On the heels of “Spread the Word to End the Word” Day, we are struggling with offensive words and their meanings in our own home. We went through this awhile ago, when The Boy wrote down every single bad word he had ever heard, and wow, there were quite a few. It took a numbered list form, and thereafter he would refer to each word by their number (“Mom! That man said #11!!”). He had a classmate a few years ago, also on the spectrum, who had a hard time not using these words, and they sort of “rubbed off” on The Boy. He even ended up creating a few made-up curse words, adding them to “the list”, and then he really confused me. He began to use them in the correct context, using a made-up curse word when angry, but it wasn’t really a curse word, so does that deserve a consequence?? My head was spinning… This lasted for quite awhile, but like all obsessions, petered out.
Nowadays, I’m not sure if he says one from time to time to test the waters, to see how bad they really are. I’m not sure if he doesn’t always remember what’s what, although he is much too clever for that, I think. So I really don’t know why he chose to use the n-word the other day. He claimed to have seen it on a YouTube video, and was reciting a line that he had heard, thinking it was funny. It’s quite possible. But he also somehow knew that it was inappropriate to say, because he anticipated getting in trouble for saying it (which he didn’t, but more on that later). There is a disconnect somewhere in there about bad words, knowing he shouldn’t say them, but still saying them and I just can’t wrap my brain around it.
The other part of this equation, is that The Boy doesn’t realize when he is “talking back”. He is such a good mimic, that I think he has picked up “giving attitude” this way. But he doesn’t know enough to identify when he is doing it himself, because when I call him on “using that tone of voice”, or “talking to me that way”, he has no clue what I’m talking about, and thinks he has said a bad word to make me angry.
Most upsetting to him in all of this is being certain that he has gotten in trouble, and that he will lose friends because he used that word. He sets himself off in a self-judging spiral that will last several days, repeating that he needs me to write him a social story, that if he says it again, he will not be able to go to the computer lab, and whatever other punishment he can come up with that he deserves, because clearly, he thinks he does deserve it. All of us adults are just scratching our heads trying to figure out how to talk to him about it so he will understand.