After arguing with my 12-year old daughter E who has autism of the high-functioning variety, she shouted out, “You have to be nice to me because I have a disability!” I stared at her in disbelief. I wondered who ever spoke these words to her and how she came to the conclusion that because she’s in the multiple disability program that she’s more “special” than other children and not culpable for misdeeds.
This exchange stemmed from her and her brother J’s fight at our local pool and me attempting to break up the argument by VERY LOUDLY telling them to get out of the pool and sit quietly in their chairs while I decided their fate. One kid grabbed the other’s shirt, and the retaliator pushed the original culprit into the pool. I decided to leave the pool, and thus created more problems than we started with.
E doesn’t accept punishment of any kind lightly – she argues, back talks, yells, ripping and crumpling up any nearby paper. Better hope $100 bills aren’t lying around! Although I know a portion of this is good, old-fashioned pre-pubescent girl behavior, it’s further compounded by the flavors of autism.
One time at her special needs cheerleading practice, I innocently asked if girls with autism and other similar disabilities went through puberty in the same manner as neurotypical girls. Groans echoed throughout the snack bar where we perched on picnic tables while practice took place. Then the tales of woe and frustration about sassy behavior and disagreements spewed out. My mouth hung open in dismay and surprise at the torrent of horror stories. I thought I’d get a free pass from this!
Believe me, I remember being a pre-teen girl and the fights with my mom, complete with slamming doors, and thinking she was unfair and uncool. The B initial for my name could stand for back talk (my husband would probably agree). How I never realized that disabilities could eliminate hormonal changes and the usual nonsense that teens put their parents through is anybody’s guess. I suppose I assumed that with a developmental disability, the development we all know as puberty is null and void. Another one of nature’s jokes!
However, as parents, B and I have never excused typical “bad” behavior from either one of our kids as acceptable and try to address it as such. If E does something she’s not supposed to or doesn’t do something she’s supposed to do, she’s reprimanded like any other child. Maybe if she harbored more severe issues, we would lessen the sentence, especially if she did not understand the crime.
But I’ve seen E in action. She’ll get that maddening gleam in her angelic blue eyes, pout her lips, and loudly shout “No!!!” and point her finger at you, bony and menacing like a witch, inches from your face, when she wants to do something she knows we disapprove of or continues a behavior we already informed her was wrong, inappropriate or obnoxious. And she’s learned quite well how to slam a door hard enough to bust the hinges. Like mother, like daughter. More than one threat of removing said door has bellowed from my husband B.
When hearing E’s flimsy defense that she deserved special treatment, not punishment, for her offenses due to her disability, I couldn’t help being stunned yet also amused. Despite her troubles, she really displayed how typical she really is. Just like any other kid, she found a clever way to deflect the possibility of a punishment with an excuse. Gotta admire her pre-teen spirit!
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by M.B. Sanok, who can also be found at her Blog, Maple Brown Sugar.