Shoul I Prep, or Just Let This Happen?

If you’re visiting a friend or child with a handicap that is noticeable but not necessarily something that will bother your kids, do you bring it up?

I blew this a few weeks ago, when we went to see a family member who is being treated for cancer. I thought she’d wear a wig, and that the kids wouldn’t notice, and I didn’t want them to pester her with a lot of questions. Instead, she had a little soft cover on her head, and that provoked immediate curiousity. What was it? Why did she have it? Where was her hair? Oops.

Over the holidays we’ll be visiting at least one friend with a child who is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. My first thought is that there is no reason to mention it. My kids are young enough to be accepting of a pretty high level of weirdnesses and I bet it’s completely irrelevant to them. They will play with other kids in whatever way they want to be played with, or not. One also has a hearing aid, and I’m not going to bring that up unless/until asked. I figure, then it’s all just well within the realm of normal.

But research on other differences, like race, suggests that not talking about it directly teaches kids not that it’s so ordinary that there is no reason to mention it, but that you’re not supposed to mention it. That’s not the goal at all. I just don’t want them to go into things with any preconceived ideas provided by me. I want them to take the kids on their own terms. I’m more than willing to talk about it, but I thought I’d wait and see if they even see a difference worth mentioning. Good idea, or hopelessly idealistic bad call?

5 Responses to “Shoul I Prep, or Just Let This Happen?”

  1. In this kind of situation, I would give the older kids a head’s up. I always use the “Some people’s brains work a little different, so they might not be able to tell if you are getting annoyed.” thing. That way, it preempts the annoyed responses to repetitive or slightly “off” behavior before my kids get so irritated they start to shun the kid. It also acknowledges they might get annoyed, but hopefully they will respond with compassion rather than exclusion. Also, then you aren’t in the awkward situation of needing to explain about kid’s brains while the kid with the brain in question (and likely his parents) is right in front of you. Then when they come to complain about the kid, you can just whisper “remember what I told you before?”

  2. Jerusha says:

    “I just don’t want them to go into things with any preconceived ideas provided by me. I want them to take the kids on their own terms. I’m more than willing to talk about it, but I thought I’d wait and see if they even see a difference worth mentioning.”–This is how I’d approach it for now, right, wrong or otherwise.

  3. slawebb says:

    another thing you could do is ask the parents about it. Ask what they would suggest on how to handle it and whether or not to give your kids a heads up on it. I know if it was me, I would appreciate someone coming to me and asking how they should approach it with their kids if they weren’t sure.

  4. paula says:

    The Autism spectrum encompasses such a range of behaviors, I would talk to the parents and base what I tell the kids on that. One of the students when I worked in our town’s ASD program gets in people’s faces and screams loud and shrill. If a kid’s got behaviors like that, I think its only fair to give the other kids some warning. One of my students (has Autism as well as other issues) will grab your hair and yank if it’s within reach. My niece is on the spectrum and would never think of screaming at someone or grabbing them unless she’s in the midst of a tantrum.

  5. KJ (aka Lola Granola) says:

    We haven’t seen them in a while, but I think I’m safe in letting it roll–but you know, the more I think about it, the more I think maybe a little notice might be good…I don’t know. The thing is, they have plenty of DEEPLY ANNOYING, but not, as far as I know, diagnosed with anything friends and fellow students, and never say a thing to them or seem to notice (as I do) that one child is more thoughtless or more obsessive or more anything else than another. You know, it may be because as I come to think of it, they’ve been through such a range of behavior with Rory (which I’d forgotten) and Rory herself remains largely oblivious to other children’s behavior in any way. I don’t want to compare her to a child with developmental difficulties, or make light of what that’s like for a parent and kid. I’m just saying that actually, they’re in a position to consider some pretty odd stuff just another day in the park.

    I don’t know. I’m still thinking. (And I do like “ask the parents!” Yeah, that would be a good call.)

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