Max's shop of horrors

Warning: imagination testing site. Enter at own risk

Month: December, 2017

They’re right there

This is one of those posts where I feel like I should preface things with a disclaimer, lest I catch more flak than a low flying Zeppelin over North Korea. This blog entry is not meant as an attack on the parents of spectrum kids; rather, it’s friendly advice from somebody on the spectrum about a different way of handling certain situations.

In my job, I frequently meet kids on the spectrum alongside their parents, teachers, aides, etc. And one thing that sticks out to me is that very often, the adults introducing and discussing the child will do so almost as if the kid isn’t there.

The adults shake hands and say hi. Rarely is the child greeted. The adults then talk about the child; rarely is the child invited to join in the conversation or speak for themselves. In fact, the adults often behave as if the child cannot even hear or understand them. (Pro tip: Never assume that a person on the spectrum, even if they are non-verbal, can’t comprehend what is said around them)

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This bothers me a little. As a kid, I didn’t like it when adults spoke for me, or didn’t include me in conversations that involved me. It made me feel left out, and like they didn’t think I was capable of keeping up. Conversely, when adults did include me in the conversation, that was a big confidence boost, because it felt like an acknowledgement by the grownups that I was worthy to be treated as their equal.

Personally, whenever I meet a kid alongside their parent/teacher/aide, I make a point of saying G’day to the them, introducing myself, and asking how they are doing. And if I want to know what their interests are, I’ll ask them directly rather than their adult guardian. If their responses make it clear they’d rather not socially engage at the moment, then I’ll back off and give them some space, but I feel like it’s always worth reaching out and giving them the option, so that they feel valued.

I mean think about it; would we treat an adult this way? Talk about them in front of them like they’re not there? Kids are people too, and they deserve no less respect than adults.

Inclusion is the sunshine from which we photosynthesize our sense of belonging. And when does a plant need sunshine more than when it’s growing?

 

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Kids These Days

“The children of today have no respect. They’re entitled, careless, and good for nothing. We’re doomed when it’s their turn to take over.” – A caveman, 35,000 BC

Along with “I’m never drinking again”, the Kids These Days spiel is probably one of the most repeated in the history of the human species.

How easily we forget just how hard it can be, to be a kid. To have very little say or control over what happens to you. To live in a world where adults wield seemingly absolute and arbitrary power. As a kid, I often felt like I was constantly skating on thin ice, that at any moment the wrath of an adult would come crashing down on me for some transgression I didn’t even realize I had committed.

Being autistic made it particularly tough. Navigating the rules of society felt like trying to make it through a room filled with those invisible sensor lasers. And even the rules I did understand where extremely hard to follow. Sit down. Keep still. Be quiet. Yep, that’ll go over well with a kinetic thinker with more energy than Tigger on an espresso bender. May as well try to tell a kangaroo not to hop.

When I misbehaved, which was often, it was almost always either unintentional, or a desperate attempt to exert some degree of control over the terrifyingly uncertain world around me.

Young people cop a lot of flak. I’m sure they always have. But as someone whose job is mentoring kids and teens on the spectrum, I don’t think we give our youth nearly enough credit. The young people I work with are passionate, thoughtful, and empathetic. They think outside the box. They question. They care deeply, sometimes to the point where it causes them great stress. And it saddens me to see them getting badmouthed, because they have so much to offer.

I think kids these days are a marvelous people, and knowing that they are the future fills me with optimism and hope.