I’ve joined an autism society group in our community, and made quick friends of the few that are the do-ers (every group has a few people who do everything, while the majority… well, don’t). Recently we had a “support group” meeting, which has been more like a friendly get-together at someone’s house, and we also set up a group Halloween event so the kids could trick or treat in a friendly neighborhood.
These were the first encounters I had with one particular mom, who has a teenage daughter on the spectrum. The daughter is incredibly sweet, but is overly demonstrative, which can make people uncomfortable. Her mom reminded her that shaking hands is more appropriate than hugging people when you first meet them, but she continued to hug everyone, multiple times. No big deal here, and it cam off as rather sweet.
Mom, however, also veered into inappropriateness at the meeting, describing her daughter’s voice as screeching and unbearable, and voicing many times how she would just like to get away from her. Now these are things we all may have thought at one point to ourselves, but not voiced aloud. In any case, I worried for her while she rubbed others the wrong way that evening.
On Halloween night, things took a turn for the worse. The daughter attempted to hug every person who gave her candy that evening, leaving the dads from the group (who had volunteered to take all of the kids out) at a loss for what to do, surreptitiously calling and texting their wives for advice. The mom who had stayed behind with the other moms was oblivious, I think. A group of kids (her daughter included) returned to hang out inside the house, while the moms continued to hang out on the porch, chatting and passing out candy. While the daughter continued her inappropriate displays of affection, now centered on an 8th grade boy on the spectrum inside the house, the mom continued to make her bizarre and inappropriate statements on the porch. At one point, the daughter went to change clothes, but found the car locked. She called to her mom that the car was locked, and her mom yelled back for her to “come get the damn keys.”
The mom who was hosting us that night took note of that exchange, and also took note of the PDA happening in the house, because the 8th grader happened to be her son, and finally pulled the mom into the kitchen to discuss the behaviors we had all witnessed. I’m not sure what happened in its entirety, but I know she did it with tact and care. I believe the mom and the daughter left shortly after that.
Here’s where I get uncomfortable. I completely support the hosting mom’s actions. To ignore the behaviors would not help anyone. And I firmly believe she did it in the right way. But this mom clearly needs help and support, for her daughter’s sake if not for her own. A mom voicing thoughts like that is very near a breaking point, I believe, and maybe it’s not within the realm of this group to help someone that has reached that point. But maybe it is. Maybe we do a disservice to her and those like her by being so informal in our approach, by assuming friendship with everyone. We shouldn’t have to like her to help her.
What do you think?