Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Family and Friends, Parenting

Your Mileage May Vary

This morning, when I took Baguette to daycare, she was excited to be there. She opened the door to the classroom without being prompted, and she ran up to a group of girls and started playing with the same toys they were using.

(This is HUGE. Six months ago, she would have retreated to the corner with a book. Now she chooses to play with the other kids.)

She picked up a toy ice cream cone and said, “Ice cream!” One of the other girls said, “Don’t eat it!”

I said, “Oh, it’s okay. I think she knows the difference between the toy and real ice cream.”

The girl said, “Sometimes babies put things in their mouth.”

Every child in that room is 3 or 4.

I said, “Well, she isn’t a baby.”

“Yes, she is. She can’t talk.”

One of the other little girls–we’ll call her Daisy–who has been in the same room as Baguette since they were both infants, said, “She can’t do anything.”

Baguette dropped the cone and headed for the bookshelf, where she selected Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street. It’s the book she’s most likely to pick up at school. I think I know why; it’s because no one in that book would be mean to her, with the possible exception of Oscar.

Daisy said, “Well, she knows Hebrew.”

I said, “She knows Hebrew?”

Daisy said, “Uh huh.”

I answered, “She’s still learning some things, but she’ll learn faster if you’re nice to her.”

Bestie came over to the bookshelf to hang out with Baguette, and gave her a one-armed hug.

Parenting is harder than being in your 40s.

Author:

I am a lazy triathlete living in Los Angeles.

18 thoughts on “Your Mileage May Vary

  1. Oh, ouch.

    Has the day care told the other parents about what is going on with Baguette? I know that if I got a note about how one of the other kids in the room has a speech delay- for whatever reason- I’d have a talk w/my kid about how speech is different from understanding. And then I’d follow up a week or so later with a reminder. My kids are older, so I might show them the Carly’s Voice videos to help them understand. But I wouldn’t think to do any of this if I didn’t know… Which makes me think, maybe I *should* show them the Carly’s Voice videos just because it is pretty cool and I suspect it would plant the seed about appearances not always being the full story.

    I think this is like race- people think the best thing to do is not to mention it to the kids, but the kids notice the difference and draw their own conclusions, which are often incorrect. I’m working hard to get past my awkwardness on discussing race. Your post has reminded me that I should do that for other things, too. An awkward explanation is better than none, I think.

    Regardless, hugs to you and Baguette. High five to Bestie.

    1. Daisy’s mom (and Daisy is a very nice little girl, by the way–I like all of the kids I’ve met in Baguette’s class and in her morning drop-off class) is a teacher, and we’re Facebook friends, so I’m thinking about asking her if she can talk to Daisy about how different people learn things at different speeds.

      Some of the parents know, but I doubt most of them do. We’d be the ones to tell them, and due to our schedules, we don’t know a lot of them.

      And I think you’re right that an awkward explanation is better than none. That phrase reminds me of how, when I was younger, I always felt very awkward when a friend’s relative would pass away, because I never knew what to say. Eventually I realized that no one knows what to say, because there isn’t really anything to say beyond “I’m sorry.” So I started saying that, and felt a lot less awkward.

      1. I still think the school could help here, but maybe you’d have to explicitly give them permission to share the info? I don’t know.

        I think you should mention something to Daisy’s mom. I would 100% want to know, so I could address this with my kid.

        1. I’m just working on how to word it, because I don’t want it to sound like I expect her three-year-old to bear the burden of helping my three-year-old, or that I have a problem with her three-year-old’s behavior. I know Daisy was simply stating facts as she sees them; she’s tried to include Baguette on other occasions, so it’s not like she routinely isolates her.

  2. Bestie has always been very accepting and affectionate with Baguette. It’s more than a little awesome actually. I’m constantly hoping that it can offset any exclusion she experiences for other kids.

  3. That’s a great idea to tell people; kids can be very accepting and show empathy to other people who are different, they just need to have it explained to them sometimes, as do adults. It isn’t malicious ignorance, just lack of awareness, and I’m sure Baguette will get even more support if her friends are made aware of the difficulties she faces every day. It sounds like she is doing amazingly well, you are so lucky to have such a special girl.

    1. Oh, we’ve always talked about it pretty openly–it’s more a question of who we get a chance to talk to. But this is the age to start teaching it, because the kids *do* want to play with her and include her. They just don’t necessarily know how, because they’re little kids.

  4. Oh that is so sad. I’m going through something similar with my developmentally-delayed 3-year old and I can already see how hard it will be for him as others “go ahead” of him in terms of speech, etc… I don’t think little kids, even the nicest ones, would even know how to include my hyperactive non-verbal kid.

    1. It’s so hard, isn’t it? I keep trying to put myself in her place as much as I can, because I want her to feel that I have some inkling of what she experiences. And I know that’s going to get harder as she gets older, just like it does with every kid. But hopefully by then all the therapy we’re doing will have helped her catch up.

  5. We had a back-to-school meeting in my son’s class last fall (he was starting at a new school) and one of the parents handed out a page with information about her daughter, with suggestions for how we could talk to our kids to explain some of her developmental delays, as well as information about stuff she likes (you know, regular kid stuff, so that it wasn’t all about the differences). It was really helpful, I think, and gave a way for all of the parents and kids to be more understanding.

  6. I’m a little late to the party here, because I’m so far behind in reading email and texts, but I wanted to comment that when Katie was in preschool, it was like middle school– very cliquish with the popular and not so popular kids. Weird for 3 yr olds.there was this one little girl that all the girls looked up to (not sure why– she wasn’t especially cute and sure wasn’t nice) who decided who she would and wouldn’t play with every day, and every day Katie had a good or bad day depending on whether this little toad decided to play with her or not that day. One day I suggested to her that she and all the other kids that Haley (and that is her real name, because I’m like that. I didn’t use her last name. Okay, I don’t remember it.) didn’t choose could all play together, but she had no interest in doing that. Haley didn’t like cheese, and would take all the cheese off her cheese pizza, so Katie started doing that, too and suddenly declared that she and Haley didn’t like cheese. She liked it fine before. My whole toddler meal concept is based around peanut butter and cheese. Not together. But,She still won’t eat cheese, 9 yrs later! I’ve told her that she liked it fine before that annoyance of a person in her preschool said she didn’t like it, but she still won’t eat it. I just couldn’t believe this behavior started so young. I mentioned to the teachers at conference time (I really liked the school otherwise and will be sending Nick there next year) and they said they were aware of the problem and had talked to the class about it several times as well as reading books and having whole lesson plans about inclusion and such, but to no avail. It was better the next year when Haley wasn’t in her class anymore. (Not sure if she left the school or was just in the less-advanced class). It was just so weird to me that kids could be excluding people from the popular club at three. Kids can be little toads. Especially girls, it seems to me. Hope things are better for Baguette now.

    1. Thanks. They do actually include her fairly often, and I like all the girls (the boys seem fine, too, but they don’t want to talk to me as much, so I don’t know that many of them). But it’s hard when they notice the difference but don’t understand it–and how could they? They’re three! Fortunately, none of them seems to be a Haley.

      1. This got me thinking about my first year teaching: I taught 7th grade and had one student who had a number of issues, the biggest being that she tested at literally one IQ point above the legal definition of mentally retarded, and, perhaps even bigger, she was painfully shy, to say the least. According to her file, she didn’t say one word her entire kindergarten year, even when the teacher pointedly spoke to her. She was tested for everything you can think of, but testing was diffcullt since she wouldn’t speak to the testers either. (Her parents reported that she did speak at home, so they knew she could speak and her hearing was normal, too.) Anyway, by the time I had her, she was doing much better and got along well with the other girls in the class, whom she talked to and giggled with on the playground, and if I asked her a question, she would look at her feet and whisper a response. If I stood behind her at the computer, she would talk in an almost normal volume while looking at the computer screen. When the kids went on their big retreat, there were about 100 kids from 3 different schools split up into small groups for most activities, but they all ate meals together at assigned tables with their small groups. At dinner, a different table stood in front of the group each day and presented a prayer they had worked on. This was a Catholic school/camp. When the group this girl, and I won’t use her real name, I’ll call her Mary, was in presented their prayer, she stood in front of the room with the others, looked up, and whispered her line when it came. This was great, I thought, but the camp director actually yelled (and I do mean yelled) at her to stop being silly and speak up. Mary just stood there with that deer in the headlights look. I leaned over to the director (who happened to be sitting next to me) that Mary has some issues and can’t really do that. And I said aloud to Mary that she did great! The director said loudly that if course she could speak and she was just being silly. It was just awful, and the director would not give up and Mary was pulling farther into her shell and certainly not speaking and I didn’t know what to do, being new to this and never having encountered anything like this before. (I would handle it differently now.) I had told the teenaged counselors who worked with Mary’s group about her, but hadn’t thought to tell the director. I spoke to her about it after the episide was over, but she never did get it and kept insisting that Mary clearly could speak and needed to be forced to do that and I needed to stop coddling her. In retrospect, I should have spoken to whoever was her supervisor about her attitude, but I didn’t know to do that at the time. At least the girls in Mary’s group and her counselors were supportive of her great effort. She had never stood in front of a group at all, and she never spoke in front of the class. Not even a whisper. If I asked her a question during a class discussion, she would just look at me like a deer in the headlights. She only spoke to me if no one was listening but me. Anyway, watch out for people like that director and tell them beforehand about Baguette and how best to help her and if the teacher isn’t receptive, run away! I remember that director actually rolled her eyes when Mary didn’t respond to her bullying. Mary was a really sweet girl. Like many people with mental challenges, it seems, she had probably never had a mean thought in her entire life. I hope she’s doing okay now. She would be 27.

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