Thursday, March 25, 2010

So this is what those Moms are thinking when they give me and my son "that look"

This morning I was cruising around the blogosphere, and I came across a post on Temple Grandin and her comments about manners. The reason I was looking specifically for Temple's comments on manners was that my son has had two incidents this week where he became emotionally dysregulated and had outbursts. These are generally far and few between now that he is older, and he is learning and using techniques from Michelle Garcia Winner's Social Thinking Superflex program, which my son's classroom teacher and speech therapist have introduced to his regular third grade classroom in a weekly session, with posters and regulatory strategies for many of the Unthinkables. I am of the firm belief that my children need to be taught manners. Of course, teaching manners is different for a child on the spectrum. I also would not allow my child to annoy or disturb other people in public. While I try to anticipate some of the triggers that might lead to a meltdown and prevent them, I was not always successful. No one can be 100 percent successful, but we all try. It was harder when he was younger and didn't have the ability to verbalize the overstimulation from noises or people. I have been very lucky to have met a lot of very compassionate people who did not judge us when he would suddenly meltdown. But there were always those people, for some reason it is the mothers, who gave us "the look". You know the one I'm talking about. It sends the message "why can't you control your child?" I always wondered what they were actually thinking. And now I know.

In the comments to the Temple Grandin post there was a comment from Smockity Frocks,
I just wrote what I meant to be a humorous post about an encounter I had at the library with a little girl and her over indulgent grandmother trying to pressure one of my girls to give over the computer.

I ended up with 3 different commenters defending the pair because of the girl's "signs of autism".

I don't know what the girl's condition was, but I DO know that Grandmother could have done more to redirect her very annoying behavior.
This, of course, piqued my interest. So I clicked on the link to find a post entitled:

In Which Smockity Considers Jabbing a Ball Point Pen Into Her Eye

After reading the post, I realized, this is what those moms' "look" means. The judgmentalness and lack of compassion, mocking tone of and contempt for this little 4 year old girl who was obviously on the autistic spectrum by the excellent description of her hand flapping, inappropriate social behavior, her perseveration on waiting patiently and reminding herself, and her Grandmother's very obvious behavioral approach that was appropriate for her emotional age, well, it smacked me in the face. The Brits call it "gob smacked". And that was just the post. I tried to excuse this woman's behavior as ignorance. But then I read the comments.

That's when my blood boiled. After the first 22 comments that are basically high fiving her, someone very nicely brought up that the little girl probably had autism. And so did the next commenter. Her reply again highlights her judgmentalness and lack of empathy yet again. Upon reading comment 25 with her excellent approach and explanation of autism and this child, I thought, yeah, maybe she'll get it. Then she said,

I still don’t understand why the grandmother never once offered to distract her by reading an actual BOOK to her while they waited. It really did seem to me that the goal was to get rid of my daughter so her precious could have her way.
What? did she really just say that after a great explanation of how hard it is for a very young child with autism to wait patiently? What a...

I read on. I got to DeputyHeadmistress. She's the one with the original blog about manners, btw. She states that the Grandmother lied and tried to manipulate Smockity's girls. What. A. Crock. There is nothing that would indicate this in the original post. This woman says she is the mother of a special needs child. That is when she shares her post on Temple Grandin's manners discussion, which is taken completely out of context. Great manners there, DeputyHeadmistress. And Smockity agreed with her. The commenters continue, with an excellent explanation at 29, then a few agreeing with the OP, and finally I got to Jennifer at 35. I could have kissed her when she spoke of the judgmentalness of the OP! The best part of her comment was,
I don’t think you were really demonstrating patience. You might have been on the outside. But inside you were very frustrated. Nothing wrong with that. But I found it interesting that you were boasting of your patience and receiving lots of praise for it. Sounds a little like the same scenario as the lollipop sweetums waiting for the computer. Ironic huh?
YES! SCORES! And how does Smockity answer her? Is she introspective? Does she step back and take a serious look at her behavior? No, she answers by saying,

How supportive and encouraging of you to stop by and chastise me for my boastfulness. I guess that bit about mothers “working together and supporting and encouraging one another” doesn’t apply to you.

First of all, I “assumed” it was a grandmother because the girl called her by the name “Grandma”, but maybe part of her “disability” is calling people by inappropriate names and I am just too dumb and judgmental to know that.

And no, if the girl had been 2 and a half, I wouldn’t have expected less of her or her grandmother. I have reared six 2 and a half year olds so far and I do not allow them to get their own way because I feel they are more precious or special than others.

Lastly, I wonder if you realize the irony in calling me out for being judgmental. Pot? Meet Kettle. I don’t think you are being very patient with me. How do you know whether or not I have a disability that prevents me from tolerating bratty behavior?


Smockity, you are devoid of compassion or empathy. You are one of the most sanctimonious judgmental mothers I have had the displeasure of meeting by reading your blog. Would it have been so hard to have said to the Grandmother, "My daughters just started using the computer and will be using it for a while." instead of sitting there, giving the Grandma and little girl "the look". We know it when we see it.

And all this while reading a Bible. How appropriate.

And that's why I posted your blog on Facebook at 10:38 a.m. And I am so happy to say I am Blogger Zero, and your post, Smockity Frocks, has gone viral, all over Facebook and Twitter and the blogosphere.

May I help you with your ball point pen?

Here is a compilation of posts on Smockity Frocks.


KWombles said...

So very well said. Well done. And hey, just a week before Autism Awareness month begins.

Erin said...

Very well stated.

Emily said...

Yep. Keep blogging it people. We need awareness of many things here, and perception is one of them.

Emily said...

And since neither one of us is technically ept enough, here's the link to my post on the same topic:

Squid said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
VAB said...

I certainly see what you mean, but I don't know about the ball point pen thing. Do we want people to broaden their attitudes or do we want to punish people?

I realize that I am adding to the chain of judgment here but I've found that special parents are better than most at taking a deep breath, putting their immediate reactions on hold, and deciding what is most effective, so I think I am lobbying the right folks.

Squid said...

Deleted my original comment which was less measured than I'd like.

People rarely have epiphanies of compassion when they're feeling as defensive as Smockity. What I hope she's learned from this, whether it sinks in now or later, is that our children with autism deserve more tolerance and empathy than people might naturally give (although as you pointed out, I'm sure Jesus would have given the girl and her grandmother the benefit of the doubt), and that kids with autism have watchful, vocal advocates.

Liz Ditz said...

Thanks for alerting me... here's my post

My kiddos all are neurotypical, and so far, the grandks as well.

But even the NTs melt down now and again, and charity of heart is a good thing.

There's a neologism: sanctimommy.

Club 166 said...

You, Joey's Mom and Emily are much kinder than anything I could have written regarding this (have yet to go read VAB's). I guess such attitudes as Smockity's "sanctimommilousness" are to be expected (Thanks, Liz). As I stated elsewhere, I would have been quite pleased if either of my kids acted as well when they were four, as the child referred to did.

On another note, I'm not generally a big fan of "systems" of teaching, feeling that "face time" and flexibility are much more important than any particular system that's employed. But we, too, have been using the Superflex thing, and Buddy Boy references it all the time. It really seems to help him get a handle on how he feels, as well as how others perceive him.


Club 166 said...

Oops! I meant Liz's post, not VAB's.


storkdok said...

@Emily, thank you!

@VAB, I would have blown off her post as ignorance if she hadn't been so sanctimonious and continued to mock this child after several commenters educated her about autism. At that point she wasn't going to change her mind, that's why she closed the comments, I think. And that is why I offered politely to help her with her pen.

@Squid, you are always "measured"! You have one of the most wonderful ways with words! I am looking forward to your post for April.

@Joe, I too, would have been over the moon if my son had as much patience and control as this little 4 yr old girl had at the same age. I didn't even attempt to take him to the library until he was in the first grade. And I like to use a smattering of "systems" myself, because I think many of them have their specific points that address certain areas. We have found the Superflex appealed to my son and was an easy concept to use with him and when his classroom teacher said she wanted to use it for all the kids, I was thrilled. He is actively using the lingo and strategies more and more in his own self regulation. His classmates also help him by using the lingo and give him strategies when he becomes dysregulated.

storkdok said...

Joeymom blogged very nicely on her thoughts:

storkdok said...

Elise at asd2mom also comments about Sprockity Frocks' post:!BF70F135A8FDB728!592.entry

KWombles said...

My contribution.

Alexander Cheezem said...

... ugh. Bigotry is nothing new, but always annoying (understatement, but I lack the words...).

Squillo said...

You said what I was thinking, Stork.

I understand the judgment about another person's (grand)parenting--I've certainly been guilty of it, and I'm sure most of us have at one tine or another.

What's fascinating--and frustrating, as you point out--is the absolute lack of ability to see it from another perspective, given the nature of the author's faux-self-reflective post. To paraphrase, "It ain't the crime, it's the hypocrisy."

In one way, I'm glad it's going viral--it points out the kind of crap autists and other non-NTs have to deal with constantly. On the other hand, it's unlikely to provoke a flurry of genuine self-reflection in the original author or her fans. As Squid pointed out in her comment, public shaming provokes defensiveness, which is generally a barrier to epiphany.

At the risk of sounding like a sycophant, I'd really, really like to send SF a copy of "My Baby Rides the Short Bus." I'd highlight the line from Squid's excellent essay in which she comes to the realization that "the only asshole in the room was me." I have had that particular epiphany more times than I care to recall, and it's such a great reminder that our most entrenched attitudes are those that are most deserving of scrutiny.

Papa Bear said...

I just linked this post.

Melissa H said...

I, too, added a blog post about this to the blogosphere.

storkdok said...

Smockity Frocks deleted her post. I uploaded a pdf copy to google.doc, but I can't seem to get a link to work. This is the supposed link they give me, maybe someone can figure out how it can work. I did get it to work on Facebook.

Arby said...

It is always disappointing when someone mixes one part judgment with one part condemnation and dispenses it with Bible in hand. Like beauty, humor is in the eye of the beholder, and while I do not find the humor in Smockity Frock’s writing that some people do, I do see her attempt at presenting the situation humorously. Unfortunately, her humor doesn’t mask her lack of Grace in this situation, as demonstrated by her second to last line, “Thus concludes the story of ‘What Happens When Coddled Little Girls Are Over Praised For False Virtues’.” Which one of us is not guilty of lacking Grace at one time or another? In a world of sinners, people sin. Why should we be surprised when they do?

It is unfortunate that SF took down her post. There was a wonderful dialogue taking place in the comments section that was beneficial for all people involved. It was a missed opportunity to open the world of classified disorders to people who have neither the knowledge nor the experience to deal with them. Unfortunately, some bloggers become so used to praise in the comments section of their blogs that they have difficulty handling anything else. SF dug her heels in on this post. I hope that she reflects on the dialogue and handles such a situation differently in the future.

I have one child who defies diagnosis (and there have been many attempts) and has thrown some spectacular tantrums in public. I have an ALCAPA cardiac kid whose care has presented some serious “looks” in public, some truly funny situations when her Mic-Kay button came out (Oy! Do they leak!), and one warning that our use of a backpack carried feeding pump was child abuse and we could be reported to the authorities. For what, feeding our child? In public? *GASP* Not that! I understand exactly what you are writing. I’ve received “the look.” It is in those situations that I have to remind myself that other people simply do not understand because they have not walked a mile in my shoes. In those situations, I pray for God to loan me His extra Grace when mine is insufficient.

storkdok said...

Arby, thank you for stopping by. I have finally figured out how to link the full post and comments of Smockity Frocks from a pdf copy I uploaded to google.doc. You should be able to view it by clicking on the title in the post now.

It is hard to understand my post unless you read the entire Smockity post with comments, as I reference them throughout. As I had said before, had it just been ignorance, I would have typically ignored it. It was the combination of the patting on the back and sanctimonious high fiving followed by several excellent commenters explaining autism from personal experience, and at the end, which I quote, she mocked the disabled and refused to see the incident from another viewpoint. Her continued mocking was why I posted this on FB and here. She really thinks she did nothing wrong. She removed her post and her message is a slap in the face to parents of disabled children, not even an attempt at an apology.

It was a great dialog, and she shut it down because she didn't like the criticism. She obviously didn't think she had done anything wrong because she didn't delete the post until this morning when she got all the messages from a lot of people. Yet she is still defiant. All she would have to do is to say, "I'm sorry. It was thoughtless. I never meant to cause any pain to anyone. Please forgive me! I have learned from this and will certainly be more sensitive in the future."

I completely agree with you! Thank you for sharing a little of your story of your children. I'm sure you have received more than your share of "looks". Most of the time, people are nice and helpful, in our neck of the woods.

We did a lot of those looks in Washington, DC, recently. Amazing how the mere flapping of hands, jumping around and perseveration on facts in the excitement of viewing dinosaur bones can cause so many of "those looks"! I just smiled back! And it was nice to meed kindred spirits at the museums. One recognizes the signs, and we parents give each other a little nod with a smile...;0)

Arby said...

You did a great job with the link you provided. I was able to read the entire original blog by SF, the comments, and your very well written response before I commented. Well done! Googling the words "Smockity" and "Frocks" and "Autism" opens up a world of posts about her exchange. I like your blog. I think I'll pop in some more.

Brownie said...

wow. very interesting. Stretches my brain a bit.

I'll be popping in again.

storkdok said...

Brownie, thanks for stopping by. I saw your comments on another linked blog. Glad to meet you. I like your paper doll cutouts! I used to do them as a child!

Arby, thank you, I felt "supertechy" for about 10 minutes. Then I learned about google cache, which would have saved me a lot of time! But I learned some new tricks! Lets just say I'm a better surgeon than computer whiz! I like your blog, I want to read more. Very cool on your time down under on McMurdo! My neighbor has been there, too!

storkdok said...

Papa Bear, thank you!

Melissa H. I enjoyed your views on this, too!

Erin, thanks for commenting and stopping by!

Kim, I humbly bow to a master blogger!

Emily, I now have the Gravity book and am looking forward to your contribution!

Liz, thank you, and I hope someday to figure out how you collect all those links!

Alexander, thank you for commenting here! Hope you will be free of the crutches soon!

Squillo, we've all had moments like these. The difference is in how open we are to criticism and in re-evaluating our perspectives. When we think we've learned a lot, that's when we get knocked down a peg or two. And how one responds to these moments shows character. I've had many moments when I've come to the same "asshole" realization. Only you said it nicer! The older I get, the easier it gets.

I still feel like I've been gob smacked. I kind of hate the thought of the next time we go out, that this is what people might actually be thinking. Maybe it would have been better to not have known, but Pandora's box has been opened.

erpp8 said...

I don't have a kid with autism, but it strikes me that when in a situation where the grandmother obviously wanted the computer for her grandchild, what would have been the harm in giving it to her? Wouldn't have hurt anyone, regardless of how the child behaved....

xine said...

I wonder if she's teaching her full quiver of children the same wonderful, upstanding Christian values she excretes.

Accidental Expert said...

Excellent post! I didn't make it through the all the comments. I had to stop at 4 or 5 because I was getting so angry.

The scary thing is how many people there are out there like this, who feel totally justified in judging us and our children without even knowing them. Makes autism awareness month even more important, doesn't it?

Chris said...

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I wrote something on a similar vein several years ago: Those Insensitive Comments.

My son is an adult now, and is still in needs of special services. This week we had a large family gathering that caused him some anxiety. Because of this he did lots of stimming by shaking his right hand. His dad did take him home. After he left I was asked about the hand shaking in this context: "Does he play the guitar?" Which made me smile.

EdR77203 said...

I can understand your frustration. With my son, it was a problem of leaving the house without telling anyone. Nothing we did would change it. So when I got a call to come and get him, the first thing out of the lady's mouth was "What kind of parent are you?" It was pointless to tell her that my son found a way out no matter what I did. We did not have GPS back then. It was pointless to tell her that I carried him wherever I took him up until he was eight just so that he would not disappear when I blinked. It was pointless to tell her that autism kept him from saying anything to us about where he wanted to go.

What makes it pointless is that they have already made the judgement that THEY would have found a better way. I could have sent them up for sainthood on the spot.

I didn't say anything then and now I just wonder what was wrong with their parents that they raised such catty self-centered people.

jenniferarb said...

Storkdok - I accept your kiss and here is a kiss back to you! *smack*
from Jennifer

storkdok said...


So nice to meet you! Did you have any idea that this could go viral? Your comments were just awesome! You were certainly more polite than I could have been.

As the anger and pain turn to just sadness now about the whole thing, I am pondering how to best educate people about our kids and lives. We clearly have a lot more we need to do in order to make this world a better place for our kids, both NT and autistic. I think this will at least inspire me to blog more on a routine basis. Just our little corner of Autismland here.

It's pretty cool that you found me! Are you on Facebook? I am as Stork Dok. Couldn't think of anything more original than the moniker I've used for the last 20 years! Also, there is a great community that is building over at my friends' (Kim and Kathleen) blog "Respect for Infinite Diversity", which is what this is all about. I hope I might see you around!


Ashlyn said...

I must say I agree and disagree with BOTH of you. I've worked with children and adults with autism and like the rest of us, they need discipline. A cause and effect way to analyze right from wrong. If you do something inappropriate you should not get praise for it, neither should a child or adult with autism. On the other hand, If the lady reading the Bible would have politely said "my children have just started on the computers, it will be available for your granddaughter in x amount of minutes." The child would not have understood the time frame, most likely. But the grandmother could have and then taken steps to redirect the child until the time was up. Do I think the child knew better, NO. But I DO think the child could have been successfully redirected to another task. And I do not believe inappropriate behavior should be praised, but redirected. If the behavior is negative, lets ask ourselves, what can we do (as parents, grandparents and caregivers) to make this experience a good experience. Guide the child to the right choice.

Mini said...

@ Ashlyn (even though this is not my blog): I don't really see the child's behavior as inappropriate, and being the fact that I am Autistic when I was four years old.. even now if I am redirected from what I am waiting for it does not end very well.. (it was much worse when I was a child.)


But yeah your blog was very well done and stated :). I wrote my own response on my blog, but it was the view from a person on the spectrum.

Justthisguy said...

Someone on another blog used the words, "sanctimonious cow." I concur.

The worst of it is, that on her replacement post, she put up a link to Autism Speaks.

Sometimes multiple blows of the virtual cluebat have no effect. Sorta like punching a pillow. There's not enough substance there for anything to happen.

kathleen said...

Hey I just came back to read comments...I had left one..but it seems that me and blogger aren't getting along lately..this is the thrid time this week! I think I leave befor I make sure it has my apologies. Great post-and thanks for bringing this to so many peoples attention.

Justthisguy said...

Oh, and as I said to the Autism Diva years ago, neurotypical women frighten me. She concurred with that sentiment. I may yet make up a t-shirt with that legend on it.

Velvet Over Steel said...

Very well written! So glad to have found your blog. Wish I had known all of you other mothers Years ago, when my son finally received a diagnosis of Aspergers at the age of 11. I had never even heard of it and knew no one I could even talk to, let alone get any advice from. Wish I had started blogging 9 years ago, instead of 3 months. :-) I have your blog on my favorite blog list now. Thanks again for a great post! Hugs, Coreen

Squid said...

I'm leaving this comment on all the blogs I linked to and which haven't yet cited it: SmockityFrocks issued a sincere apology today.

Justthisguy said...

Smockity, if you are reading this, I humbly beg your pardon for what I wrote about you above. I do still insist that the neurotypical wimminz are right scary.

storkdok said...

Chris, thank you for commenting. I added your blog post from 2001 to the compilation, as it is so relevant!

storkdok said...

Ed, I understand. I had to call the police twice when my son was younger. He could get out of a locked and key bolted door so quietly, like a little Houdini. I'm thankful he grew out of it. But some kids don't.

A little girl who used to go to school with my son drowned 2 years ago. She was so good at escaping and bolting, she could climb out her second story window and shinny down to the ground. Her parents had double bolted all windows and doors and the back yard fence. Unfortunately, they had quests who left the fence unbolted, and she went next door and got in the neighbor's above ground pool when the neighbors were out of town.

storkdok said...

erpp8 and xine, Justthisguy and kathleen, thank you for stopping by and commenting!

Mini, I so appreciate your viewpoint, thank you for sharing it. I am adding it to the compilation.

Velvet over Steel, thank you! *blush* I am grateful to have met so many other parents and autistics in the last week! Adding you to my blogroll!

sandy said...

I just wanted to comment on the apology that Smockity made. I was unsure about it at first and my suspicions have been confirmed. The apology is a bt half hearted.

If you look at her facebook page under her apology link you will see that many of her "fans" feel the apology was not necessary. That's fine. One poster even suggests that we complainers are like "satan". She allows these comments to remain. However when Jeremy Cole posts the following message, she deletes it:

"I'm glad to see people coming together here to discuss - especially those that don't think the post was a big deal. I don't think it was Connie's intent to offend, and that is the essence of why autism awareness is so important. Autism is sometimes called "the invisible disorder" because our kids can seem perfectly "typical." As a result, they're often labeled as spoiled. Even teachers, experienced mothers and pediatricians can miss it. That's why today is the start of National Autism Awareness Month.

I think most people can agree that publicly mocking any child is in poor taste. It's also important to acknowledge the medium in which the comments took place - a blog on the internet. This was not an idle comment passed between like-minded friends over coffee. This was more like an ad plastered on a billboard by the freeway.

Whether the child was actually autistic or not is not really important. A child with sun glasses and a white cane might not be blind but writing a mocking post about her bumping into furniture would rightly enrage parents of blind children. For the autism community, and most sensitive people, saying that a child's excessive hand flapping might lead to the "first recorded case of self-propelled human flight" just isn't okay. Comments with "ROTFLMAO" (rolling on the floor, laughing my ass off) are, likewise, very hurtful. Perhaps more so.

Lastly, for people on either side of this discussion to frame it as "judgemental Christians vs. autism" or "Satan" vs. Christ is just inflamatory and beside the point.

I hope the net result of this discussion will be a pause in defensiveness that allows for some introspection about the people we aspire to be and how we want to treat others."

I don't see anything wrong with jeremy's pots but is Smockity is censoring comments like this that are meant to educate and create awareness It leads me to believe that her apology was insincere.

Lyn said...

That Smockitty person was being a bit harsh. Even if the child was NT there's no reason to expect a 4 year old to act like some member of the marines. I'm 31 and I have to stop myself from growling and rabbit grunting when there's some slow person in front of me on line taking a million years when I've got a cab to rush to or a desire to be home where I can flap and squeak in privacy. Folks should be a bit more patient and compassionate, especially towards little kids.
I wonder if Smockity is a Pearl acolyte... those folks have expectations of children that are not very realistic... I hope she learns to be as patient as that little cub was trying to be

Dreaming again said...

I know this is an old post, but since I just found your blog, I'm just now reading.

After spending the greater part of the last hour reading this, and the post that spawned it, I can't help but think

how self centered was the originator of the subject to assume that the grandmother's interaction with the grandchild was about "her" the mother of the child on the computer.
She felt that the grandmother... who was in all likelihood unaware that the reader of the Bible was the parent of the child on the computer ...was focused on HER rather than the granddaughter who was learning and important life lesson.

Having been in the grandmother's position, I seriously doubt that she was even aware of a nearby adult that she could manipulate .. in fact, manipulation was likely the farthest from her mind. Nurturing her granddaughter was front and center.

Distracted parents (and grandparents) rarely display patience required for this kind of interaction! And to be manipulating, she'd have to have been distracted.