Dance, Sing and Drink Wine

Daily Necessities of Life – and Coffee Helps Too

A Spectrum of Kindness

“StrongTots”

This piece was originally posted on StrongTots as part of the Kinder by the Child project.

Before my first child was even old enough to speak, I once told a friend that if people ever said anything about my kids, I wanted them to say how polite they were. It was important to me that my kids be kind and empathetic to those around them.

I was blessed that my oldest and youngest both were naturally kind. From early on, they have been empathetic and always look for the good in others. But, God threw me a curveball with my middle child, Audrey. He gave her Asperger’s Syndrome.

Kids with Asperger’s are socially awkward, but it goes much further than that. They’re scared. They may not always know why, but they know they are different and that others may ignorantly judge and label them.

Audrey’s problem is that her Asperger’s is not apparent to most people.

Audrey’s on the “spectrum” but she’s barely there. In fact, she is so high functioning that she wasn’t diagnosed until 5th grade. She had had plenty of diagnosises before that, but it wasn’t until she was almost eleven years old that it all came together and Asperger’s was even discussed. We don’t even have a special program set up for her at school. To be honest, it would be huge waste of needed resources.

On the other hand, her brain and nervous system does work  differently from her peers. Now that she is maturing and now that we have a proper diagnosis with treatment plan, it’s not so much an issue. But it sure was in elementary when kids were cruel and teachers were taken to their own emotional limits with her. 

asp 2

Kids on the spectrum often have a hard time fitting in to social situations and find conversations difficult. They rarely make eye contact, and sometimes they have eccentric or repetitive behaviors that others find “weird.” But probably the biggest struggle they face socially is that they cannot read other’s facial expressions or interpret verbal cues. They don’t really know when someone is upset with them or finds their behavior inappropriate.

I remember once when a school official told me that Audrey was rude. Audrey was only six years old and had no idea she was “rude.” I so badly wanted to reply, “My daughter isn’t rude. She has a chemical imbalance in her brain. What’s your excuse?”

That type of reaction from others is what many kids with Asperger’s face daily.  People find them rude and weird and think of them as misfits. Sadly, many in society simply dismiss them as bad kids. But the reality is, they need to be treated with kindness too. And, when they are treated with kindness, they can be the best kids ever. They are usually incredibly smart, and they see things the rest of us overlook. There is a lot that can be learned from these kids when they are given a chance.

asp 1

So, as parents of these kids struggle to teach them socially accepted behaviors, what can other parents do to teach their own children not just to tolerate Asperger’s kids, but to be kind to them?

  • Remember that apples don’t fall far. If you set the example to be kind to people who may act differently, your kids will do the same with their friends and classmates.
  • Teach them that people that are different are not freaks. Remind them that they have certain traits that are unique to them too. Differences should be celebrated and not used as weapons.
  • Ask the parents of the child with Asperger’s what your child can do to make social situations easier on the child – and then make sure your child understands.
  • Teach your child that even when everyone is being kind and it seems like a very good day, it only takes one little thing to upset Asperger’s kids and send them in to “fits” and “tantrums.” These behaviors are beyond their control and should not be used a reason to judge or tease later.
  • Talk to the Asperger’s child as you would any other child. If he or she seems to be struggling to keep up, slow down and be patient.

Truthfully, Audrey struggled through elementary. She had stretches of good times and bad times, but the bad times were bad. Many kids who were her friends during the good times abandoned her during the bad. Worse yet, many became cruel and treated her poorly even during the good times. Some even exploited her weaknesses to make themselves look better. Sad, but true.

It warms my heart though, that she does have a handful of friends who not only stick by her, they treat her like they treat anyone else. They don’t judge. They accept.

Aud and Tom with Watermark

Once such friend is Tom. He was the first friend she ever really made. He was her one and only friend in preschool, and his friendship to her has never been questionable. On their very last day of elementary, they found each other on the playground after they exited the building for the last time. Covered in silly string, they gleefully posed for this picture just as naturally as any two long-time friends would.

I hope she always has Tom in her life, and I hope the world can make more kids like him. His parents taught him not just tolerance, but true friendship.

 

 

10 comments on “A Spectrum of Kindness

  1. Aubrey
    September 18, 2015

    i work with young children with autism and i love reading from the perspective of the parent.

    • Julie Smith
      September 18, 2015

      Thanks, Aubrey! And thanks for having the kind soul to work with those little gems!

  2. Sherry/ MSandLivingLife
    September 18, 2015

    Thanks for posting this! We really need to gain awareness for all illnesses! Kids can be so cruel.

  3. serenemomblog
    September 18, 2015

    This was a wonderful post. Thank you for giving other’s tips for how to treat kids in general. Respect and consideration is something all children should practice towards one another.

  4. Grace Mountain Diaries
    September 18, 2015

    Oh how I am so thankful for this post. My son is four and was diagnosed with severe anxiety, but he exhibits much of these same things that make social interactions (and life) just really difficult. I am thankful for our neighbor who is his age and the relationship they share. This one friend is making it possible for my BoyChild to understand others and relationships.

    • Julie Smith
      September 18, 2015

      It’s a learning curve for everyone. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Shann Eva
    September 18, 2015

    This is such a helpful post. I think your tips are great for how all children should treat each other no matter what. I especially love that parent’s should set a good example. That is just so important.

    • Julie Smith
      September 18, 2015

      Thanks! This is a rare personal post for me.

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This entry was posted on September 16, 2015 by in Parenting, Parenting Challenges, Seriousness (it happens) and tagged , , .

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