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Out of the Mouths of Babes

By Steve Fox

The questions and comments usually come out of nowhere. I’m rarely ready for them.
As the father of two daughters, aged 9 and 6, I’m beginning to realize I seriously have to work on my game face. They say that nine is the new 11 or 12 or 16 – whatever it is, it’s not good for the future of my hair. I expect most of my hair will either fall out or be pulled out by the time they enter high school.

My hair has been slowly thinning but I lost a large clump on a recent weekend afternoon. My wife and I were relaxing in the living room when 9-year-old slowly idled up to ask: “When I’m older, can I have sex with my boyfriend in the bathtub?”

As I went pale, my head went into my hands and I tried to go quickly to my happy place. This was not a question I was prepared to deal with, well, ya know, ever. But, at the age of 9? Seriously? C’mon, she was born like, yesterday!

As my daughter sat there, studying my every move, my mind went blank. I’ve been a journalist for more than 20 years. I now teach journalism full-time and students often hit me with questions out of nowhere. I’ve become fairly adept at developing quick, coherent answers on the fly. But this is a completely new arena for me. I was caught completely flat-footed.

A few weeks later, my 9-year-old hit me with another of my favorite subjects – body piercings. She asked whether she could pierce her tongue and/or her bellybutton. Turns out the babysitter from the previous weekend has a pierced bellybutton which she showed the girls. (Note to self: Future babysitters get a script of answers on such subjects. One suggested answer: “Why, yes, the nunnery is a fine career option.”)
I was a little more adept at speaking to the body piercings question since I have a deep passion against tattoos and body piercings. Yes, I actually said that if God wanted us to have such things, we would have been born with them.

Still, it was another head-spinning moment.

What makes it all the more confusing is that my daughter has been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Our days with her are often dominated by mood swings involving moments of 9-year-old cuteness, followed quickly by loud, violent outbursts. We’ve become more adept at recognizing sensory issues that might set her off but often we feel like our life is a balancing act where we veer from crisis to crisis.

In a way the ‘sex in the bathtub’ and ‘body piercings’ moments were brief respites from the daily roller-coaster of emotions. There was a moment of young innocence where we saw what we like to describe as a brief glimpse of the ‘old’ version of my daughter.
Still, these are questions I thought would not come until later – much later. I keep telling my son that he has to grow very large so that he can intimidate his sisters’ boyfriends. He better hurry up. They definitely grow up fast.

In the end, my wife, the attorney, bailed me out of the ‘sex in the bathtub’ mind freeze. She doesn’t faze easily and quickly responded with “you can do whatever you want when you’re married.”

So, yeah. Sex and marriage discussions at the age of nine. They left this out of the ‘Dad Handbook.’ Good times.

Steve Fox is a former longtime washingtonpost.com editor who now teaches at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He has three children.

By Stacey Garfinkle |  August 3, 2009; 7:00 AM ET  | Category:  Dads , Guest Blogs
Previous: Are We That Dumb? | Next: Keeping Our Mouths Shut

Comments


I asked a nun at schoool what adultery was, I got hit.

I asked my father what circumcision was, I was sent from the table.

I started to use the dictionary. A lot.

Posted by: jezebel3 | August 3, 2009 7:33 AM | Report abuse

we're just hoping to create an environment where the little girl will feel comfortable asking those kinds of questions.

those topics were not discussed in our home growing up. so i was left to figure out these things from my neighborhood friends. ugh.

as much as i would like to run away when those questions start, i'm going to fight through the agony and have CONVERSATIONS with my daughter about anything she'd like to discuss.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 3, 2009 8:44 AM | Report abuse

The bottom line: As parents it's our job to listen to our children and to be fully engaged. One of those obligations involves being aware of influences from peers, baby sitters, teachers, mass media. This column reminded me of the movie "Thirteen," which I turned off after the first 20 minutes. If something redeeming happened, please let me know. I don't want to be snarky, but since you've put her out there in a column, I have to say, I don't think I would want your 9-year-old playing with my 10-year-old. Yes, they all grow up. And at the age of 30 everything probably evens out. I just find childhood too precious to be squandered.

Posted by: davemarks | August 3, 2009 8:58 AM | Report abuse

davemarks -
One of the hallmarks of Asbergers is "making inappropriate comments due to not knowing better and not understanding social conventions." If your 10 year old has a friend with Asbergers who makes inappropriate comments, you explain to your kid that folks with Asbergers have a particular difficulty and we should all be a little tolerant.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61 | August 3, 2009 9:44 AM | Report abuse

Why did you freeze? She asked a question. Just answer it. It was a perfect opportunity to just say "no, that's not a good idea".

Posted by: peonymom | August 3, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

It's Asperger's syndrome, not Asberger's.
I work with a man who has this ... he's 45 going on 14. A case of arrested development. He has no tactfulness when associating with other people, but we're tolerant of him; he has limited obsessive interests. I blame it on his parents for not teaching him better, but I suppose you just give rude behaviour a name and it's OK.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 3, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Just answer it. It was a perfect opportunity to just say "no, that's not a good idea".

Posted by: peonymom | August 3, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse


well, isn't that the hard part of these conversations? i'm not a fan of lying to my kids. ('cause imo having sex in the bathtub is a ton of fun)

so it opens the door the whole long conversation about sex and age and self-respect and expectations.

i would much rather endure the painful conversation than give my kid the brush-off.

Posted by: interestingidea1234 | August 3, 2009 10:01 AM | Report abuse

Baltimore11, folks with Asperger's aren't being rude. They simply don't have an ability to filter what they say. Quite often, someone with Asperger's may as a question that seems blunt and rude, or may make a statement that seems to be confrontational. However, to the Asperger mind-set, a question is NEVER rude. It is simply viewed as a request for information. They don't want to be rude; they simply want to know an answer, so they ask someone that, in their mind, would know and be able to provide information. Likewise, if in a conversation you say something that can be refuted with factual information, a person with Asperger's will simply spit out the factual information, without thinking of how you will perceive it. They don't see it as rude, or even correcting someone to try to "score points." They simply see it as sharing information. Most people with Asperger's are quite bright, especially in their areas of "fixation." They often test quite high in both basic IQ and in standardized testing situations in school. However, they don't understand social interaction at all, and often are thought of as less intelligent because they don't understand social cues. If you put them in a setting where they don't have to interact with others much, they excel...if you watch "Bones" think of the early episodes with Dr. Brennan...If I'd been asked, I would have thought her borderline Asperger's.

I know all of this because I have an 11-year-old with Asperger's. She got into huge amounts of trouble, starting in kindergarten, for "correcting" others (this was pre-diagnosis). The final straw came when the teacher was going over sounds phonetically and the teacher said "T says Tuh." And OrganicKid said "No it doesn't, because you don't say Po-Tuh-a-Tuh-O." Got sent from the classroom, and I got a call telling me the teacher didn't want her back again, because she was tired of a 5 year old "Showing her up" (her words, not mine). Now, at 11, I do get exasperated with her, because on top of her problems with social interactions, she's hitting puberty, with all the attendant eye-rolling, and pushing Mom away to seek independence. But she still says things in her no-nonsense way, and perceives the world in a fact-based, scientific way. And I appreciate it. She doesn't have a Bullstuff detector, but at the same time, she never gives me a line of Bullstuff. It's sometimes refreshing to be around someone who says exactly what they think, and lets you know exactly where you stand, without having to deal with all the Bullstuff that we call "social niceties."

Posted by: OrganicGal1 | August 3, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

Organic girl I loved your post-- what happened with the teacher? Seems like the problem was with her, not your daughter. For the benefit of all the kids in the classroom, not just your daughter I hope she was either fired or re-educated about the job of a teacher.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I have asperger's myself, because I don't see anything wrong with what Organicgirls' daughter said in her kindergarten class. Isn't questioning the teacher part of the student's job? How else is she going to learn? And anyway, the little girl was right.

Posted by: floof | August 3, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Seems like the problem was with her, not your daughter. For the benefit of all the kids in the classroom, not just your daughter I hope she was either fired or re-educated about the job of a teacher.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009 10:35 AM
-------------------------------------------
Also, why should the teacher be fired for sending the 5 year old out the classroom? Seems like to me this was not the first instance the 5 year old got smart/sassy based on poster's comment on how the teacher was tired of the 5 year old "showing her up."

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 3, 2009 10:59 AM | Report abuse

I thought this article was funny. We've starting getting all sorts of deep questions from our five year old.

Natural conversations about these things are simply not always possible. Our daughter usually has these questions at the worst possible times- when her brother is screaming, and you're trying to drive, etc. My goal is that whatever info I give her, the more important thing is to not seem angry or like I am unwilling to talk about difficult topics.

So, in a real pinch, I'll put her off for a couple hours so that I can think about a good response and focus on answering her question. This might not be ideal, but for me it is better than turning beet red and barking out something that doesn't reflect how I really feel.

Posted by: michelleg1 | August 3, 2009 11:01 AM | Report abuse

Ugh, the undertone of sexism in this post is pretty off-putting. It's your son's job to keep boys away from your daughters? If your son had asked about sex in the bathtub with his girlfriend, I'm guessing he'd get a wink and a "Not until you're older."

Ignoring the gender issues, I think the best method is to say (in a neutral tone of voice) "Why are you asking that?" It gives you a little time to recover, and it provides a window into the kid's thought process, which helps you craft your response. Then just say whatever is true based on your beliefs, whether it's a breakdown of the relative merits of bathtub sex, a lecture on how there should be no sex before marriage, or informing them that they're too young to handle that kind of discussion.

Posted by: hbc1 | August 3, 2009 11:09 AM | Report abuse

What you call 'social niceties' include diplomacy, tact, courtesy and consideration. No civilized society can exist without these things. Aspergers people lack these niceties and tend to embarrass those around them. It's better to teach them as soon as possible not to embarrass or contradict people around them, especially their elders. It might be 'cute' when they're 5 but intolerable when they are older. It's not a physical problem, it's purely a socialization problem and it's the parents' job to socialize them. Asperger's people also lack a sense of humor -- something I find boring as hell.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 3, 2009 11:13 AM | Report abuse

"you explain to your kid that folks with Asbergers have a particular difficulty and we should all be a little tolerant.

Posted by: GroovisMaximus61"

But the issue here IMO isn't Asperger's related. Where did she get the question in the first place? It isn't just about whether a question is "appropriate" or not, but why a child that age would ask THAT particular question about sex. And I'm not being a prude here, I had LOTS of sex thoughts at 9 myself but they were much more vague...

Perhaps the babysitter is telling them more than just piercing info, or watching inappropriate stuff in front of them?

Posted by: cellenh | August 3, 2009 11:19 AM | Report abuse

Oh- and my thought about the teacher is that I don't know if she should be fired, but she absolutely should have handled the situation differently.

Punishing a kid for knowing more than the teacher sends a terrible message to all the kids in the class.

If the kid's behavior is that frustrating, a teacher should have already been talking to the parents and the principal about how interrupting, or constant correcting is disruptive to the class learning environment.

The teacher might have shown some initiative in seeking support and ideas about how to maistream a child with social issues.


Posted by: michelleg1 | August 3, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

Mr. Fox, age-appropriate human sexuality education is most effective when it is addressed throughout all stages of childhood. Just as you teach your child to count, then do arithmetic, then multiplication & division, then fractions, then algebra, etc., you teach your child about sexuality throughout their life. Would you deny your children the opportunity to learn about numbers until they are 16, then expect them to understand trigonometry? It's no big deal if your kid doesn't become a mathematician, but not understanding sexuality can have devastating effects: teen pregnancy, STI's, & death. There's also strong evidence that comprehensive sexuality education may prevent sexual assault, by identifying appropriate and inappropriate behavior, while arming adolescents with facts, not gossip. I taught 6th grade, and was able to read the questions that arose during Family Life. It was amazing how much misinformed these kids were. The horrific part was that the school district only allowed abstinence-only education, so these questions were never answered. By the end of 7th grade, 3 of these students were pregnant.

I will reiterate what an earlier poser asked, "why do you ask," is the most appropriate response. It allows you to formulate your answer based on her actual intention of asking you the question.

Additionally, when your child is diagnosed with a disorder, it's probably a good idea to educate yourself about it. Especially how it's spelled.

Posted by: MzFitz | August 3, 2009 11:27 AM | Report abuse

Like all children, Asperger's children see things, process them for awhile, and then ask what seem like out-of-the-blue questions. Those questions catch you off guard. I've taught at least a dozen children identified Asperger's, and the key is what hbc1 said--ask "Why are you asking (doing) that?" in a neutral tone. The questions or actions make usually make sense after you know the why. It also buys a little time to come up with an appropriate answer to an uncomfortable question.
The piercings and tattoos--probably babysitter. The bathtub/sex question--Cialas commercial, possibly?

Posted by: inthetrenches1 | August 3, 2009 11:32 AM | Report abuse

I think my first reaction to the "Sex in the bathtub" question would have to be "Where did that come from?" I think that once you know the source of the question, you can better address the actual situation (because it may not be even necessary to answer that first question.)

Posted by: sighnyc | August 3, 2009 11:35 AM | Report abuse

Tallies are in for the month of July!

But I'm too lazy to post them right now. It's Monday, ya know.

Posted by: BlogStats | August 3, 2009 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for all the comments regarding OrganicKid's 5-year-old self! No, the teacher wasn't fired, and after a good, long conference, we decided, with the school, to change teachers. But it finally came out how often this sort of thing was happening, and we started the testing procedures to find out she did have Asperger's. Not to disparage older teachers, but the teacher who sent her out was in her last year of teaching before retirement, and much of the conference included the phrase "I just don't understand kids these days" from her.

Baltimore11, I agree with your second post about "social niceties," I've often said that diplomacy is the grease on the axis that the world goes 'round on (and yes, I know there's way too many prepositions in that phrase). Since OrganicKid's diagnosis, we've been working with her on proper social interaction, developing social stories and role-playing on how to interact, to help teach her how to see things from other people's point of view. So, yes, we are working with her to understand appropriate social behavior. It's difficult, because she simply doesn't understand WHY people can't just accept the facts as the facts, and she doesn't understand why her providing factual information is considered rude. For her to bite her tongue, or to couch information in a diplomatic way is, in her perception, a waste of time. But she's learning. It's slow, and sometimes painful. And I'm relieved that she wants to pursue a career in the hard sciences (most recently it's marine biology, specifically shark mating behavior research...yeah, she's 11, and she's that specific), and may not need to interact much with folks that need to be treated with diplomatic kid gloves.

And not all people Asperger's lack a sense of humor. Like all other autism-spectrum disorders, it's a scale. OrganicKid has, fortunately, a more mild form, and has a GREAT sense of humor; many of the other young people I know with Asperger's have good senses of humor. Perhaps the people you know without one simply would not have senses of humor even if they did not have Asperger's.

Posted by: OrganicGal1 | August 3, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse

I have a young cousin with Asperger's. We were hanging out this weekend and he asked when people normally get married. I said, well sometimes people get married when they are younger like 18, and sometimes when they are older. He then proceeded to tell me that my girlfriend and I should get married. "It's now or never", he said. Yes, my girlfriend was there. Good times.

He's pretty much right.

I think I would be wondering about the sex in the bathtub thing (did the kid see it or hear about it?) moreso than the question...kids hear things and are curious, Asperger's or not.

Posted by: moo21 | August 3, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I agree with others that often asking questions back is the best way to respond to a question like that. First, it buys time. Second, it opens the door for a real discussion. Third, you may be reading more into the question than is actually there. My four year old will often use terms or phrases, sounding like he knows exactly what they mean, when actually he doesn't. So asking him questions about his questions can help me figure out what he's really asking, so I can answer more appropriately. Things like "Why do you ask," "where did you learn about that," "what do you think, does it sound like a good idea to you?" etc can help bring out his own views and ideas for a more sincere discussion.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 3, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

"Also, why should the teacher be fired for sending the 5 year old out the classroom? Seems like to me this was not the first instance the 5 year old got smart/sassy based on poster's comment on how the teacher was tired of the 5 year old "showing her up." "

I don't know if she should have been fired, but she needed some re-instruction. First of all, the teacher obviously doesn't have a handle on phonics, if she's teaching the kids that "T" sounds like "TUH". Second, she should be able to handle a child questioning her without having a tantrum about being "shown up."

Posted by: floof | August 3, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I am in agreement with the others - "Why do you ask?" is a great answer to any question your child will ask you. You will find out far more from that question than the child will from the answer you give, which, nearly certainly, will not be the answer to the question s/he asked. Kids ask questions because sometimes they don't understand the words they hear. I'm not really sure the question this 9yo asked had anything to do with the fact she has Asperger's than the fact she heard it somewhere. Few 9yo children have that filter at that age and none should with their parents.

Posted by: Stormy1 | August 3, 2009 11:58 AM | Report abuse

Babysitting for my little sister, I was often the recipient of some of her more...uncomfortable questions. Even when I knew the answer and why she was asking it was sometimes hard to come up with something. My dad told me that I either had to stop watching commercial TV with her or answer the questions - defering to a parent who wasn't in the was not an option. He also told me that his philosophy was to answer the exact question asked and any follow ups but not to give out excess information when the topic wasn't really age appropriate. By following his advice I was able to tailor my answer to what she was really interested in without subjecting her six year old mind to my sixteen year old knowlege of all things "grown up".

The hardest question she ever asked was why I drank at all in college. She was ten, I was twenty. She probably wasn't supposed to know that I had, but once the cat's out of the bag...

Posted by: crayolasunset | August 3, 2009 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Actually maybe I am in the minority, I do think it is good that she feels that open to ask her parents questions. I would always want an open, honest, and on going conversation about sex and sexuality with my children.

As far as Aspergers goes, it is hard to say if that played into her questioning. You probably had to be there and know more about this particular kid to make the diagonsis.

As far as OrganicKid goes, I actually don't think she was being rude at all. But you would have to be there to make a final determination. Teachers tend to have a lot of problems with kids that know more than they do. That is why it is very hard to teach extremely bright children.

Posted by: foamgnome | August 3, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

I don't know if she should have been fired, but she needed some re-instruction. First of all, the teacher obviously doesn't have a handle on phonics, if she's teaching the kids that "T" sounds like "TUH". Second, she should be able to handle a child questioning her without having a tantrum about being "shown up."
-------------------------------------------
The teacher needed to brush up on her skills. The student needed to stop being a smart aleck. Since it didn't seem like it was the first time it happened, teacher did the right thing by sending her out of the class.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 3, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I suppose it's all in the delivery, but I don't see questioning the proposition that "t" makes "tuh" as being a smart aleck. The kid gave an example of why she thought it was wrong, and it sounds like a pretty good example at that. Based on the 4 through 6 year olds I've met, it doesn't seem that unusual.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 3, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Off Topic - Off Topic - Off Topic

Aspergers (and other autism spectrum disorders) are at least partially due to differences in the brain. The part of the amygdala that handles faces, and recognizes emotions from facial expressions. Social skills start in that part of the brain. In autistic disorders that part is often smaller, and/or the cells are immature (fetal brain cells that never mature), and in the most severe individuals with autism, that part of the brain may be completely missing.

We wouldn't ask kids with color blindness to use red and green colors (crayons, flash cards, etc.) and expect them to "learn their colors" from the exercise - right? A color-blind kid *can't* learn colors, because they can't see them.

So, why is it that so many people seem to expect kids with a different neurological disorder, an autism spectrum disorder, to "learn social niceties" that they simply don't have the capacity for? It makes no more sense than the colorblind example.

Posted by: SueMc | August 3, 2009 1:19 PM | Report abuse

Yeah. But the teacher has had this problem before (going by what poster said about the teacher being tired of that happening) and I'm sure she addressed it to the 5 year old student. So at that point, the 5 year old is just acting up.
If I tell my 5 1/2 year old more than once not to say, correct her grandparents pronounciation [English not being their native language] and she continues to do so, that's disciplinary issues at hand.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 3, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Editor's note: Thanks, MzFitz. Asperger's typo has been corrected.

Posted by: Nancy_Kerr | August 3, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

"But the teacher has had this problem before (going by what poster said about the teacher being tired of that happening) and I'm sure she addressed it to the 5 year old student. So at that point, the 5 year old is just acting up.
If I tell my 5 1/2 year old more than once not to say, correct her grandparents pronounciation [English not being their native language] and she continues to do so, that's disciplinary issues at hand."

I guess it depends on what you mean by "the problem." I agree with you about the example of correcting grandparent's pronunciation, but I think this is different. Teachers are supposed to answer questions, and they're supposed to teach correctly. Asking a question, even in the sense of saying, "No, that's wrong, because X" to me is not a "problem," it's what kids need to do to learn. Ultimately, the child was trying to apply what the teacher was telling the class and finding a problem with it; that's thinking skills at work.

Asking a question rudely, or interrupting, or forgetting to raise your hand, those are problems. I can see how a rude delivery would make the comment smart alecky, but I can also see how it could be said with genuine concern/curiousity.

But if the "problem" is simply that the teacher doesn't like questions and doesn't like kids to think about what she's teaching, that's just bad teaching in my opinion.

Posted by: LizaBean | August 3, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

OT, but in relation to something said above...

My 7 YO has told us many times that he is marrying a girlfriend of his. How they're married but not really married, but she's the one for him, etc.

So one day, he's talking to his 4 YO brother, and telling him how he's going to marry this girl. And he says: hurry up (brother) and figure out who you're marrying. You have to do it soon.

As if he can't wait til he's five. So adorable.

Posted by: atlmom1234 | August 3, 2009 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Good answer, Organic Girl. Unfortunately, it's going to be incapable of penetrating intolerant folks such as Baltimore11. One of my sons is on the autism spectrum (PDD NOS) and the other diagnosed with social delays, primarily peer interactions.

Teaching a person Asperger's to handle all the social niceties is about as effective as teaching a blind person to see or a deaf person to hear. What I can and will teach them is to avoid intolerant individuals such as Baltimore11.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 3, 2009 3:03 PM | Report abuse

Can't believe no one suggested this possible answer--"Depends on how big the bathtub is." I'd follow that up with "Why do you ask?" and maybe ask her to tell how old she means when she says "older" (15? 25?)

Yes, I would have been surprised by that question as well, but I agree with others who have said--better the child ask the parents than her friends.

Posted by: janedoe5 | August 3, 2009 3:26 PM | Report abuse

Agree with whomever suggested that this question could well have arisen from the child seeing one too many Cialis commercials - in which case "sex in the bathtub" is more like "sitting side-by-side in two separate bathtubs in the great outdoors, staring at a sunset." That was my first thought. But also agree that the appropriate response was a polite "why do you want to know?" or "what caused that question?"

Re the teacher's response to OrganicKid's comment - the teachers I know don't have a problem with kids smarter than them; if they have a problem it's with kids who THINK they are smarter than the teacher and can't pass up an opportunity to show off. (These same kids tend to have a big problem with being corrected themselves.)

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 3, 2009 3:32 PM | Report abuse

Way to go ArmyBrat1. Just like a lot of WaPo posters. I have yet to see a 5-year-old who is smarter than a teacher, although a lot of them think they are and the cranial/rectal inversion parents always agree with their kid.

So, if these Aspies are so blazingly smart, why can't they just learn to be tactful, socially capable and courteous? We had some in school who were the butt of a lot of jokes. Parents are not doing them any favors by letting them just barge through life with no social skills at all.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 3, 2009 3:43 PM | Report abuse

"So, if these Aspies are so blazingly smart, why can't they just learn to be tactful, socially capable and courteous?"

I dunno. I would expect, Baltimore, that you could provide more insight into that particular problem than the rest of us. But that would require some self-awareness.

Posted by: emily8 | August 3, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

"So, if these Aspies are so blazingly smart, why can't they just learn to be tactful, socially capable and courteous?"

If it's that easy, why can't you?

Posted by: laura33 | August 3, 2009 3:52 PM | Report abuse

soguns, I was thinking maybe she should be fired because if she is not sure how "t" is pronounced, there are probably many other things that she is getting wrong in the classroom. But, yeah, I also think sending a 5 year-old out of the classroom for pointing out that she messed up is something she should be fired for. Maybe I'm wrong, but I have a 5 year old and I know how deeply pained he would be by that. Abuse of power by the teacher needs to be addressed more than the kid pointing out she made a mistake.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

But, yeah, I also think sending a 5 year-old out of the classroom for pointing out that she messed up is something she should be fired for.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009
-------------------------------------------
Surely, you jest? But then again, maybe you are one of *those* parents.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 3, 2009 4:41 PM | Report abuse

captiolhillmom - please tell the class how "T" is pronounced. I'm serious; please enlighten us.

And, as for "I also think sending a 5 year-old out of the classroom for pointing out that she messed up is something she should be fired for."

This blithely ignores the entire context. Like, how many times has the student done this before (OrganicGal points out that this had happened regularly before); how much did it disrupt the class when she did it; etc.? While I'm sure your 5 year old would be "pained" at being disciplined, if your child was exhibiting behavior that he/she had been told repeatedly was unacceptable, and continued to exhibit that behavior in complete disregard for the rest of the class, then maybe he/she needs to be "pained" more often.

Posted by: ArmyBrat1 | August 3, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

" . . . if your child was exhibiting behavior that he/she had been told repeatedly was unacceptable, and continued to exhibit that behavior in complete disregard for the rest of the class . . .

Get off the teachers' unions soapbox. When insecure people describe unacceptable behavior in imprecise ways, "don't be a smart aleck", "you are being insolent", etc. to someone with Aspergers', they description of the unacceptable behavior is so imprecise as to provide no guidance whatsoever. For a 5-year old with Asperger's, saying someone is a smart aleck or insolent is jargon. They don't understand why anyone would invest so much emotion in what should be a simple fact: "No, the capital of Wyoming is not Sioux City, it's Cheyenne." I'm not suggesting the kid is always right or the teacher is always wrong. One thing is true, though: SueMc is 100% correct in her assessment of the capabilities of those with Asperger's and ignorant fools like soguns and Baltimore11 deserve to walk a day in her shoes. If only they could.

Posted by: anonfornow | August 3, 2009 5:34 PM | Report abuse

Parents are not doing them any favors by letting them just barge through life with no social skills at all.

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 3, 2009 3:43 PM

First, please go back and read my earlier post - 1:19.

Ok, so now that we're all clear on the concept - the autistic/Asperger brain doesn't have the same physical structures as the neurotypical brain - just *how* does a parent teach their child to compensate for their lack?

Would it be the same learning as the kid with one leg shorter than the other, whose parents want to teach him to be a track star? Or the kid with dwarfism whose parents are going to teach him to be the basketball center?

How do you propose to *teach* a replacement or substitution for the absense of something that's physically missing?

Serious question, by the way. If you have a real answer, you could revolutionize Special Education and disability services. And if you have anything that sounds reasonably plausible, I'm going to try it with my 17-y-o. Unless, of course, your plausible-sounding idea has already been thought of and tried, and turned out to be a failure. Because, like most parents of a kid with an autism spectrum disorder, I've already tried everything I've heard about that had even a glimmer of possibility, but my kid still doesn't have the part of the brain that would give him social skills.

Posted by: SueMc | August 3, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

yes indeed-- I'm one of those parents that think lousy teachers should be fired. I have plenty of relatives that are teachers and they concur-- too few that are bad need to go.

The pronounciation of "t" depends on context.

Speaking of, yes, if the child was disrupting the rest of the class, that could be a problem. But that is not what happened here.

It's not like the kid asked whether she should have sex in a bathtub with her boyfriend! She was asking questions about the material presented by the teacher. That's what students are supposed to do in a classroom! I'm sure the other kids appreciated the question. They may have been wondering that themselves. If not at least it broke the monotony of listening to one person's voice.


Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Sorry-- meant to say "THOSE few that are bad need to go" Looong day.

Posted by: captiolhillmom | August 3, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

"captiolhillmom - please tell the class how "T" is pronounced. I'm serious; please enlighten us."

Not capitolhillmom, but anyone who has done any reading on how to teach phonics (like a kindergarten teacher, presumably) should know this. It is hard to write out the pronunciation, but it's like the "t" sound at the end of "at". The point of phonics is to teach kids how to sound out words, and if the teacher is adding additional sounds it's just going to be harder for the kids to learn how to read. By the teacher's definition, the word "at" should be pronounced "atuh".

Since one of this woman's primary responsibilities is teaching these kids to read, it makes me wonder what else she's getting wrong, especially if she's complaining that the 5-year old is "showing her up." Frankly, teaching phonics is not that hard, and someone with an elementary ed degree really ought to be able to handle it.

Posted by: floof | August 3, 2009 7:17 PM | Report abuse

I asked a nun at schoool what adultery was, I got hit.

I asked my father what circumcision was, I was sent from the table.

I started to use the dictionary. A lot.

Posted by: jezebel3


jezebel, i'm just curious that given what you said why is it that you seem to enjoy attempting to shut down all conversations on this blog? i would think that having been shut down as a child you would be more aware how it feels to be shut down & therefore not do it.

Posted by: quark2 | August 4, 2009 11:11 AM | Report abuse

anonfornow?-Is that you, SueMc?

I think so.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 4, 2009 11:37 AM | Report abuse

anonfornow?-Is that you, SueMc?

I think so.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 4, 2009 11:37 AM

Nope. If I'm going to say something, I'll say it under my own name. If I'm not willing to "own it" (put my name on it), then I won't say it at all.

Posted by: SueMc | August 4, 2009 12:15 PM | Report abuse

If dogs, and dolphins and circus animals can be trained, then certainly your extremely intelligent but mentally deficit children can be taught.

How about 'When other people are talking, don't interrupt them.' Or 'Don't stand too close to people when you talk to them, they have a certain amount of space around them.' Or perhaps 'Gee, maybe somebody else isn't as interested in the workings of a washing machine as you are.'

I have known retarded people who have been trained to do daily household chores very easily. There is a teenager with Down syndrome who works at our supermarket. So if your kid has Asperger's you people seem to just throw your hands up and say 'Well, he's so smart we can't teach him to act correctly in a social situation.'

Posted by: Baltimore11 | August 4, 2009 1:12 PM | Report abuse

"When other people are talking, don't interrupt them.' Or 'Don't stand too close to people when you talk to them, they have a certain amount of space around them.' Or perhaps 'Gee, maybe somebody else isn't as interested in the workings of a washing machine as you are."

I know this is probably futile, but all of these pieces of advice are not hard and fast rules. Many times, in a conversation, we do interrupt each other, artfully if we are socially skilled, when there is a slight pause to the conversation. Interrupting is sometimes appropriate and often necessary. You just have to know how to do it. And there is an art to this. The same thing to personal space. You might share personal space with a significant other, a close friend, or a family member. You just have to be able to gauge, through social cues, when this is or is not appropriate. More of an art than a hard and fast rule. So again, Baltimore, you don't seem to see the nuances that most of the rest of us can see, and that perhaps Aspies can't. I think this says a lot more about you than anyone else.

Posted by: emily8 | August 4, 2009 2:50 PM | Report abuse

fr OrganicGal1:

>...Not to disparage older teachers, but the teacher who sent her out was in her last year of teaching before retirement, and much of the conference included the phrase "I just don't understand kids these days" from her. ...

She sounds like a real winner. She also sounds the "teacher" I had in sixth grade, who made fun of an art project that i had done in front of the entire class.

I lost any respect I had for Mrs. L from that moment on. Ran into her about 20 years later, and turned my back on her. I bet she had NO clue as to why.

Posted by: Alex511 | August 4, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Great. Now B11 is comparing autistic kids with trained animals (and parents with the trainers). First of all, it's teaching, not training. And it's deficient, not deficit.

The irony is that someone who is betraying every prejudice that they have is lecturing parents of developmentally delayed kids about child rearing. Thanks, but no thanks.

BB

Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | August 4, 2009 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I tried early this morning to respond to Baltimore11, and explain what's missing from the suggestions and why they don't work. But my post was held for approval by the blog owner - wonder what I said wrong.

I see three possible reasons that B11 still doesn't understand.

1 - limited or no exposure to individuals with autism, and not enough intelligence or imagination to grasp the explanations that have been posted here.

2 - not enough empathy (social intelligence) to be capable of achieving understanding of someone whose brain is wired quite differently.

3 - simply doesn't *want* to understand; a closed mind who just wants to tell the parents of children with a disability what we *should* be doing, so s/he can feel superior or something.

If there were any indications that B11 was curious and was going to learn and understand, I'd be willing to try to explain. But if there's no capacity, or no desire, for new information - then there's no reason for me to waste my time.

Posted by: SueMc | August 4, 2009 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Nope. If I'm going to say something, I'll say it under my own name. If I'm not willing to "own it" (put my name on it), then I won't say it at all.

Posted by: SueMc | August 4, 2009 12:15 PM
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General dislike toward me and Baltimore 11. The time of the two posts are really close together. Me thinks you are the previous poster.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 4, 2009 4:49 PM | Report abuse

Think anything that makes you happy. Doesn't make it true.

And the clinical term for what you're doing here is "projection". I.e. you are projecting your general dislike of me. Instead of owning your own feelings you assign them to another person.

But if you want to keep taking personal shots at me for some reason, you might eventually cause me to develop a general dislike of you. You'll know you've succeeded if I *never* respond to your posts anymore. But for now, at least, I kind of enjoy your attempts - it's amusing to see how much you've allowed me to get under your (thin) skin. ;)

Posted by: SueMc | August 4, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

emily8- that was a great post. People don't seem to understand that these social interactions are much more complicated than just following a basic formula.

I actually think there was a study done several years ago about how people communicate differently based on region/ethnic group. Amo, interrupting during a story is considered a way of showing your interest and your ability to identify with the story (ie, saying "the same thing happened to me!" or "I was there last week, don't they have the best cheesecake?"). In other areas, this is considered rude and you don't interrupt until the other person is done speaking. Personally, if I'm telling a story and nobody is saying anything, I assume they are bored and not listening. My husband's familiy is all from the midwest, and it took me a while to get used to the fact that they communicate *very* differently than what I am used to. I actually find interacting at their large group funcitons very tiring because I feel like I have to censor myself all the time because all my instincts about communication are just wrong for this group. I imagine that's how someone with asperger's feels all the time.

Posted by: floof | August 4, 2009 6:55 PM | Report abuse

But if you want to keep taking personal shots at me for some reason, you might eventually cause me to develop a general dislike of you. You'll know you've succeeded if I *never* respond to your posts anymore. But for now, at least, I kind of enjoy your attempts - it's amusing to see how much you've allowed me to get under your (thin) skin. ;)
Posted by: SueMc | August 4, 2009 5:58 PM
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Great! It's settle then. We can be each other dancing pet monkey. I could use some entertainment in my mudane 9-5 office job.

Posted by: Soguns1 | August 5, 2009 11:15 AM | Report abuse

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