How do you explain to a child that people may hate him just for being himself? How do you explain to a young mind that people may resent him, withdraw love, or even attack him for doing exactly the right thing?
Such is the subject of today's post-education talk. My son asks, "Mom, what is a Know-It-All?" Of course, concern befell my face and I tenderly responded, apprehensively, "I'll explain, but first...please, tell me why you're asking." "Because of what happened at school," he replied. With butterflies in my stomach, I ask what happened at school. He said his friends don't like him anymore.
Hm. Side note. I find something very interesting about the universe. Whenever confronted with an opportunity for opinion, if that opinion is strong, circumstances in life seem to mirror an element of that opinion — as if the universe gets "triggered." One such example occurred yesterday. I responded to a post a friend of mine made about debate, or rather, deconstructing the ideologies of others. I responded that I try not to do that in any major way. Then later in the evening, I was confronted by someone who hated and misunderstood one of my political positions — the preference for a smaller government. This misunderstanding was met with total confusion, accusation, and also insult. And it was really hard for me to construct for them what prefer, without condemning through contrast, what they prefer.
Returning to the situation with my son; he's been under-performing at school this year. Missing homework assignments, leaving things half done, and getting slightly lower grades. As parents, we all believe that our kids can be A students. As a parent of my son, I know my son can get everything correct. I know because he does work that would satisfy the teachers, and perhaps surpasses his peers at home, and before this grade. Deciphering what the problem is has been a year long task. I get a lot of, "Forget it." And "Don't worry." My social expectations inside provoke me to force him to explain, force him to perform, but I can't. That would contradict all of the other work I do with him. So it's been a puzzle this year, something I've had to be silently observant to piece together. I suspected, because he was finally making some friends, that he was trying to fit in with his classmates.
Hypothesis met with evidence today when he returned from school, having a complete meltdown. Apparently one of his "friends" ...... "accidentally" ...... "bumped into" his project. Then he opened another can of worms, another of his "friends" stole some of his project concepts.
This project was his best effort. He wanted to impress me and his teachers, since we've really been encouraging him to give his best and do quality work! As it turns out, he won some kind of in class award. That's awesome! He did so just by actually doing it. That's it. But apparently, many struggled with this. And his work was exceptional with very little effort.
Another note. His work doesn't take very little effort. The kids at school don't understand how much he has gone though. They also don't understand how much extra time, energy, practice, and discipline he has to put in so that he can be in an integrated classroom. They don't understand that he has to fight to retain his focus, fight to retain his speech, and use extreme courage to make socially normal eye contact. The don't understand that while they're home playing after-school, most days, he has an extra two hours worth of occupational therapies, speech therapies, self-studies, and more. He has to work to be normal enough just to communicate, interact, and function in a way that doesn't frighten other people.
The other day a friend of mine posted this meme in Discord that perfectly describes the HFASD condition.
Why am so compassionate to damn near anger? I've dealt with frenemies my whole life too. And I still don't have the answers or solution.
As a mother this concerns me more than just socially. News headlines every day read:
- Special Needs Boy Set On Fire By Bullies He Thought Were Friends
- Police Harass Teen With Autism — "Acting Suspicious" Video
- Camera Shows Child Care Workers Abusing Autistic Boy
And the list goes on.
Hatred and Ignorance is not only a social issue that turns into nuanced fake friendships, oh no. There are grown adults police officers, even parents, who due to their lack of empathy and education, hate and harass disabled people.
Disabled? How can excellence and disabled go hand in hand?
To answer, here I present a video of an Autistic man who drew the skyline — from memory.
He is otherwise challenged in many other ways. But in this way and many other ways, excels. ASD tends to polarize "talents" in constrast to neurotypical persons who may excel at one thing, or be more neutral jack of many trades — which is fine too.
Here is a video where a non-verbal Autistic girl uses computer assisted speech. Without a computer, you would assume she's intellectually impaired. However, that's not how Autism works.
The sad thing about these misunderstandings is that people don't realize that ASD persons are fully functioning minds with real hearts, with real regular human emotions. ASD persons are not goldfish.
If you had a friend in a COMA, and you talked horribly about them while they were in the hospital bed, as if they couldn't hear you, then upon waking they KNOW everything you said — how mortified would you be?
Digressing, apparently my son struggles with being a Rate Buster. And I totally relate to this. What is rate buster? Rate buster is slang for someone who outputs more than the normal socially acceptable output. They naturally perform faster, better, happier, or with some other quality that makes others self-concious, insecure, uncomfortable, even angry.
But I appeal, is a great guitarist truly just a product of talent? Is anyone just popped out of the womb painting masterpieces? No. Years of practice, dedication, time, and effort go into honing the abilities and skills that come off later as, "being a natural." Nobody is a natural. Nobody.
And when judging, does anyone consider the 10000 things such people are BAD AT, struggling with, insecure about themselves? Of course not. Do they consider that this might be the ONE thing they are good at? Of course not.
Anyone can do what anyone can do, if they really wanted to. There are people who win marathons with NO LEGS.
So it's my opinion that people often hate themselves for not having the skills they never invested in having in the first place. Or they over-inflate their resume, their perception of their skills, or their credentials. Who's fault is that really?
How do you explain to a 9 year old, or a 6 year old, the reason nobody wanted to play with them today is because they did well, or because they did the right thing, or because they did good?
Children don't understand the psychology of pain, insecurity, or shame.
I end up just holding him. And telling him that I understand if he wants to just tone it down so others don't attack him. I understand that he wants to shine but that could put him in unfavorable situations. And that I'll always be interested and fully supportive no matter who hates on him, and always try to be there to defend him. However, I won't always. So even still, I'm left with a painful concern of how to teach my kids how to cope and adapt on their own; because I won't live forever.
Difficult enough is the fact that the promise that at least two of my kids may never find marriage, may never move out, may never find a real job; that's hard... because I live it somewhat also. But that I won't be there forever when they are met with having to cope with those realities alone, as I do. Such is a punishment just being born.
Moreover, today was a strong reminder that I will have to do more as a parent — not just to integrate them for society — but to keep them FIRMLY rooted in the Autism community and Aspbergers community where they will be accepted, understood, tolerated, and encouraged.
Watching him brush things off, forget, and move on to his Geometry Dash game is a relief but it leaves me with more questions, more concerns, deeper sympathy. As I watch his brain slip into denial, acceptance, and whateverism... having only learned not to be excellent, or else people won't love you.
This is how we break each other. This is why our society has declined from great minds to eating Tide Pods. The incentive for being good, never mind great, is deeply criticized. We can do better. But alas, we probably won't.