Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘discipline

My son’s birthday party is this coming weekend. We invited 25+ kids. Do you think we’ve gotten any RSVPs yet? That would be a no. But, moving on…

The rules are give to everyone in class, or no one. We followed the rules, assuming if BB didn’t get along with someone, the child wouldn’t come, right? However, I guess not. The school sets you up in this no-win situation and then doesn’t have your back when it backfires.

BB has a boy he doesn’t want to come to the party. The boy insists on coming. BB tells him that he doesn’t want him to come. Boy threatens to hurt BB. Both are hauled to the office. Boy is told that threat is wrong, and BB is told that what he said is mean and wrong. I get phonecall where I’m told repeatedly that BB is a full-participant in this issue and is responsible. AKA other boy is off the hook and BB gets treated like this mean kid. In fact, I was told that the “poor boy had his feelings hurt.” What about my boy’s feelings?

Hello, autism, anyone? I did hear during the call that he doesn’t seem to be able to understand and/or communicate his feelings well. Newsflash, that’s autism! Of course, when you don’t agree with the authority figure that yes, BB is wrong, yes, that was mean, oh that poor other boy, you’re seen as less than cooperative. But it’s also wrong to stand there and agree the whole time when your child was being honest, something we always tell him to do. Use your words, Honey. Tell the truth. He does that and is in trouble.

The school needs to fill the gap. Don’t discipline him without trying to help him. I tried to explain that he’s doing what we taught him, and if they keep up that policy, what is he to do? He has to have children over that he doesn’t want?

Next party, we’re going to politely screw off the policy. He’ll hand out invitations as discreetly as he’s able to those he truly wants to come. If they say something, I’ll remind them of this fiasco.

On a good note, after BB flipped out during the “consequence” phase of the issue yesterday, saying “There’s no party now!” he is fine today. Apparently no further issues. Phew.

We did cover with him that while honesty is best, sometimes it’s also better to keep those feelings to yourself if it doesn’t do any good. But honestly, we didn’t think it was worthy of the big deal. He’s not in trouble with us. He answered honestly, and is just a kid excited about his party. Rewarding a taunting child and disciplining the one who tried to handle it honestly is bad form. I’m proud he used his words and expressed his feelings and we don’t want him sent mixed messages.

And maybe I should start calling the school every time someone says something mean to him. It appears to happen a lot but I don’t call and ask them to call the parents. Why are we fair game?

Discipline is defined as “training to act in accordance with rules” or “punishment inflicted by way of correction and training,” or “activity, exercise or regimen that develops or improves a skill; training.”

See the recurring theme there? Training.

So what is training? Is it making a kid take a time out? Lose 10 minutes of recess time? Write a sentence about how he won’t xxx 10 times?

I’d argue that any of that is training.

In my job, when I train someone, I say something like “Part of your job is handling customers that call us. To do that properly, you need to learn how to answer the phone. To do that, you need to 1) answer the phone before 10 seconds, 2) push the F9 button on your computer keyboard, 3) recite the company-approved greeting….” and so forth. I’d give the new hire a step-by-step guide on how to use their computer, when they can take their breaks, how to act ethically and what is consider firing offenses. I’d sit them at a desk to watch someone else do the same job, and explain a lot of the nuances — don’t ever argue with a customer, no cursing on the phone or in the office, no yelling, etc. In short, they are taught beforehand what to do and what not to do. When they make a mistake, I’d tell them and tell them on how they can do better. But, there are two key things: 1) always provide the expectations, so they know what they have to attain, and 2) if those expectations are different, for any reason, tell them ahead of time.

Ahhhh, it seems so easy. Tell them what to do, how to do it, and what not to do. Without that, we can’t fairly expect someone to work up to standards. We can hope they have manners and are reliable, arrive on time and respect authority, but what if they’ve never worked before? What if their family didn’t teach these skills? Assumptions can get you in trouble.

Schools should operate the same way. Provide guidance, ahead of time, on what the expectations are. Don’t assume the children have the skills to meet these expectations, but work with them from day one on attaining those skills. Gauge what skills they have and what they don’t, even if it takes a bit longer with some kids. If you tell them that they are to do xxx or xxxx will happen, don’t  suddenly let xxxxx happen to them instead of xxxx. If losing recess is standard, but you’re dealing with an autistic child who desperately needs that time to make social contacts, don’t take away recess; the ‘punishment’ should always fit the crime.

Discipline in the adult world means one thing; why do we allow it to mean something different to our children?

Check your child’s school and be sure things are handled per your IEP or per the law and common sense. Just because a school says ‘this is how we do things’ doesn’t mean it’s fair or right, or even legal. Schools are run by humans, and we all know that all humans make mistakes. If you wouldn’t want to be punished daily for making mistakes on a task you weren’t taught to do, don’t let your child be ‘disciplined’ for it either; instead, ask for help, and training.

Training. A new buzzword, who’d have thought.

I recently took my son to a birthday party. (Yay! He was invited to a party!) Parties are hit-and-miss, with far more miss than hit. We’ve gotten to the point where we really have to put a lot of thought into whether or not he’s going to attend a party, and I think he probably doesn’t get invited to most of those from his class. Sadly enough, he also doesn’t get invited to a lot from our church family either. I’ll spare you my thoughts on that. Parties require a lot of prep time, a lot of us reminding him it could be loud, he could get bumped in a bouncer, or he may not get to sit next to the birthday child during cake time. By the time it comes around, he’s telling me “Okay, okay, okay, Mom, I got it.” However, talk is cheap.

This party was by a dear friend of ours, and she knows our son very well. She also truly cares about him, and we know he’s in good hands there, among the best. But, you can only control so much. The unknown element is the other guests, and it rarely fails that some other guest will feel the need to speak up and attempt to discipline him…usually when I’m right there. (“Oh, he’s your son?” said even though I’m the only other parent standing there, and I happen to be talking to him…and that’s just one example.) This party was no exception. We weren’t there five minutes before someone tried to tell him how to play with another boy, even though both boys were doing it.  (That’s a Party Whoa!) I swoop in, gently tell them I’ve got it, it’s much better if I handle it or it could get worse, etc., and swoop back out. Problem solved, right? I don’t know, but I do know that I’ve learned that I’d much rather risk offending someone than risk my child blowing up and ruining the event for himself or anyone else, by making a fit, throwing something, screaming, etc…and the more I think about it, shouldn’t the person giving out unsolicited discipline to my child be more worried that they offended me? Why should I have to worry that I’m offending someone when I’m just trying to parent and protect my own child, who I know better than anyone else? One of those mysteries.

Anyway, I don’t know if they were offended or not…yep, back to that, because I hate to offend/upset others, and I feel bad even if it’s deserved…I think there are times people mean well, and truly want to help, but what they don’t know is that ds is really bothered by anyone other than immediate family/friends/teachers trying to guide him, and he will melt down to the point of wanting to leave and never wanting to return to that party or any other party. A bad situation can ruin not only that night, but ds equates the bad with all gatherings of the same nature (a Party Woe), and one problem can set back all that he’s learned, causing months and months of regression. I’d much rather deal with something he does that’s truly a problem (and not just a misperception of someone else’s) and keep the event happy, where it can be a learning experience for my son. Those are oh so important, you can’t understand how important unless you’re really the one dealing with it.

But, to the point, what do YOU do when this happens to you? How do you politely get others to understand that they need to leave the parenting of your child to you? Do these other parents do it because they think your child’s just a problem child, or because of that lovely “If he was MY child, he wouldn’t have autism” phenomenon? Or is it a bigger picture — do we as a society need to start minding our own business more, and stop impressing our viewpoints on others?

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