys were really excited to see their mom at the school, both there and throughout the day (Morgan had a head's up, so he wasn't discombobulated seeing me).

While operating Snack Shack for the third grade, I observed Morgan in my line... he allowed a girl to line jump. No biggie, right? Well, he, in his mind, had just made a friend. Not so, apparently. He started to script to her his usual feed of "I'm Morgan ----, I have a mom, Jessi, a dad, Thomas, a brother, Bay, a dog, Roxy, etc, etc, etc." She rolled her eyes at him and looked at her friends and giggled. Okay... Then, as he talked, she kept. doing. it. She curled her lip. Any neurotypical kid would have picked up on her facial expression, but Morgan's not neurotypical.

I observed.

As Morgan spoke, she kept looking at him then to her friend in unspoken communication as if to say, "Can you BELIEVE this kid?!" The eye rolling, the staring, the non verbal slights continued.

She didn't know him. She clearly did not know I was his mom- a lot of the kids at the school know who I am. Morgan had not recognized me yet, though I was standing five feet away from him. As I watched, and hurt for my son, who didn't realize the non verbal jabs being volleyed his way, I kept doing my job of handing out snacks.

 Usually, I'm looking for the nonverbal communication from him, or listening for the meaning to the scripts. It dawned on me that nonverbal communication was being used against my autistic son. Irony abounds.

I finally heard, "Hi Mommy!" as he recognized me. The little girl didn't look ashamed or even aware that she had done anything wrong. I helped her make her choice quietly. I did, however, mention it to her friend told her, "He's autistic. He's a nice boy. What y'all just did is wrong. He was trying to make friends and you ignored him and, worse, made fun of him." The little girl didn't realize that what had happened was wrong.

I was stumped.

I told a teacher who had been out there what had happened and was assured that the incident would be reported and taken care of. If nothing else, I wanted that little girl to know that the boy who had been trying to speak to her was trying hard to be a friend. And, even though she didn't have to befriend him, there was no need for that kind of behavior. Period.

On my way back to the PTA area, I passed Morgan eating his snack. I bent down and told him to stay away from that little girl. I said, "Look, buddy, you don't know it, but you were just made fun of. She's not a friend. She's not a bully. But she might be someone for you to stay away from. Okay?"

The staff and teachers made sure that the problem was resolved. The little girl was made to apologize and understand what she did was wrong. Morgan's teacher assured me it was handled well, by her and others.

It's made me think hard this evening about non verbal communication and facial cues/recognition that Morgan still doesn't understand. He didn't even recognize me until he was about a foot and a half away. That part scares me, still. But then, so does him not recognizing when someone is wanting him to go away or shut up just by their facial expressions. And trying to teach it feels like trying to teach him speech intonations, but not really.

That short incident reminded me a lot of an incident from this summer, but it was covert. So, so very covert. And the girls didn't seem to understand that what they had done was wrong.

As his mom, it felt awful to watch. However, as someone who has seen much worse, it was interesting to see school/child politics. Morgan was being, well... Morgan. He was doing what we've all taught him to do- be friendly, be polite, and try to make friends. But it backfired on him and yet, he was oblivious to it all. How many times a day or week does this happen and the paras and teachers who carefully watch him don't notice? They cannot be everywhere at once. The teacher who was standing a few feet away today didn't even see that incident. And Morgan didn't notice anything had happened.

Should I have kept my mouth shut? I don't know.

I just know that it was hard seeing that today as his mom.


  1. Hugs mama! This made me teary eyed! We have been here too and I never keep my mouth shut about it. In my opinion, what you did was right. You advocated for him and you had the situation taken care of. Props for not slapping rude kids... (I kid, but I know how a the moment, we wouldn't be human if we didn't want to go all mama bear in defense of our kiddos) Well played mama!

  2. Yes, I got teary-eyed reading this too! I see this at scouts all of the time with Matthew and it just cuts me to the core! I never know what I should do in this's hard. It is awesome that you stood up for him, they know for the future and maybe will make better choices next time in how to act. Hugs to you both! *Ü*

  3. You handled it well. Glad you told her something. People (kids included) can be so into their world that they fail to see how their actions can affect others. Similar incidents have happened with us on the playground. Where Angel is oblivious to nonverbal cues from other kids. I often have to run interference.

  4. I think you handled it perfectly. I think that girl could have actually learned a good life lesson because of you. Well done.

    It's SO hard watching our little ones being teased while they are completely unaware. My daughter will even smile as they exchange looks. It's also hard wondering what the heck is really going on all the time at school. Big hugs mama!