Sharing recipes, crafts and frugal living, the challenges and triumphs of parenting a neurotypical child and a child on the Autism Spectrum. Yoga Instructor said goodbye to her nightly glass of Chardonnay to give up habits that were not serving her purpose in life! The CocktailMom name remains, however with a new focus on healthy and authentic living.


The labels don't fit

I just recently met a recess monitor at Logan's school and when she learned I was Logan's mom I got that"OH!, that kid!" eyes wide, eyebrows raised.

The other women standing there at that moment most likely didn't notice but I sure did. It's not the first time I've gotten that look. After the moment has passed and the playground is clear of kids those 5 seconds of my day lurches in my stomach.

Logan is THAT kid for most of the workers who have no idea he has an IEP and what is on it, they have no idea that he is on the Autism Spectrum. To them I'm sure he's labeled "strange", "weird", "difficult"...I could go on and on for I've been there as women on the playground talk/gossip about another child who happens to fit those labels too. Not knowing as they look on at my Nuero-typical child, Zane, that I have another child just like the one they are all talking about. I know now what has to happen and I wish I thought of this at the beginning of the school year, but alas I didn't. I need to write a short letter to each person in the school who deals with Logan. A cliff note version of how to interact with someone on the Autism Spectrum because it's very clear they have never dealt with a child on the spectrum nor is the school training them in these areas. Ha! That's laughable because the county won't even train the teachers who know Logan's IEP!

I was actually hesitant on doing this at the beginning of the school year because I don't want Logan to be known as the "autistic kid" in his school. I don't want the autism to be how they only see him. Clearly we live in an environment where people are not as open minded as we first perceived. Instead of thinking that Logan is interesting because he does things differently, he is only observed by how different he is and to them that means he's being defiant.

Oh moments like these make my heart ache for Seattle. In Seattle, as I'm sure many other cities on the left coast, people raise their families differently. In Seattle it isn't uncommon to find yourself in a room full of breast feeding, attachment parenting, family bed sharing mamas and papas. It's funny that I know those things would also get the "weird" label here in Greenbelt, if one of the kids in Logan's kindergarten class drew a picture of sharing a bed with his parents I have no doubt that an eyebrow would be raised and a conference with the parents would be made thinking the worst.

It's so sad that the child who beats everyone up on the playground is more accepted by the adults then my kid who sits off to the side of the other kids and plays in the dirt. Or throws himself on the ground or into people over and over again. (this is a clear sign of being over stimulated in his environment.)
It just breaks my heart that this is the mentality here...maybe I'm not an east coaster after all. Or maybe I just need a different city.
( the picture is Logan being over stimulated in a crowd at Mt Vernon)


Jen said...

Yeah... I was there and I saw that face. I'm sorry. You are right, though. You don't want the label, but you want the sensitivity that the label requires. Frankly, I don't think the schools here value anything that is outside of their neat little, standardized-test-taking box. (I long for the teaching environments I worked in in CA... they were pretty great!)The schools should be responsible for creating that climate. Instead, teachers (and support staff!)are taught to create little machines and unless they have some sensitivity of their own Logan becomes "that" child. You are doing a great job, Gretchen!

Dannielle said...

Crikes! You mean I'm not supposed to have my children in my bed with me and I shouldn't have breast fed either one of them, even though both acts show how much I adore and care for my children to give them the best nutrition and most comfort and safety during the scariest times of their lives? Maybe we should all protest and move to Seattle! I've always wanted to see that place anyway.

I'm sorry you got "that look." I know how heart wrenching it can be. But you are one of the best moms I have ever met, and I know that you'll take that look and do something positive with it that will enlighten and touch at least one other person in this world!

Anonymous said...

Can't leave a lone note, just know people are behind you and you have a huge support staff.
But do do do write a note for mom's and others. You know it is so easy to label and point fingers to things that are unknown and scary. But when a person you know is part of the scary thing the walls come down. As you know most mom's don't mean to be mean and judgemental they just don't understand and don't know how to deal with a different situation. Please be the person who puts the hand out and helps others. I know it suck to be perfect, but show others the way!! :>
Thinking of you and yours,
PS Fiona wrote Zane a V day card. She wants to send it in the mail to him.

Gretchen said...

Thank you Dani and Jenn. It's nice to have you ladies in my cheering section.

Anonymous said...

Hi Gretchen,
I, too, think you are doing a great job with your kids. It's horrifying not having the support from the schools though. If it's any consolation, my friend Donna in Herndon, has similar issues with her children's teachers, especially those educating her youngest one. What do they learn in those education classes they need for certification? And don't they have the imagination or initiative to read up on what a special needs child placed in their classroom might need.
My heart goes out to you and Logan.

Gretchen said...

Thank you all! Your words mean so much to me and on the days that are low moments like this, you all remind me to pick myself up, dust myself off and start fresh. thank you!

morninglight mama said...

Oh, this just sucks. In JAM's first year, we found out the hard way that no one but his classroom teacher had access to all the info that we had provided about his ADHD diagnosis-- this was pre-504 plan-- and we had to give permission for the music teacher to read it, since he was having issues and no one bothered to tell her about him. This year we had to give permission for his 504 plan to be shared with the other adult who was in the room (as an aide to one particular student, but also solely in charge of all transitions, lunch and recess-- you know, the exact times that a child with self-regulation issues would find the MOST challenging!!), because she clearly had no clue about how to deal with him when he was emotionally charged or having difficulty switching mindsets from one environment to another. I have found that I've had to really spoon-feed the school on best practices for him... and that's just not right. There's definitely a box that they want students to fit into-- and when one doesn't, no one knows what to do.

I'm so sorry you got that look-- I've been on the receiving end of that as well, and it is simply heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Yes Gretchen, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go full steam on educating the teachers, aide or whoever has contact with Logan. Show them what a wonderful, bright child you have. They just need to be educated too. It is all a learning thing and you and Jon have learned a lot. Too bad the rest of the world hasn't followed.


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