Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Noodle Pots and No-Boundaries

The House of Glee has returned from a trip back East in which we celebrated the wedding of my cousin to a lovely woman my brother and I refer to as our "cousin-in-law". The wedding took place outside on my aunt and uncle's Pennsylvania farm. Although it was chilly at times, the sun shone on the wedding day, and afterward, we had the reception in a tent. The day after, we enjoyed a picnic with the local and out-of-town guests.

I return to this blog wondering what I am going to do with it. I wish I were still anonymous, but perhaps the fact that I am not protects me from writing something I would regret publishing later. I can still share stories and songs with you, but I am always going to be holding something of myself back. I don't want to overshare, but there are times when writing about some of my struggles could be of benefit to others. I'm going to take a risk and see if it's true.

Here is what happened at the airport yesterday:

While we were waiting to board our connecting flight, Lucia struck up a conversation with a friendly passenger. The passenger (whom I will name No-Boundaries) told me that she worked with autistic children. That's great, I thought. I figured that she picked up on some of my daughter's mannerisms and could tell that there was something going on that had not yet been diagnosed. Then, she turned to my daughter and asked, "Are you autistic?" Lucia responded with, "What's autistic?"

As No-Boundaries began to explain to Lucia, I shook my head and explained to No-Boundaries that we were waiting for a diagnosis from a professional who would give a full-spectrum of tests. No-Boundaries overrode me to say loudly that Lucia probably had Asperger syndrome and expounded on all the symptoms that people with autism and Asperger syndrome had that Lucia shared.

I wish that I had just told No-Boundaries that it was inappropriate for her to ask Lucia (or any child!) if s/he had autism and not to diagnose my child in the airport, thank you. I was cautious about calling any more attention to this one-sided conversation so I restated that we had been counseled to avoid labels until Lucia received the full-spectrum of tests. No-Boundaries' husband piped up, "And you will get the full-spectrum. You're going to miss those questions when [your daughter] becomes withdrawn."

Someone else would have had sharp, witty responses that would have silenced No-Boundaries and her husband. (Maybe someone else would have knocked them in the teeth, too.) However, there was no winning in this situation. All they could register was the sound of their own voices. Then, No-Boundaries said goodbye to Lucia and told us what a wonderful child we had.

Thanks, lady.

It was obvious that No-Boundaries had issues of her own. I was incredulous that someone who claimed to love working with autistic children and could spout off a pat definition of autism in terms of how it related to social interactions could have no sense of emotional intelligence or sensitivity awareness. I had an armload of armchair diagnoses for her, too.

We don't know yet what Lucia's specific diagnosis is. We are committed to helping her through her challenges. It may well be that Lucia helps Bede and me through our challenges as well-- namely, learning how to tell busybodies to go sink their heads in pots of noodles.

I'll admit that I just edited myself. My original sentence was much ruder.


tanita davis said...

My definition of narcissism -- one of many -- is a person who likes thinking of themselves as the kind of person who is Good, Self Sacrificing, and Noble. And constantly looking in the mirror, in all one's interactions, trying to see if that definition fits.

God forgive her, that was an evil mean thing to do, to throw that word out to your child before she needed to hear it. My brother allegedly was never going to get past third grade, F., and he's now a high school junior. My mother resisted the label Retarded. We admit to learning issues, and reading troubles. We don't admit to the other one, we don't EXPECT it, we don't ANTICIPATE it, and we certainly don't expect our beloved child to own it and live down to it.

I have a pair of boxing gloves for you. They're velvet, but they have the nifty feature of turning your hands to steel. I hope you and Bede don't have to learn to hit, but they're nice gloves if you've got to.


Lone Star Ma said...

How incredibly rude and inappropriate of that woman. I will admit that when one works in helping professions there is a certain tendency to see the whole wide world as one big problem to be solved, but really. I think I might have punched her in the teeth. Or at least bared mine at her threateningly. I'm sorry that happened.

As the extremely quirky mother of two extremely quirky kids, I will say that I am a little leery of how quick our society is to diagnose things. My eldest has been in a school program for gifted children since the first grade and it as often occurred to me that the qualities her educators have smugly taught us proud parents to be the hallmarks of gifted children seem to be remarkably similar to the qualities that people say are the hallmarks of Asperger's Syndrome. Sometimes I wonder just how much of it all has to do with point of view. No one suggests the latter to us because we have had the magic wand of "gifted" sprinkled over us, but I think they might if we hadn't gotten that stamp in our booklet, so to speak. Instead they just say things like "wow, she really thinks out of the box, doesn't she?". Yep. She does.

Regardless, Lucia is a treasure of a child - so smart and sweet and creative. You and her father are clearly the most perfect, most wonderful parents she could ever have and I think your family is amazing and wonderful. So there.

Lone Star Ma said...

Did I say wonderful enough times? Here is one more: WONDERFUL.

Melangell said...

The most generous thing I could say is that this has given you the opportunity of thinking up satisfactory responses to people who are boorish in this way. However, I cannot really imagine that you will encounter another set of people who are boorish in this way!
Perhaps one could say, "Our doctor/specialist has warned us that there will be people who fancy that they know what is going on with this child. Unfortunately, they will not have the subtlety to understand her, but this doctor has asked us to be kind and forgiving of those who make misguided judgments."
Aaaargh. Frankly, if one were making snap judgments. I would guess that woman had a strong streak of Aspberger's herself. How I hate these labels, though they can be useful as shorthand.

Lone Star Ma said...

Your mother is funny.

Saints and Spinners said...

Tanita: I would surely like those boxing gloves. Thank you. Hurrah for your mom, your brother-- I love it when people surpass how others label them, but would prefer that they never be labeled to begin with.

LoneStarMa: I suspect that a lot of our "gifted" luminaries either have Asperger's or something that doesn't yet have a name but stands for fancy wiring of some sort. As a former member of the so-called Gifted and Talented program, I hate the "gifted" label because it implies that the children who aren't in the program don't have anything to offer. What a world it would be if we could all get what we need. Remember Understood Betsy (based on the teachings of Maria Montessori!) where the main character is in a schoolhouse where she is in different grades according to her subject needs? That was cool.

Melangell: One of the benefits of movie-mind is being able to craft clever responses in advance. Hindsight is most instructive, but it's probably best that we can't actually time-travel, or everyone would be so clever and scathing that we'd never LEARN anything from our setbacks. (Bah-humbug to all this learning.) LSM is right-- you are funny!

Thank you all for coming here and commenting.

rockmama said...

Someone who routinely works with children obviously should have FAR more tact in dealing with both kids and parents. I can't think of anything that would more quickly make me rip someone's head off than getting unsolicited advice regarding my child in a public place. Hope you were able to talk with Lucia afterward to explain this lady's unwarranted "advice"!

Beth Kephart said...

This chills me to the bone.

This is a horror.

This person should not be working with children.

I am sorry, I really am.

Lone Star Ma said...

Oh, yes, I love that book! And it is too true. We sent the LSG to the GT school because it was what all the schools should be like...

Saints and Spinners said...

Lucia has had a few questions since then. She's asked a number of times about autism and I've tried to explain it to her in such a way that she has enough age-appropriate information that's not too much information. I've talked the range of autism as a series of challenges to be worked with, not problems to overcome.

Thank you all for your words of support.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

That should never, never have happened. But what a lot of wonderful responses if it should happen again. Thinking of you and Bede and the lovely Lucia. Welcome home.

Vivian said...

This makes me so angry! I am so sorry you had to encounter this ignorant woman, who clearly should not be working with children.


The LIbrary Lady said...

No Boundaries sounds like an Asperger person herself. One of the hallmarks of it I have seen is a marked inability to understand what is and what isn't socially acceptable to discuss. I work periodically with someone with the syndrome and she does just that.

This woman shouldn't be working with any sort of child, let alone Asperger if she is that quick to make snap judgements and to freely offer her opinion to parents.

Sorry you, Bede and especially Lucia had to deal with this sort of a yahoo.

adrienne said...

Oh, boy. Trying to raise kids is difficult enough without people harassing you in airports. I wouldn't have known how to respond, either. Usually when people do unexpected things like this, I just blink at them for a while.

Saints and Spinners said...

It does give me a little more perspective if No Boundaries might indeed have Asperger's or something else on the autism spectrum. People dealing with something life-altering may be more aware of others dealing with similar situations. The more I reflect upon the interaction, the more I wonder if she represented her work accurately. She might work with autistic children, but I automatically assumed that she was a therapist. I don't know what her job actually is. To her credit, she was quite warm with Lucia and aside from the barrage of information no child should have had to deal with, spoke to her with respect and warmth. That's why I was so thrown off at first-- I had thought, "Cool, here's a stranger who gets my child right off the bat."

Anyway, I have a little more compassion now, even though No Boundaries did leave me holding the bag. I've been trying to give Lucia just enough information with the questions she asks. However, I don't have a lot of answers.

Anamaria (bookstogether) said...

You're very generous.

Lone Star Ma said...


Jules at 7-Imp said...

Oh good heavens. I mean, just....just...UGGH.

That Lady!

"All they could register was the sound of their own voices." Perfect way to put it. I don't like people who can't listen. And remember that there is always GIVE and take in conversations. Pooey on her.