Figuring out what I wanna be when I grow up.
Oop..I AM grown up...

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Look Into The Face Of This Boy And See Your Future

I had a very interesting experience yesterday.

I don't know--does everyone know by now that I have an 8 year old son somewhere vaguely on the Autism Spectrum?  Okay, well now you do.  If you're interested in the Autism thang, you can always scroll down to the bottom of my blog and find the "labels" on the right side bar.  If you click on "Autism," or "Autism Spectrum," or "Jack", you'll find where a lot of my angst is stored here in this blog.

But I digress...

So, yesterday after school, as always, I was letting the kids stick around to play, along with one of my mom friends, her daughter, and another classmate of Ella's whom she was babysitting after school.  There is now a good-sized snow hill on one side of the school, and kids LOVE a snow hill, so they were having a great time.

Not long after we had been out, a raucous snowball fight broke out nearby among a small group of older boys.  One boy in particular seemed to be extra aggressive, and kept whipping snowballs right at the head of the little sister of one of the boys, at close range.  One of the snowballs splattered right across the back of her head and fell down the back of her coat and everything.

What an obnoxious kid, I thought.

The mom I was with was really horrified by this kid's seemingly "bully-esh" behaviour, and decided she should teach him a lesson and throw a snow ball at HIS head.  It was a misguided idea, sure, but she was trying to make it more of a light-hearted, mischievous thing than a stern lecture.  So, she got a snow ball and lightly through it at him, but he turned his head just in time for the snow to hit him on his cheek near his ear.

And the look on his face???  He was STUNNED.  He couldn't believe it.  He had the widest eyes of disbelief.   He stopped and said; "YOU THREW A SNOW BALL AT MY HEAD!"

Well, things kind of escalated from there, and he got angrier, and mouthier and stood back so he could throw snowballs at the mom (who, by the way, felt mortified by the whole scene, because she really is a nice person, and isn't malevolent at all).

And the more belligerent and mouthy the kid became, and the more he threatened to get his CELL PHONE and CALL THE POLICE about the ICE BALL that had been WHIPPED at HIS FACE, it was like a combination lock suddenly clicked into place in my brain:

That boy was the 13 year old version of Jack.

It was all there before me:  the over-the-top outrage, the total lack of connecting the wrongness in HIS actions to the wrong that had been done to HIM, the mouthiness, the inability to let it go even as someone tried to mollify him.

As he was whipping snowballs in our direction, there was my boy, up on the snow hill calmly saying; "would ya please stop it?" to him.  At one point the kid said; "SHUT UP, JACK" and made a face at him.

And I stood there fascinated.  Taking it all in.  I had never met a kid who was basically like my son;  looked like any other kid, but had that social cluelessness, that mouthiness, that total inability to "learn a lesson."

By this point, the poor kid was on his way home, shouting anger at us from across the street, and I was pleading for him to come back so I could explain to him that I KNEW what he was; that I understood.  That nobody was angry anymore.

But he just kept shouting "WHY DON'T YA MAKE ME?!?"

And then all night long, I was haunted by the look on his face.  I can't explain it as well as I'd like.  It's a special Autism Spectrum kinda look.  It's the look Jack gets on his face when I do or say something to him that mimics the bad thing he has just done.  It's a look that says; "no matter how bad I am, you are never allowed to be angry at me because I need you to love me 100% of the time."

Not that I'm saying that kid wants me to love him no matter what.

I thought about that look all night long.  And I thought about that kid going home and saying that some kid's MOM threw a snowball at him, and I thought about how upsetting the whole confrontation would be to him, and I thought about how the parents would feel, because even though they'd probably know their kid had done something wrong in the first place, it would still be another one of those stories they'd have to hold on to in which nobody understood.

I sat on Jack's bed last night, and talked to him about what had happened, and how I regretted being a grouch to the kid at first.  Jack helpfully agreed that I was "too mean," and needed to be "more patient."  Thanks, Jack.

And then he remembered the face the boy had made at him, and he got all ticked off.  "He was a JERK for making that face at me!"  And this after we had this big discussion on tolerance, and sympathy, and how some people can't help what they do or say.  But just don't do these things to JACK personally.  Ha.

It was a very strange experience.  The only good thing I can say is that I am so thankful I recognised this poor kid for who he was, albeit a little too late.  How many other ignorant people simply conclude that he's an obnoxious kid?

I have no idea what the future has in store for us with this asshole Autism in our lives, and quite frankly, I try not to imagine, but yesterday I feel like I got a small glimpse into the future.

Don't know how I feel about that.


  1. Karen, I am not disagreeing because you were there and you also know more about autism. However, I have several friends and family whom are teachers and professors, this behavior of not thinking your are wrong as a child would be labeled as entitlement. The teachers are seeing it when a parent comes in and says my child did nothing wrong, you are wrong. They are not allowed to discipline. In our schools we have all students integrated by age, not mentality. That means that a boy/girl with any spectrum, from autism to down syndrome will be in the classroom regardless of their mental capability. This can be very disruptive for a classroom because the teacher can not discipline in any form. The college professors are seeing it when they test and find out how much the students did not learn in high school because they just kept being pushed through and parents come in to complain about a grade their child received and want it changed. More and more kids are not held accountable for their actions because they know they can get away with it, at school, at home, and in public. Children are not told no enough and they think they can do anything with no consequence. This is only my opinion and not those of the sponsors of my blog.

    1. Ok so reading the comment again from the reader below. I did not mean this as an attack. It is harder for kids with any kind of disability to get fair treatment because they are treated differently and not as equals and that is the whole reason for mainstreaming. They need to be able to have access to education that will help them, not be extremely hard for them to understand and thereby become frustrated, and it frustrates the teachers and the other students in the class. Why would you put any child who reads at a 2nd grade level in with children at a 5th grade level because of their age? As for the dicipline I am also talking about children with no disabilities who think they are privileged and think nothing of talking back to teachers, parents and others of authority. Karen I am sorry if this came across wrong. Alaina

    2. Why would one put any child who reads at a 2nd grade level in with children at a 5th grade level...? Well,because sometimes the social development of all children around the same age far outweighs any disadvantage being at different reading levels. I think the problem here is that school boards have taken funding away from schools that would be used to assist the classroom teachers who have multi-level learning. The emphasis ought to be on the similarities not the differences and the parents of all students ought to be putting pressure on and demanding that government fund more .

  2. Oooof. I think I'd feel like you. I've always thought it's a good thing we don't see our kids in the future. we might just give up. And your poor friend! She must feel terrible.

    Unlike your commenter above, I firmly believe that this society must make allowances for folks on the Spectrum. It is prevelant. It's here. It's a growing disorder, numbers wise. The rest of us had bloody better get with times and get some knowledge under our belt. Spectrum kids are people that will be working beside us, contributing with us. They are part of us. Autism Awareness need to be taught to everyone.

    Love to all of you.

  3. Well in my opinion I don't think it's a matter of making allowances ... AND I don't think it's an issue of entitlement (in the case of children on the spectrum).... I think it's more a matter of these children having GREAT difficulty understanding certain social concepts. Their brains are wired differently and they don't seem to have the ability to connect certain dots. What I got from Karen's blog today is this: Don't be so quick to judge a kid for their poor behaviour. Don't be so quick to label a kid BAD.... In this day in age (at an alarming rate) more and more children are being diagnosed with Autism. Should they NOT be punished for poor behaviour? Well gee, no one said that. Of course they should! But because their level of understanding is different than say MY level of understanding your regular punishment isn't necessarily going to do the trick. Speculating of course. I am no expert.

    I think Alaina you're touching on an entirely different topic. An important topic no less.

    But like I said, I think Karen's message was about having more tolerance and not being so quick to judge. :)

  4. My nephew has a lot of problems. I am not sure what all of them are yet, but when he gets angry at the slightest thing there is no reasoning with him. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was younger, but now he is out of control and last week was he was evaluated for his anger. I have to hand it to anyone dealing with a child with any of that day in and day out.

  5. As a reflection in general, as I know nothing really of the spectrum. Some kids may be just obnoxious brats. I am not saying this about this particular kid, but, some kids are modeled behaviour that teaches them no responsibility for their actions, disrespect, anger, etc. I can see that kid as an adult. So many adults react the same way. I have seen adults arguing with the same defence mechanisms in place. It is sad. There are kids who are spectrum, and kids who have poor role models and were never taught respect,kindness, and sympathy. The future is going to be difficult as families are being more disconnected because of technology, children are not learning, how to react or deal with emotions because they can hide behind technology. So the big question is this: How are you to know the cause of the dysfunction? Whether it be spectrum, lack of parenting, or anger from abuse etc or lack of knowing how to deal with emotions and people face to face? How is society going to know which is which, because each problem has a different answer in how to address the issue. And at first all the symptoms look the same.

  6. I wish that Jack and John could play together.

  7. I thought I had something wise or comforting to say here, but I don't.

  8. it's strange to look into the future like that, isn't it? there's a lady I know who's on the spectrum and sometime she says and does the most bizarre or inappropriate things. I make mental notes of things I need to teach Brooke so that I can help her to avoid those same pitfalls.
    Ugh. I bet it messed up your whole day, didn't it?

  9. Hi Karen. Good to see you the other at my post! This whole thing about mainstreaming gets me going! I am so for if the funding is there....which is should be if parents SHOUT enough out loud for their kid!
    It's not for all kids to be mainstreamed all day but a good chunk of the day should be with kids their age ....regardless of ability. Socialization is so important and with your peers of all abilities. Otherwise, our 'special' kids lose out, big time! There, I feel better. Thanks Karen.

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  11. Man, that's a difficult situation. I understand why your friend decided to throw the snowball, but geez, what a mess. I feel for her, clearly it wasn't her intention to upset him so, just a spontaneous reaction to a kid she assumed was a bully.

  12. This Post came at a very appropriate time for me... my G-Son has the Mood Disorder Diagnosis and ADHD for many years... but in the back of my mind I know there is something else going on and some form of Autism always comes as the distinct possibility. My Son has Mildly-Moderate Autism, but though it presented in different ways than his Nephew, the way you described Jack and this boy's similarities, well, you could have been talking about Prince R... the parallels were profound in fact! It is so difficult for me to know how best to Parent him and Guide him when there is still so much that we DON'T know and has not been diagnosed about his Behavior and eccentricities which make Life a lot more complicated for him and cause Social Issues that only progressively get more serious with Age. My Hope is to get him to the place of self-sufficiency and high function in the World he must Live in and assimilate as best he can. Especially since requests for increased Services for him are Quagmired in the Mental Health System... we're often left to just muddle thru the difficulties as best we can.

    Hugs from the Arizona Desert... Dawn... The Bohemian

  13. Oh girl, I get this. I really, really get this.

    The worst part is that sometimes I'm the one not understanding or getting my kid. So add that guilt on top of the sadness of when others don't get him.

    So many bad feelings.

    Maybe we all just need one GIANT snowball fight to, ya know, CHILL out.

  14. I have absolutely no sensible words to offer, as usual. I can only say that when you and I eventually get together one day, Karen, we will drink amaretto and get shit faced and laugh until we puke and that will be a three red car day.

    BIG HUGS, Sarah xxx


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