Thursday, 8 August 2013

I was almost knocked

over as I was walking into a meeting yesterday. There was a small boy running around and around the foyer of the building. He was shouting and squealing as he did so.  His mother was at the reception desk talking to someone but was apparently taking no notice. 
I gave the child a look and he promptly stuck his tongue out at me. I resisted doing the same to him and pushed the button for the lift.
His mother hastily grabbed him and followed me into the lift.
      "You'll have to excuse him. He's got Asperger's," she told me. The child grinned at me and repeated, "I've got Asperger's."
Mother was going to the same meeting as myself. I wondered what was going to happen to the child. There are no childcare facilities in the building and I doubted very much whether the secretary was going to look after him.
No, he came to the meeting too. Mother was full of complaints about how difficult it was to get help, how she could not get him a place at day-care so she could go back to work and how they had seen so many specialists before her child was "diagnosed". She spoke of the "diagnosis" almost with pride.  
Her son wandered around the room. He wanted to take things from people's bags and did. He did take things out of the cupboard. He used a marker to scribble on the board in the meeting room - thankfully the right sort of marker for the board so it would come off again.
He interrupted the meeting more than once.
Nobody said anything. I did not let him take anything from my bag however. I put my paw firmly over my bag and looked him in the eye and said, "No."
He seemed surprised by this.
             "I don't like you," he told me.
That was fine. Right then I did not like him either - and I like most small humans. I get along just fine with them.
Mother and child had to leave early because of yet another appointment with another specialist. The rest of us sighed with relief and finished the meeting in a much more orderly fashion.
        "You took a risk Cat," someone said to me as we were leaving, "He could have had a real tantrum when you wouldn't let him look in your bag."
         "I don't think so," I said, "He doesn't have Asperger's syndrome or anything other than Naughtiness syndrome. He has a parent who is out of control and seeking attention."
I should not have said that but I know it is true. I have seen the same child with his grandfather at story telling in the local library. He has been sitting there quietly, totally wrapped in the story. His grandfather expects him to behave and he does. I said this to the person who was talking to me.
He nodded.
         "Yes, not much we can do about it though."
I am not so sure. I can keep my paws firmly on my bag and I can say, "No."
I might also carry a book in the bag.


jeanfromcornwall said...

I recognise that small boy - he used to come into the bookshop, in various disguises. I remember parents, or even grandparents, pleading with a naughty child to choose a book so they could go. It wasn't the child that was misbehaving so much as the adults who had simply lost the plot

Judy Edmonds said...

Being the mother of a child with Aspergers (who is now 17) I found this post very upsetting. I had to endure years of being told that I was a bad parent and he was a naughty child. No, he has a diagnosed neuro-biological disorder which is hereditary. He processes the world in a different way from the 'neuro-typical'. Neither the parents of Aspergers children, nor the children themselves, need such judgemental misunderstandings. Yes, he may sit quietly listening to a story with his grandfather - it may be a situation he loves and feels comfortable with, whereas that meeting was probably not a situation that he was comfortable with. I remember all the nights I cried myself to sleep after being exposed to comments like these.

Anonymous said...

I know the child Cat is talking about Judy and he most definitely does not have Asperger's! My neighbour's child has Asperger's and both Cat and I know that child too. We both agree he has problems and Cat has done a lot for the family.
The child here has a problem parent, one who takes up the time of professionals and precious resources to satisfy their own desire for attention. You would think there were two entirely different children. He behaves in a perfectly normal manner in all social situations for his grandparents but runs wild when with his mother. That's not Asperger's. Perhaps you could credit Cat with a little more sensitivity? Ros (who works in the library)

catdownunder said...

Judy, I think I know the difference between "naughty" and Asperger's. I have taught children with Asperger's and yes, they have problems processing the world and their parents can go through huge traumas because people think the child is misbehaving.
However in this instance the problem is, as Ros has pointed out, the mother. The child behaves like any other child his age for both his grandfather and grandmother. He also behaves in an entirely normal way for his father. He runs rings around his mother and she allows and even encourages the behaviour. She could for example have brought some toys and books for him yesterday but she brought nothing. He was bored - who can blame him - but that still did not excuse his behaviour. (He was by the way offered paper and pens to draw with but his mother intervened and said, "I can't get him to do anything like that.")
Now, what would you do? Let him go through your bag?

Judy Edmonds said...

Unless you are a member of his medical team, none of you can know for sure if he has Aspergers, no matter how many you have taught. I was so angry because it was such an insensitive post from a normally sensitive and intelligent Cat.

And I don't blame Cat for not letting him play with her bag, of course not - I would said the same thing!

But I have heard exactly the same things said about my child and my parenting, and the amount of pain and damage it caused was extensive.

Bizarrely, given their preference for the familiar, it is common for Aspergers children to behave worse for their primary carer than anyone else -- this has been explained to me but I cannot remember the reasons properly.

Something told to me by one of my son's medical team when he was diagnosed at the age of six has always stuck with me - the most typical presentation of Aspergers is an atypical one.

I apologise if I sounded rude - I did try to express very strong feelings as moderately as possible. It just mirrored my own bad experiences so exactly, and from a forum that I would not have expected.

Anonymous said...

Hello Judy,
I was also present at the meeting. I am professionally involved in the child's case - and Cat is peripherally involved as we have sought her advice about a number of matters.
The child does not have Asperger's. His mother does however have some issues - witness her failure to provide any occupation and her refusal to let him sit there and draw.
I can understand you were distressed but I think Cat was raising an important issue. We see too many children who are merely lively, normal children failing to reach parental expectations and being labelled because of it. And parents who are finding it hard to cope and wanting a label for their child even when it is inappropriate. When a child really does have a problem it is that much harder for them and their family.
Andrew McL.

Judy Edmonds said...

Thank you, everyone, for going into further detail and explaining the situation. It doesn't reduce my immediate reaction of distress to reading the account, but it helps me to understand why people who I know to be sensitive and understanding should have such a response.

It is a difficult situation. It sounds as if in this case both the mother and the child need help, but in different ways.

Unfortunately I have experienced a huge amount of negative public response over the last 15 years about my son and myself from ignorant people who automatically assume that my son is naughty rather than 'disabled'. It has been very distressing for me and my family. I hope that you good people would not have had similar thoughts had you met him when he was a similar age! But sadly many people did, and made their opinions heard.

My son is an deeply eccentric but loveable 17 year old now, a valued youth leader at his church, and has severe anxiety disorders and issues with dealing with the outside world. I am now homeschooling him, after quite a good run at schools which worked very hard with him. He responds to me educating him in very specific ways and is a sponge for information that interests him, but totally rejects instruction on subjects that he is not interested in.

Our life is very hard in some ways, but a gift in many others.

I had to develop a strong response to ignorance over the years. I am starting to realise that I am not currently railing against ignorance.

I sincerely hope that something can be done for both this boy and his mother, as it sounds as though they both need significant help.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I have known a few youngsters with Aspergers, who have grown into thoroughly worthwhile people -with their own personal quirks. I have also known plenty who may have seemed as though that is what was causing them to be problems, but a diagnosis of Aspergers was, or would have been, the reverse of helpful. It is a difficult one.