Conversations with Daughter A: Laying Down Truths in School

Conversations with Daughter A: Laying Down Truths in School April 7, 2016
D and A when they were about one and four years old.
D and A when they were about one and four years old.

Ali Family Autism Truths #7  April 7, 2016

Scene: In the car, today, after I picked up daughter A (who is 12 years old) from school then drove over to get D from his school. The following conversation ensued. It’s not word for word accurate, but pretty much spot on.

A: So there are these two girls in my gym class, and I don’t mean to be mean about them but …

Me: What?

A: They’re saying stuff about another boy in P.E. He has some sort of disability – I don’t think its autism – I don’t know for sure, but he’s one of the special ed kids. And they were making fun of him. It made me so angry.

Me: So what did you do? Or what did you want to do?

A: I wanted to tell them to stop it, that they were being unkind and that he couldn’t help some of the things he does. But if I confront them well …

Me: Let me guess. They’ll start picking on you?

A: Yeah. They’ll dog me for the rest of the school year.

Me: Well, what if you said something like this: Hey guys, that boy really can’t help some of the things he does. It’s not really cool to make fun of him.

A: Yeah, if I say that they’ll still dog me and get on my case the rest of the year. I guess I could tell the teacher.

Me: Have you ever confronted them in the past?

A: Not them, but I’ve yelled at other kids who have made fun of the special ed kids. Because D is my brother, it really gets to me. It’s so unkind and unfair of them to make fun of autistic and other special kids like that.

Me: Do they know you have a brother who is autistic?

A: Well, some do and some don’t.

Me: Let me guess. It’s not something you advertise to everyone, because why should you? But those friends who you are close with or who may come to our home, you tell them. Right?

A: Yeah. Exactly.

Me: What happens if you tell any of your classmates to not make fun of or pick on any of the special ed kids in your school? Do the special ed kids know they’re being made fun of?

A: I’m not sure. Sometimes for sure they don’t know, because kids will say things to each other and the other kids don’t hear it. Sometimes maybe they do hear it and they don’t get it. When I confront them, they don’t really listen to me.

Me: Let’s get back to the girls in gym class. I get that you are hesitant to confront them because a) they probably won’t listen anyway and b) they’ll start bugging you and picking on you instead. What about telling the teacher?

A: Yeah, I think I’ll tell the teacher. The problem is though, I don’t know if the teacher will do anything about it. It depends on so many different things.

Me: Ok, but at least you’ll have said something. You’ll know that you spoke up for the right thing. Listen, the thing is that right now, maybe no one will listen to you when you explain how uncool and wrong it is to pick on or make fun of or treat autistic and special needs badly. But, you never know when or how things will register. Maybe they won’t listen to you now, but later on there could be a moment or a situation when they change, when they remember back to middle school and what you said. Maybe it’ll make a difference later in life. Who knows? You never know.

But at least you’ll have stood up for what you know is right.

A: Yeah … did that ever happen to you?

Me: All the time. Now, more so then ever, I think of things my mom said to me as a kid, or things other teachers or people said to me that I brushed off back then, and it makes so much sense now and makes me want to change things about myself.

A: You know what I’d like? I’d like to have one of those scenes like from the movies, where at the end of the school year I am making a speech at an assembly in front of the whole school, and I completely and intelligently explain why it’s so important that we be respectful to and inclusive of special needs kids and why it’s so wrong and bad to make fun of them. And then I’d talk about D bhai and things I’ve learned, and all the kids would have this reality check moment and would have really learned something at the end of it.

Me: Yeah, that would be cool. Too bad life is not like the movies. But I’m so happy to see the person you are growing up to be, and I’m so grateful for our family dynamic and everything we learn, everything you and H learn by being D’s sister and brother.

A: Turn up the volume! It’s Taylor Swift!

And, scene.

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