Educating Others About Your Child's "Odd" Behavior

"My 8 year old son is going to begin testing in a few weeks. I'm not sure if he has high functioning autism or not, but he sure has many of the behaviors and tendencies. He does have sensory issues and severe anxiety. My question is about the constant judgment and ignorance of other parents and teachers. I do have plenty of supportive friends, but recently I've had some intense altercations with my son's teacher (saying he's only "oppositional" with me, he's fine at school and this is "something I need to work out in therapy"). Her comment was so ignorant - she knew nothing about his level of anxiety, his sensory issues or how he melts at the end of each day after just trying to hold it together. I also had another mom leave our playdate the other day because of inappropriate behavior (slamming a door b/c of frustration). She couldn't believe I let that happen. Ugh!! My parents and even husband have called me a pushover and too "soft" with my son. I feel like ALL of the blame is put on me!! I look forward to getting some answers through testing so I can educate others about the extreme difficulty and unpredictable nature of parenting a child with these challenges. It has been a very lonely and deflating parenting experience. Does anyone else have this experience or advice? Thank You!"

You are not alone. This is a very common dilemma for parents of kids on the autism spectrum. Here are some concrete tips to help others understand High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger's:
  • Ask others how they would feel if they were stuck in a foreign country where they could not make anybody understand what they wanted. Point out that this is how your youngster feels.
  • Describe the kinds of social interactions HFA kids have problems with (e.g., it is difficult for them to understand how to connect effectively with their peer group). It's not because of behavioral problems – it is how their brain works.
  • Educate people about the level of functioning these "special needs" kids can have. Tell them about different skills they find challenging (e.g., making eye contact, accepting change, showing appropriate emotions, etc.).
  • Explain that HFA is a form of autism and that it is on a “spectrum” (i.e., there are different levels of severity). Not all sufferers act like the "Rain Man."
  • Explain that your youngster's inappropriate behavior comes from misunderstanding, not contrariness.
  • Explain to others that the disorder is, in some instances, a part of your child’s personality and not simply just a physical disability.
  • Many people make the mistake of associating HFA with a sickness or a disease. Remind them that it is neither and that it is just something your child has to contend with having.
  • Soothe other people's discomfort about repetitive or strange actions by telling them that it has to do with how your child’s brain processes information. Assure them that your child can't help this behavior.
  • Educate people about the nature of the disorder. It's neurological, not psychological or behavioral. It has an organic origin.

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum:

==> Videos for Parents of Children and Teens with ASD
What other parents have to say about this issue:

•    Anonymous said…  I'm going to play devils advocate here, teachers are over worked with way too many students. I've worked in a school and with special needs and see how passionate the teachers are. Even if your child is main stream the teachers (most) do their best with the resources at their disposal and with the professional development offered. Most go above and beyond, and there are other children that need to learn also sorry to say but your child can't be their only priority.
•    Anonymous said… I have issues with my sons school too. Teachers are terrible ignorant and arrogant bullies. Ive called the minster of education in twice within the 2yrs hes attended. His anxiety of going to school is extreme now because of what the teachers have done to him.
•    Anonymous said… I have the issues with my daughters school x
•    Anonymous said… Most of my son's teachers have been great, but this year is not going very well. His teacher sent a very judgmental email yesterday and he reported she humiliated him in front of his classmates after sending the email. It is heartbreaking and brings out the mama bear in me.
•    Anonymous said… My child was always a hand full and difficult. With 20 to 25 other children to deal with on a daily basis the teacher doesn't have time to give the child individual time. If the child is a challenge at home, one can only image school. There is going to be some tension. That is reality. I'm thankful my teenager did not give his teacher a mental breakdown. Some child are a real challenge and some are not. Challenge at home and challenge at school.... I'm not going to trash the teacher. Teachers need to educate themselves on behaviour patterns, triggers, meltdowns, repetitive behaviors, and sensory. There are tools to help teachers have a much better day. Some teachers feel like it is not their job to go the extra mile. This is sad but true.
•    Anonymous said… My daughter is the same way thankfully her school is working with me and accommodating all of her needs. For those who are having school issues. Has your child been diagnosed!
•    Anonymous said… My son does have a diagnosis and most of his teachers have been eager to learn and work as a team to provide for his needs. This year he has a teacher who is nearing retirement and is very judgmental and ignorant. She believes his executive functioning deficit does not exist and he is merely lazy. Yesterday she sent an email, berating him and us, to his team of teachers and aides. We live in a very rural area and education is lacking on ASD, ADHD, and many learning disorders. Each year I enter the school armed to teach the teacher about his many diagnosis. Some years it is well received, other years I am talking to the wall. It sounds like your school is very supportive and that is awesome!
•    Anonymous said… We have my son in a very small private school. There are 6 in his class and he is doing very well so far. I agree with what some of the others have said... 20-25 kids in a class is overwhelming to the teacher as well as any student, but especially an Asperger's student.
•    Anonymous said… Well that is very unfortunate that she is that way. Maybe go to the school board or request a new teacher? Sorry just trying to give you ideas. Sounds like you are doing everything you can and that is awesome. Some people just don't get it. And no matter how much info you give or educate them they are just ignorant on the subject. I will pray for you and I hope things get better for you, my heart goes out to you!!
•    Anonymous said… Some parents do not want to have evaluations done because they would rather not have a diagnoses. However, as you point out,it would be comforting for you to have a diagnoses because then others will have to believe what you have been trying to tell them. Furthermore with a professional evaluation then it is much easier to have support and accommodations set up in school for your child.
•    Anonymous said... My son is five years old. The testing came back pdd-nos however his dr. says he has aspergers from my reading i do agree. I have been told for years that i spoil my son. I don't feel that i spoiled him i was just trying to avoid the meltdown. I told a friend about his diagnoses. She said but he has feelings. How do I explain to people who really have no clue without getting upset. Maybe I said something about it to soon because I am still having trouble with it.
•    Anonymous said... My 5 year old son has Asbergers. I noticed differences in him since he was very young. He practiced things forever over and over until he got it. He wakes up if you are not next to him. It takes hours to put him down. I am a single parent with no help from his father. He has a super high vocabulary and is very intelligent. He has been in daycare forever. I also put him in OT for sensory issues and into a social group. All have helped. His overly precise language drives me crazy. His tantrums are unbelievable and exhausting at times. I pick my battles with him. When he gets edgy and we have plans a few hours later, I push him tell he melts to avoid a melt down later. When his meltdown is beginning to come and we are in public I either leave or give in to avoid a melt down and when people give me a look in the store I say he is on the Autism Spectrum and walk away. No one knows what Asbergers is only Autism. I put him on sport teams that are fast paced. I found a coach with an Asbergers son. He will be on his team Forever. I talk to mothers who go through the same things as me. I educate those I can and IGNORE those I can't. I have chosen to let some friends go because I am tired of the judgments. Teaching Special Ed High School Kids I realize that his tantrums will become less frequent and long. I spend my time educating my family and my mom helps. It is tough, but you have to see your son's strengths build them and work on their weaknesses with Specialists. In fact I am beginning to take my son to a speech therapist for Communication Speech and to help him Generalize. Good luck

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