My Bright Spot

I mentioned I have a new tutoring student.  She is in kindergarten and has developmental delays, both physical and otherwise.  A petite little thing, I need to hold her hand to climb the stairs to the tutoring room where I work.  She doesn’t often look me in the eyes unless I’ve told her she made a mistake or has a wrong answer, when she looks at me with eyebrow cocked, as if annoyed with me for not complying with her view of the way things are.  She often repeats nursery rhymes and facts she’s heard about random things, word-for-word, in that way I know so well from my own son.

She has a tube of some sort – I haven’t asked – and doesn’t take much food orally, so I brought stickers today for working hard for me.  She is whip smart, knows all of her letters, and their sounds, as well as many, many numbers.  We’ve been working a bit on adding (up to 5), and clapping syllables.  At some point today, she chose a sticker of a rhinoceros.  “The rhinoceros, ‘rhino’ for short, has a horn on his nose,” she recites.  “Rhinoceros!” I say,  “How many syllables?”

“Rhi-no-cer-os!” she says with a clap for each syllable, as I toss a foam block onto the table for each clap.  She smiles broadly as she sees the blocks splay out in front of her.  She taps each block as she repeats each syllable, “Rhi-no-cer-os!”  she says, victorious.  “How many?” I ask.  “One-two-three-four!” she replies, tapping each block again. “Four!” she exclaims, triumphant.

I am just as excited, happy that I am able to help her make a connection, giving her something concrete to hold on to while she tackles these abstract concepts.  She makes my day. 🙂



Words and Meaning

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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.

The R-Word, Again

Why am I writing about this again?  Because I’m still encountering the word, almost daily.  Granted I work with middle schoolers, but really?  Most of them know better than to say it, at least around me.  It’s the rest of the world that hasn’t gotten the clue, yet…

Here are the most common arguments I see on the internet, about why we special needs moms need to chill out about this:

  1. It’s just a word.  Yep, like the n-word, or any other label for any other minority in the country.  If it’s just a word, go into any urban area and start using these words, and then let’s see if it’s still “just a word”.
  2. Retarded is a medical term.  It is actually being replaced in the DMS-5, and is really still only used in insurance paperwork and research.  In fact the term “mental retardation” began to be used because the previous term used for the condition was deemed offensive.  This argument didn’t work for long back then, either.
  3. You are trying to be the word police, and I have First Amendment rights.  Go ahead and use the word, as long as you use it in job interviews, when you meet your girlfriend’s parents, when trying to get a bank loan, and any other time you want to put your best foot forward.  Huh, you say you don’t want to do that?  Then maybe that’s a clue that it’s a word that makes you look like you have a stunted vocabulary.
  4. It’s not really aimed at people with intellectual disabilities.  I would never say that term to someone’s face.  Well, that’s even better!  You would use it behind someone’s back.  Continue using it and wearing T-shirts with the word on it, so that I can steer clear of you.  If you censor yourself around certain people, who knows what you are saying about your friends behind their backs!
  5. It doesn’t really hurt anyone.  I can still remember being at a family Christmas right around the time when we finally got a diagnosis of autism for The Boy, and his uncle called him a “spaz”.  I felt like someone had punched me in the gut.  I was thankful that The Boy didn’t hear it, but words really do hurt.

Do you think the people who tweeted these disgusting, nasty things about Gabby Giffords were just using it as a slang term?

Gabby Giffords tweets

Do you want to be lumped in with them?  Because you will be.  Arguing that you aren’t using it “like that” won’t get you anywhere.  It’s time to drop the word from your vocabulary.  It’s a losing battle.

That Woman that Said that Word, and Why It’s Wrong


Words (Photo credit: sirwiseowl)

I wasn’t going to write about it, but I need to.  I’m not even going to put her name in this post, because she doesn’t deserve the attention, nor the notoriety.  She went there, she has used the r-word plenty of times, and refuses to apologize, because it’s a “colloquialism” that means “loser”.

Well. Of course, any rational being with an ounce of humanity would not call a person with an intellectual or developmental disability that word.

THAT IS NOT THE POINT.  THE POINT IS that that woman continues to give that word that meaning, by continuing to use it the way she does.  It would be like someone deciding that your name now means “jackhole”, and using it that way all the time.  Not to your face, of course, but as much as possible, and with everyone they know.  So now, your name is synonymous with the word “jackhole”.  But those people using your name like that?  They don’t mean to offend you, and they have a right to say it, because they have a right to free speech in this country.  How would that feel, woman?

THE POINT IS that if you do something, and it hurts someone, and they say to you, nicely, “Hey, could you stop doing that?  It hurts me,”  any rational being with an ounce of humanity will say, “Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry.  I didn’t mean to hurt you!”

But she didn’t say that.  She said somethig along the lines of “Nah nah nah boo-boo, stick your face in doo doo,” because that’s the classy kind of gal she is.

Ergo, that woman that said that word is not a rational being, and is without an ounce of humanity.  Do I hear a new slang term coming on?…