Saying ‘No’ to things that make you uncomfortable

ID-100246914 confidence
The self-confidence to say “No!” is a massive milestone. (image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

 

Today is Onesies Day at Geordie’s school.

What is that?

In a nutshell, it’s an ‘out-of-uniform’ day masquerading as a fundraiser. Students are allowed to ditch their uniforms and wear something else (in this case, their pyjamas), but are ‘fined’ a gold coin which goes towards fundraising efforts for a nominated charity.

Today is all about being able to wear your ‘onesie’ (or pyjamas) to school for the day.

‘Out-of-uniform’ days work a treat — minimal effort on the part of the organisers, and a ‘fun’ way for kids to help raise money.

You may have noticed I emphasised the word fun.

There are many kids (and adults) who love dressing-up; they relish the idea of being able to wear their pyjamas (or some other costume) to school for the day. It’s FUN.

Geordie is not one of those people. He finds the notion of wearing something in an out-of-context situation (i.e. pyjamas when you are not going to bed, or a fancy-dress costume when you are not in a play) to be intimidating. It makes him uncomfortable. It is the opposite of fun.

I feel exactly the same way. I really, really don’t like fancy dress. It makes me uncomfortable and it most definitely is not my idea of fun.

This, however, is where the similarity ends for the two of us.

Growing up, I felt compelled to ‘go with the flow’ and participate in this ‘fancy dress fun’. I would stress for days about it. On the day, my stomach would be in knots and I couldn’t wait to get home to tear off the offending garments. Even now, it is only recently that I have had the courage to put my foot down and say, “No, I don’t do dress ups.” But I still stress about it — What will people think? What will they say? Will I be the only one?

Geordie, on the other hand, has always blatantly refused to participate in such days; whether it be a fundraiser, a themed party or Book Week celebrations — he insists on wearing his normal clothes. He doesn’t care if he is the only one; his only concern is that he feels comfortable. It has taken me a while to realise that, for Geordie, ‘being the only one’, and standing out becasue of that, is NOT an issue for him.

So, right now, he is dressed in his uniform. He has his ‘gold coin donation’ in his bag. In about 20 minutes, he will be heading off to a schoolyard full of children wearing their onesies; he won’t be the only one wearing his uniform, but he will most definitely be in the minority.

I am so, so proud of him.

In Geordie’s world of Asperger’s — where there has been so much confusion, so many obstacles and a constant flow of ‘learning curves’ — being able to stand up and say, “No, I’m not doing that,” is HUGE!

At his young age, he is not only aware of what makes him uncomfortable, but he has the courage to be his own person and to not ‘go with the flow’ when it doesn’t suit him.

If that’s not self-confidence, and if it’s not setting him up for a positive future, then I don’t know what is.

Advertisements

segregation

ID-1006564 segregation
On the left – those who take up a teacher’s time and should be removed to a ‘special class’. (image courtesy of Chris Sharp at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

As a parent of a child with autism, you develop a bit of a thick skin. You become used to the ignorance of some people, or their insensitivity, or their dismissiveness. You develop ways of deflecting and counteracting negative attitudes; all for the good of your child’s wellbeing.

 

Being an advocate is a tough gig, but not one we resent for a moment. The rewards are amazing.

Reflecting on the last eight years, I would have thought I’d experienced the full range of attitudes — from total conviction that ‘autism’ is a thing made up to excuse poor parenting, to people who ‘get it’, right through to people who are so supportive they are suffocating (in that they wish to wrap you and your child up in cotton wool because ‘how else could you possibly cope, you poor thing’).

However, yesterday I realised I hadn’t experienced every attitude — and this one’s a beauty, so strap yourself in.

One of our political ‘leaders’ (and I use that term very loosely) let loose in parliament the suggestion that students with autism were holding mainstream children back and should be put into special classes.

These kids have a right to education, by all means. But if there is a number of them, these children should actually go into a special classroom, looked after and given that special attention. Because most of the time, the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education but is held back by those, because the teachers spend time with them. And I’m not denying them. If it was one of my children I would love all the time given to them, to give them those opportunities. But is it at the loss of our other kids?  So our education is very important, and I just feel that it needs to be handled correctly, and we need to get rid of these people because you want everyone to feel good about themselves. Let’s get some common sense back into our classrooms and what we do.

—Pauline Hanson, One Nation Leader (abc.net.au/news)

The worst thing about this statement is that Senator Hanson has tossed all children on the Autism Spectrum into the same basket. That, in itself, shows her complete lack of understanding as to what the ‘spectrum’ actually is. She also mentions the term ‘other disabilities’ at some point, but there is no denying she has zoned in on Autism.

Pauline Hanson is well-known for her tendency to target minority groups with her bigoted, sexist, racist and archaic attitudes, but this latest is a new low, even for her. She is targeting children!

What is not new, however, is she is yet again looking at the victims and attributing blame and punishment to them. She is trying to cover this with emotion, implying ‘we want the best for everyone’, but her solution is to segregate the people she sees as causing the problem. I am amazed she didn’t use the word ‘institution’ at some point.

The thing is this — not only does this statement show Hanson to be a person who does not understand autism (at all), but it also paints her as a simplistic person who lacks the ability to think and problem solve, and genuinely believes there is only one solution to fit all.

Let’s remove the problem would have to be the most simple, yet ineffective, solution ever proposed in any scenario, least of all this one.

Many of the people who know me expected, I’m sure, a huge outpouring of anger and contempt from me yesterday; and this is exactly why I deliberately chose not to write anything in the heat of the moment.

Staying relatively silent (apart from a tiny outburst on Facebook) for the past 24 hours has afforded me the opportunity to wear both of my hats (parent and teacher) and read between the poorly worded lines spewed forth by our senator. In doing so, I have realised this: she has a point, but as per her usual cowardice, she has targeted the wrong group.

The point I would like to believe Senator Hanson was trying to make is that teachers need more support to adequately meet the needs of all of their students. The groups she should have been targeting are the various departments of education (and associated groups) who flatly refuse to supply funding for teacher training in specialised education (including strategies for working with children with Autism) and full-time in-class support for teachers who have special needs children in their classes.

As the situation stands, teachers who have access to full-time support (by way of a ‘learning support assistant’) are as rare as hen’s teeth. Some of us are ‘lucky’ to have this support for one hour a day, often at a time when support is least needed.

So, yes, a teacher’s time is often consumed by supporting the children with special needs. It is also spent dealing with behaviour issues, emotional issues and parent issues from students who do not have any diagnosis … yet I don’t see any call to have these children removed into a special class.

Actually, at any given point of the year, if I was given the luxury to remove all the children from my class who had special needs, behavioural issues, emotional problems — or anything else that took me away from the children who ‘wanted to go ahead in leaps and bounds’ — then I can safely estimate I would only have about five or so children in my class.

And, my question to Pauline is this … where will you find the teachers to teach all of the children I should be able to remove from my classroom, according to your logic?

Sorry? You’re laughing?  I’m taking your words ‘out of context’? I’m being unreasonable?

I am being no more unreasonable than the suggestion we can solve the education problem by removing the perceived cause of the problem and locking it up in its own special box (even if we do let it out to play at lunchtime). I’m also being no more unreasonable than the insinuation that all children with Autism be removed, because of course, they are all the same.

Confucius said:

Learning without thought is useless; thought without learning is dangerous.

May I suggest to Senator Pauline Hanson (and to everyone who voted for her or agrees with her on this matter) that you first try allocating some of your time to thought before you shoot off at the mouth about something you clearly know very little about.

And, if that doesn’t float your boat, may I propose that we remove all people like you to your own special segregated box, because you are holding us back!

professional ‘opinions’

ID-10018695 mum
Yes! I am a pushy mum when it comes to advocating for my children. But, I make no apologies for this. It is worth it in the long run. (image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

I was having coffee with a friend the other day; she was talking about an experience she recently had with a so-called ‘professional’.

 

The professional in question this day was her son’s paediatrician.

Her son was recently diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder.

The paediatrician she was talking about also happens to be one I have encountered before.

You may see where I am going with this.

Autism is a ‘diagnosable thing’. So is Sensory Processing Disorder. So why is it that so many ‘professionals’ have an issue with this?

In both of our cases it was made crystal clear our sons’ paediatrician did not ‘believe in’ the respective diagnoses. We were both made to feel like ‘bad mums’.

In my case, I was a ‘bad mum’ because Geordie was losing a vast amount of weight, owing to a food obsession. I was told to keep a diary of what he ate and to make an appointment to see a nutritionist in order to learn how to adequately feed my son.

In my friend’s case, she was a ‘bad mum’ because her son was merely naughty and not disciplined enough.

Both of us are also ‘pushy mums’ — and by this I mean we are both fierce advocates for our children and we go with our gut when we know there is an issue. I know I have somewhat of a ‘reputation’ when it comes to sticking up for Geordie; my friend (who is newer to this world than I am, her son being half Geordie’s age) is also developing a reputation.

This is not a bad thing!

If I hadn’t ‘gone with my gut’ (and some wonderful advice from a colleague early on), then I imagine Geordie would not have a diagnosis and our life could very well be quite different now.

As a mother, ‘going with your gut’ often involves saying things, and admitting truths, about your child that no mother should ever have to say. It can be incredibly difficult, not to mention stressful and demoralising. The ‘blame game’ and ‘mother guilt’ both come into full force.

But, it is worth it!

I am, on a daily basis, thankful for the fact I am a strong person.

I am thankful I am relatively well-informed about most things Asperger’s, and have a network of support to keep me going.

I am thankful I was able to stand up to not one, but two so-called medical professionals who insinuated I was both an ‘overprotective mum’ and a ‘bad mum’.

The fight was long and hard, but every day I look at the outcome of this — my gorgeous, maturing, loving son — and I know I did the right thing. I also know the battle is not over, but am confident I will continue supporting and advocating for Geordie in this way.

This is the message I hope I imparted to my friend, who is really only just beginning her fight.

To all who are in similar situations now (and in the furture) — good luck!

Just know it will be worth it!