I’m a verbal processor. I just have to get this off my chest and put this somewhere so that I can deal with it. So, I’m going to put it on my blog because…? Because. I don’t know why. It might clear my head.
Something happened today, and my brain is stuck. I can’t quite accept it. I don’t understand it. And…I’m pissed.
We all know by now that I have four daughters. My youngest daughter, Milly, is on the autism spectrum. She’s high functioning. What does this mean? It means that she has a co-morbid anxiety disorder that is either simmering at a slow burn or burning so hot that she isn’t very functional. It depends on the day. It also means that she has a big time theory of mind deficit. She has huge problems with social skills, and she is developmentally delayed by about two years. She’s chronologically ten years-old, but she is really about eight years-old socially and emotionally. She also struggles with language pragmatics so she doesn’t understand puns and idioms very well unless she’s learned them. This is all very textbook stuff for an HFA kid. Nothing new here. Also common to HFA-ASD kids? Poor emotional regulation and sensory processing issues combined with issues with flexibility and/or rigidity. If there’s a rule, then Milly will know it and expect that we all follow it. Combine all that with gestalt processing and it’s quite the roller coaster ride around here every.single.day. It’s okay though. She’s my kid, and I love her.
We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time helping her. She’s had play therapy, skills training, therapy with a clinical psychologist who specialized in working with people on the autism spectrum, and I write books and materials for children, families, and professionals who work with individuals on the autism spectrum so I direct a lot of time and energy towards my daughter so that her autism will work for her rather than against her. Milly does very well. Many people who meet her tell me that they would never know that she’s autistic unless you’re someone who knows what to look for. If you are, then you’ll spot her as ASD in under a minute.
There are, however, always bumps in the road. I can’t change her nature. She is who she is. Recently, there has been some discord in our neighborhood. We live on a block with a few kids of varying ages. Milly is an extrovert which makes her seem unusual for an Aspie. She is the extroverted autist. She loves to play with other kids, but she can’t read their body language very well. And, quite frankly, she can be a bit too direct. She tries to cope with her social anxiety by controlling the social situations which is common to almost everyone with social anxiety, but, in Milly’s case, it has come out sideways. She has started excluding certain neighborhood children because she doesn’t have the social savvy to deal with them. She doesn’t want to feel fearful or anxious because that’s an uncomfortable way to feel so when these kids come around she simply says, “You can’t play with us.” Apparently, these children go home crying. Looking back on my own childhood I recall that one doesn’t need to be autistic to engage in this sort of social interaction. I recall plenty of kids excluding other kids. I’m not justifying this sort of thing. Why do most people hate gym class? Well, for one thing, we get excluded. Someone gets picked last for a certain team. Someone else doesn’t want to play with someone else. All the politics of recess and gym class. Worlds collide. Feelings get hurt. How do you handle it?
Me? I watch. I decide when I need to get involved. I know certain things about child development. For example, a 7 year-old child will be able to recognize that a problem exists but may not necessarily be able to solve that problem. Parents are required to help in the problem-solving. So, what’s the problem? Oh, Lord, it’s all about Pokémon. God save us from Pokémon!
Two boys from down the block are hot on Milly’s tail to trade Pokémon cards with her. She outright refuses. Why might you ask? A year ago Milly traded cards with these boys. A few weeks ago, these boys were banging our door down claiming to want their cards back. They were reneging on their trades! The Aspie, rule-lovin’ Milly could not abide by this. She was completely offended and could not understand their reasoning. If you trade a card, then the trade stands. She returned one card, and then she vowed never to trade with them again. That was it. All or nothing. These boys returned every single day. EVERY DAY! They insisted on trading cards again which really meant that they wanted their cards back. Milly steadfastly held her position. Nope. No can do. She sent them home crying.
I watched. I asked Milly about the situation. What was her goal here?
“Mom, they don’t want to play with me. They want their cards back. They don’t care about me. Besides, they’re mean boys. They don’t play nice things, and they always tell me that they hate me. I don’t like them.”
I chose not to intervene. She had a point. I listened to how she spoke to them. She was respectful. She wasn’t mean, curt, or surly. I’m not a parent who believes that her children are above wrongdoing. On the contrary, I know that my kids will screw up. I expect it. We learn from our failures. I thought that perhaps this might be an opportunity for these boys to learn something. Don’t trade a card if you really like it. Also, integrity matters. Be a person that keeps your word. But, that would indicate that there was a parent on the backside actually parenting! The reason I don’t let Milly play with these boys now is because one of these boys told Milly that he knew how to make girls feel “really good”. When Milly asked him what he meant by that, he responded, “I can tickle you in your vagina. You’d like that.” Nope. There are other kids to play with in our neighborhood. There will be no “special tickling” going on. By the way, the boy was four years-old when he said that. Little boys don’t come by that sort of knowledge by accident. Know what I mean?
So, after all this, Milly is excluding these two boys. She doesn’t like them. She is anxious when they come around for a few reasons some more obvious than others. I have never been a proponent of exclusion. It hurts people particularly children. I’m simply explaining it and the context for it. Today, these two boys knocked on our door yet again insisting that Milly return one of their Pokémon cards. Once again, Milly said, “No. I’m not doing that. We traded fair and square.” The boys brought along a friend who also wanted to trade, and, as is totally characteristic of my socially inept daughter, she said that she would trade with him because she didn’t know him. This, of course, hurt the feelings of the boys. Milly didn’t understand what she had done. To her, it was all very clear. Very black and white. In her mind, the two neighbor boys were untrustworthy and unsafe. One of them wanted to get into her panties and the other was essentially a liar. This new boy, however, might be a very nice boy and should be given the benefit of the doubt. So, she invited the new boy inside to trade!
Shit is now hitting the fan unbeknownst to my husband and me.
My husband and I were in the backyard. We were getting our beds ready for planting herbs and vegetables. We were commenting on how beautiful the weather was. Suddenly, Milly comes running toward us sobbing and hyperventilating. She was trying to speak, but she couldn’t. I thought she was hurt so I started scanning her body for injuries. All I managed to understand was something along the lines of, “Tanya was in the house and she was yelling at me and she was saying that I was bad and…and….and…and…”
I looked at my husband. He looked at me. “What do you mean that Tanya was in the house? Are you saying that she actually came into our house?” She was stuttering and choking. She nodded.
The mother of the two boys had actually come into our home. She had not knocked. Milly had not let her in. She barged in. She blocked the door. She yelled at our daughter. She could see that we were not present. She verbally attacked her. She completely mistreated her. She has been informed numerous times that Milly has an autism spectrum disorder. Apparently, this did not matter to her. From what I have been told, what she said was wildly inappropriate. It borders on abusive. In any case, it was traumatic, and it victimized Milly.
We had a guest today, one of Grace’s friends. She happened to walk through the living room when Tanya was yelling at Milly, and this girl told me that she saw Tanya in our home and also heard her tone. She described it as threatening and mean.
My husband went ballistic, and I was livid. Who just barges into another person’s home and verbally assaults a child? I mean, who does that? This is where I’m stuck. This is what my brain can’t accept. I was shaking. Seeing my daughter cry caused my viscera to boil, but I knew that I couldn’t turn that loose onto Tanya. That would make me just like her. We had to talk to her about this, but how? We’ve lived peacefully in our neighborhood and at peace with our neighbors for fourteen years. Suddenly, one woman can just waltz into our home and mistreat a vulnerable child, and we’re left trying to figure out how to handle it.
We walked over to Tanya’s house, and all I could think to ask her was, “Did you come into my home without my permission and confront my child as if she were an adult without the presence of her parents? Did you do that?” That’s all I cared about because, frankly, that was all that mattered to me. Kids excluding kids? That’s childhood! Victimizing a child with a developmental disability because you feel entitled to do so? That’s simply wrong! And it makes you the perpetrator!
So, we knocked on her door, and she came out all smiles. We asked what was going on, and she immediately made Milly the problem. “My boys just want to play but your daughter just continues to exclude them! So, you now, I just don’t get it.” My response? “Well, I’m not really interested in that right now. That can be discussed in a moment. What I really want to know is if you went into my home uninvited and confronted my daughter without my permission and without my presence? Did you do that?”
Her expression changed and she evaded. She immediately went on the attack and called Milly a bully. She attacked her personhood. I said, “Stop. You are evading the question. Did you go into my home and verbally assault my child without my permission and without my presence?”
She didn’t like that. She put her hand up and said, “How dare you tell me to stop! Did you just tell me stop?” She then attacked Milly’s character. She then went on to say that she didn’t believe that she was really autistic. She was older than her children and ought to know the social rules. We explained what autism was. We explained to her as we have so many times before what that developmental disability means, and she just smirked at us. She blamed Milly for her sons’ unhappiness and insisted that her sons have every right to play with whom they want, and our daughter is the one who can’t play with anyone anymore. That’s how it has to be. She has to go home when they come calling.
I then told her that she had yet again evaded the most important question, and I expected an answer. Had she come into my home without my permission and engaged my daughter in a confrontation without my permission or presence? She sneered and then she lied. She said that she never came into the house. That was a lie, and she showed no remorse for anything that she said. It was at that point that my husband lost it.
He quietly approached her in his easygoing Texan manner and said in what I would call a menacing tone, “I don’t give a fuck what you think your children are entitled to. You do not walk into other people’s houses and mistreat their children particularly when you know their parents are in the backyard. That is wrong and don’t you ever do that again.” As soon as I heard my husband say ‘fuck’ I knew that we were done. My husband is a brilliant negotiator. He does it at work all the time, but he was seething watching this woman lie, evade, and justify her almost abusive actions as well as her blatant trespassing. I waited for her reaction. It was predictable.
She told us to get the fuck off her lawn and shouted that we both had Munchausers (sic). She then slammed her door.
We both stood there in shock. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think it would be wrong if I shouted out, ‘Don’t you mean Munchausen by proxy?’ I mean if she’s gonna insult us she should at least get it right, don’t you think?”
I look forward to living a life that has no drama whatsoever. Munchausen by proxy? Really?! If I wanted this much drama in my life I would have gone to Julliard and been a drama queen like I planned when I was 17. This life? No one wants this much attention.
I mean…unless you really do have Munchausen by proxy, I guess. ::shudder::
Do you think Tanya would like to sit in the Behavioral Health ER or ride out a mixed state or pay for all the medications or talk a child off a suicidal ledge or deal with an Aspie having an anxiety attack or go to DBT skills group once a week for the next 21 weeks or sit for hours while your child endures neuropsychological testing or help your child cope with severe emotional pain so that they don’t cut or use the holding technique on an autistic child so that they can emotionally regulate rather than self-harm? Do you think she would like that? Do you think she would be so tempted to treat her boys like special snowflakes entitled to the world at the expense of everyone else once her boys actually see what the world is really like? Or at least someone else’s world? I wonder…
Shit. Lord have mercy!