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Does A Developmental Delay Justify Special Exemptions From Common Courtesy?

For the past year and half, my daughter and one of her friends have taken weekly tennis lessons at our local parks and rec. They are the only two kids who have stuck with it for so long, and as such have become close to the coaches. So when I had to inform the coaches this would be my daughters last session due to an out of state move, they were very sad and immediately said they wanted to make her last lesson real special.

Well last night was the last lesson, and true to their word, they made the lesson more party like, which was very nice of them. At the end of the lesson, there was even healthy snacks provided by our friends who had been taking lessons with us.

Since there was a party atmosphere, during the snacks a lot of the parents were taking pictures of their kids (who ranged in age from 3-6) having fun. One mom in particular stood next to her son and kept her video camera on him the whole time. And when her son removed the orange peel from his mouth, put it back on the food tray and grabbed another, she just kept filming. So my friend picked up the orange peel, handed it back to the boy, and politely asked him to hold onto his trash rather then putting it back with the food. The mom said nothing. Nor did she say anything when it happened with three more orange peels! My friend had to keep removing them from the food, and handing them back. I can honesty say he stayed polite each time (and the moms video will back me up!). One of the coaches also spoke up, asking kids not to touch all the food and keep their trash to themselves.

At the end of the party the mom approached my friends and started to berate them, saying they embarrassed her and her son and he has developmental issues. My friends were startled, and just said they didn’t know he did.

I feel like the moms lack of doing anything (other than filming) while it happened makes this less of an issue about his disability and more of an issue about her expecting special treatment. Couldn’t she have moved him further away from the food (he was standing right in front of it, versus other kids sitting at table) so that she would have time to intercept him? Or she could have gotten him a napkin full of food so he didn’t have to keep going back (again, like all the other kids had). Or were we just suppose to let her kid put his slobbery trash all over the food other kids were going to eat and not ever say anything? 1106-13

You raise some good questions.   If one knows your child has challenges, it seems logical and commonsensical to me to do those things which best facilitates the child’s ease in society.  Your suggestions on how this mother could have approached the situation seems quite reasonable to me.

{ 94 comments… add one }
  • mark November 11, 2013, 3:27 pm

    I have an autistic child and sometimes they can be unbelievably socially clueless. With autistic children sometimes it’s apparent that they have a problem, sometimes it’s not. So you have to be careful to not make judgments based on looks.

    That said, I personally think this mother thought it was very “cute” what her child was doing. And was mad at you for interrupting her video. Otherwise she would have stepped in to stop him.

  • Tanz November 11, 2013, 3:34 pm

    I’m with admin and prior posters here. All children need to be taught how to act in society, no matter whether they have delays or not. And while the child is learning it is up to the parent to minimise the impact of the child’s ‘social misfires’ on those around them.

  • JeanLouiseFinch November 11, 2013, 3:37 pm

    The really sad thing is that this mom is not doing her son any favors by failing to at least try and correct him. Eventually, he will need to interact with the rest of the world and there is every reason to want to show him how to do so in a manner which will make him a welcomed guest. I have the same comment directed towards parents of so-called “normal” children with overly permissive parents.

  • Katy November 11, 2013, 3:58 pm

    I have a two year old with developmental delays. Yes, it takes a little more to teach her she can’t take a bite out of a cookie from a tray, put it back, and take another bite out of another cookie. But it needs to be taught, for her safety and the safety of those around her.
    I know it’s difficult. Teaching my daughter has resulted in some epic and embarrassing tantrums. But I also know that if I get permissive in a single situation I’m undermining everything I’m trying to teach her. I want her to spend time with her peers, but at the same time part of that is teaching her social skills. And I would never reprimand another parent who may have caught something I missed (nor would I have videotaped my child exhibiting such behavior without responding to it myself).
    It can be embarrassing. If people don’t know my daughter they see a two-year old, and wonder why she’s communicating with me through grunts, babbles, and crying instead of words (I’m still waiting for those first real words). They may notice that she throws a tantrum seemingly out of the blue while I know that her sippy cup is empty and she doesn’t like the wait for me to re-fill it. I don’t expect people to know, but it is embarrassing when she’s behaving and happy one second and throwing a tantrum the next. And while those who know are patient and helpful, I have to be extra-vigilant when I’m in a group we’re not familiar with so she doesn’t do something inappropriate. It’s not fair to others to expect different behavior from her because of her delays.

  • Catrunning November 11, 2013, 4:12 pm

    This reminds me of a b-day party I helped with a few years ago. My friend’s daughter was turning 11 at the time and wanted a “spa” party. 7 little girls all between 10 and 12 were invited. As my friend needed help holding it at her home, I was there to assist her that day – the girls were to get mani’s/pedi’s and little gift bags with lip gloss, hand lotion and the like. For some reason, Mac’n Cheese bars were popular at the time, so we had one at the b-day girl’s request.

    But in advance of the party, one mom RSVP’d yes for “2” – her daughter and he 14 yo son. (Hey – I know, give her a plus for RSVP’ing). My friend was a puzzled about this – especially because the theme for the party was obvious and so girly that it was a given this was a “girls only” event. So my friend responded that unfortunately she could not accommodate the 14 yo boy and that the invitation was only intended and addressed for the woman’s daughter. My friend heard nothing back, but just to make sure, kept space available and a goody bag for this little girl.

    Well, day of the party and this mom showed up with both her daughter and her 14 yo son. It was immediately apparent the boy was developmentally disabled with some fairly severe special needs. Mom said that she didn’t “have the coldness of heart to tell him he was not invited”.

    That put us in the position of “kicking out” a disabled person, and we just didn’t want to go there and face the negative reprocussions you know would have resulted from that. So he stayed. It turned into a nightmare. The mom also stayed, but it quickly became apparent her way of handling him was to let him have his way wherever and whenever. The boy – who was absolutely huge – was like a giant bowling ball out of control. He had limited fine motor skills and kept pushing people down, overturning chairs, and even overturned the manicurists portable cabinet spilling it all out onto the floor. Not raging or anything, but just very rough playing. But worse that that was that he had some very unsanitary physical habits which I won’t go into, other than to mention you really, really wouldn’t want him touching your food. So then, what did he do? He pushed his way into the head of the line and stuck his whole hand into the serving dishes and used his hand to scoop out food onto his plate and directly into his mouth. When I begged his mother to have him stop that, she said he couldn’t handle serving utensils and that was how he served himself. She even complained that the hostess should have planned better and served “easier” food at a children’s party. After what we saw, we couldn’t serve that food to the other children, who saw it all themselves anyway and were just grossed out. We had to order rush pizza’s in, a totally unbudgeted expense.

    The party quickly wound down and when we were handing out the goody bags, my friend and I looked at each other and said OH NO! Because there obviously wan’t one for brother and then he had his total screaming meltdown. Now, I know the kid had disabilities, but his mother did nothing to show that she was trying to discipline or socialize him. With her, it was like “this is the way he is, so live with it!”. And she never apologized for the destruction he caused, nor the additional expenses we incurred in replacing the meal.

    I am all for inclusion up to a point. But when a child’s party is likely to be “ruined” just so that someone with developmental disabilities who wasn’t invited in the first place gets to attend, you are going too far. After all, when my friend first told the mother her 14 yo son was not invited and could not attend, she had no idea he was special needs. Boys just weren’t invited. Period.

  • Katie November 11, 2013, 4:28 pm

    Not teaching her son basic things like throwing away his own messes is, ultimately, shortchanging him. He has got to live in this world and interact with others, and the older he gets, the more “developmentally delayed” will be a harder excuse for others to swallow, especially when his mother is right there and can instruct him. Learning things like taking turns, not hitting, throwing out garbage — of course is going to be harder for any delayed child, but they are so important because they will make it easier for him to interact well with his peers, something that will facilitate his growth and development much more than videos of him eating oranges.

  • essie November 11, 2013, 4:48 pm

    As the mother of a teenager with autism, I have to say…I agree with MJames. At the moment the child was putting his trash back on the plate, THAT was the moment for Mom to put the camera down and say “No, honey, we don’t put peels back on the tray after eating the fruit; we put them here” and turn to the other Mom and say “I apologize for this. He has developmental issues, but we’re working on them.” On the other hand, with a typical child, the mother should have put the camera down and say “No, honey, we don’t put peels back on the tray after eating the fruit; we put them here” and turn to the other Mom and say “I apologize for this. We’re still working on social graces.” (Actually, that works for both cases, doesn’t it?)

    Ignoring her child when he misbehaves, waiting until the party’s over to say anything, then accusing others of embarrassing the child (not likely, since the child kept repeating the unacceptable behavior) simply reflects the mother’s own poor “upbringing”.

  • ketchup November 11, 2013, 4:50 pm

    I think the mother had behind the camera syndrome. When people are filming things they often don’t feel connected to the events themselves.
    You can always try and teach your children what’s right and proper. I think that’s way pre respectful than ignoring things.

  • AIP November 11, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Ugh, these stories are stomach-turning, but fair play to likes of Katy who are doing Trojan work!
    I’m very suspicious of the “developmental disability” diagnosis – some people flat out lie and others stretch the truth, and any condition the child has could be mild in the grand scheme of things. Assuming he was actually diagnosed officially and not via a self-help book. This is especially the case if very few, if any, others realised that.

  • Rap November 11, 2013, 5:57 pm

    “Maybe it was a good day for him. Maybe it was a day where he handled a group of near strangers with unusual aplomb. Didn’t have a meltdown from overstimulation. Used his words instead of hitting people. A day worth remembering. A day that makes the orange rinds look like small potatoes.”

    And thats all well and good, but how do people who don’t know him or his mom know this? I really do understand the point about empathy but what we have here is a kid who didn’t apparently show any signs of a disorder doing one thing that was icky and gross and mom wasn’t correcting him so another person did – repeatedly, and apparently without causing any tantrums. How is the public to know that this is a good day and we should all be grateful its not worse instead of expecting a child to confirm to reasonable behavior?

    And frankly, why wouldn’t the mom pipe right up at the first correction?

  • The OP November 11, 2013, 6:34 pm

    Thanks for publishing my story, admin! The feedback is very helpful, and I will be sharing it with my friend.

    Hemi asked if the boy was new to the tennis, or if we knew about the developmental delay. To be honest, I am not sure if he was new or if anyone knew of a disability. There are around 25 kids per five week session, and for the most part I really only pay attention to my kid and my friends kid. Plus, with the kids all being 3-6 years old, some doing an activity for the first time, pretty much every kid requires discipline from the coaches at some point during the night. But I never noticed one kid needing it more than others.

  • Kate November 11, 2013, 7:01 pm

    The child sounds high-functioning enough that he could learn basic manners – IF his parents bothered to teach him. Sounds like slack parenting to me.

    In terms of the general question posed in the title, many children are given a very justified ‘pass’ when a developmental delay, mental illness or other condition truly prevents them from understanding social norms. For example, children with autism may not want to shake hands or hug their classmates if they don’t like sensory stimulation, and that is totally reasonable.
    However, I have OCD, and seeing someone’s half eaten food put back on the serving plate would mean I wouldn’t eat anything else for fear of contamination. If this happened to me and a parent said I was being insensitive to the child’s “issues”, I’d say well, I expect equal sensitivity towards mine then.

  • crebj November 11, 2013, 7:45 pm

    Short answer: No.
    Long answer: No. And I am not your child’s ashtray.

  • Angela November 11, 2013, 10:31 pm

    I have a child with Down syndrome. I’d never have let him do that. It’s a food safety issue, for one thing. And for another: if I want my son to be a part of the “real world”, he has to have basic politeness and some social skills. Being able to take “no” and “we don’t do that” for an answer is a huge part of living in the real world. When I found out via prenatal testing about the condition, an acquaintance who teaches special ed called me to talk about how we’d need to set limits and teach manners and discipline the kid, because she saw children all the time who had no discipline and didn’t understand “no”. The real world isn’t interested in dealing with these children so they ended up watching TV at home all day. In the 10 years since that phone call, I’ve seen that she was exactly right.

  • Kimstu November 12, 2013, 12:00 am

    If a “special snowflake” parent complains about my kindly and politely correcting their child when the child’s doing something definitely unsanitary or dangerous and nobody else is stopping them, I just smile and say “Oh, you’re welcome, it’s no trouble!”

    If they then launch into a defensive explanation about their child’s special needs or condition, I smile again sympathetically and say “That must be very difficult for you, but s/he seems like a really nice kid!”

    Nobody needs to apologize for kindly and politely correcting a child who’s being allowed to misbehave in public. Nor should any parent try to hide behind their child’s special needs to excuse their own failure to try to teach proper behavior.

    Of course, I’m not talking about parents who are doing their best to cope with misbehavior but temporarily losing the battle while the kid throws a tantrum or whatnot. I’m talking about ones like the videotaping mom in the OP’s story who just ignore misbehavior and then reprove other people for kindly and politely trying to cope with it.

  • Asharah November 12, 2013, 1:04 am

    @Catrunning, your friend was put in a bad situation, but it was the mother’s fault. However, your friend could have informed her at the door, “I told you this was a girl only party.” Or when it became obvious son couldn’t control himself, “Your son is ruining the party. It’s time for you to take him home. NOW!” I realize there could have been problems, but sometimes you need to stand up for your own children. Friend’s daughter deserved to have a nice birthday, without an uninvited person and his clod of a mother ruining it. I feel sorry for the sister, who probably misses out on alot since I doubt she gets invited anywhere a second time if her mother insists on brother coming along and behaving like that all the time.

  • Wendy November 12, 2013, 1:43 am

    I work in health (nursing) and work with children on a regular basis, the amount of children that come through with development delay diagnosed by parents or extended family is ridiculous. ADD, ADHD, Aspergers/Autism are the most common and while I’ll admit are over diagnosed they are real and people like this mother make it difficult for others who need the extra help. Parents should never diagnose their children (food allergies fall in this category too) if you are concerned go to a paediatrician and get checked then you will receive help extra teachers at school, speech therapy and the like. I don’t know of a single developmentally delayed child who is delayed enough not to be taught basic manners by their parents, who could then learn tennis as this would take instruction from someone else which apparently this child (according to the mother) couldn’t.
    Assuming the mother was telling the truth and not just making excuses for herself, the only time I think it would be inappropriate to correct this child is if the mother was already doing so.

  • Abby November 12, 2013, 8:28 am

    I actually think the mother was being more offensive in her reasoning than anything the OP’s friend did. What, is her kid a chimp that can’t be trained basic manners? I don’t think so.

    Had the mom overheard OP and her friends snarking on the kid, I think it would think it would be okay for the mom to be offended and explain her situation. But to just simply throw her hands up and say, my kid has special needs, what can I do? is actually more insulting to her child than teaching him manners.

    @ Catrunning-

    Your friend was put in an awkward position, no doubt, but she should have stood up to pushy mom anyways. Yes, it’s super uncomfortable, but people like that mom know that others will give her her way because they are too afraid of making a scene and she takes full advantage. Politely saying, this party is for younger girls only; and we made that clear during our last conversation, is not rude and would have caused less of a mess than allowing him to stay and ruin her daughter’s party.

  • Kylynara November 12, 2013, 10:17 am

    Short Version: Does the kid get a pass? Yes. Does the Mom get a pass? No.
    Long Version: Obviously “Developmental Delays” encompasses a very wide range of abilities. I think the basic rule of thumb (at least what I would use) is that if the person is being allowed to fuction alone they are responsible for their behavior themselves and if they are not (and few kids in the 3-6 age range would really even be considered to be allowed to function alone) then the guardian is responsible for their behavior, or at least for making an attempt to correct it. Now this obviously applies to nearby strangers/acquaintances, not to the guardians, or in many cases to close friends or family. My son will be 3 in January, so naturally I’m around quite a few kids in the 2-4 range and at that age they are still learning you don’t take bites out of things and put them back. So if the kid was in the lower end of the age range you gave, it’s just normal behavior for the kid. The Mom still has a responsibility to correct her child. If he’s in the older end of the age range, but has non-obvious developmental delays, then that’s certainly behavior that could fall in that range. The Mom still has a responsibility to correct her child. Since she did not, as long as you were polite (and from your account, you were) I don’t think you were out of line to direct him to the garbage can. When the mom confronted you, (I’d never have thought of this in the moment, but put it in your quiver for next time) I’d suggest asking how she suggested you handle such things in the future. Perhaps elaborate, that your child doesn’t like getting ill and you make an effort to avoid unnecessary germ exposure. Or innocently ask “But how will he learn if no one tells him?”

    Frankly unless the delays were a LOT more obvious I can’t see the mom not at least telling him herself not to do that.

  • livvy17 November 12, 2013, 10:22 am

    @Cat – horrifying! I can’t imagine letting my kid suck on shrimp and then PUT THEM BACK for unsuspecting guests. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself from saying something to either the kid or the mother. Ugh!!
    @catrunning – That’s an awful story – what a horrible mother, to make it sound like she’s doing that poor boy a favor by letting him do whatever he wants. He’ll no doubt wind up in an institution, or marginalized some way, just because she “didn’t have the heart” to help him function in the real world. So tragic for him, not to mention the sad birthday party for the birthday girl.

  • Shalamar November 12, 2013, 12:17 pm

    I have a friend whose son has ADHD. I haven’t socialized with her in years, and sadly, it’s because of her son – or, more accurately, the way she and her husband react to their son’s behaviour. He is several years older than my daughters and a very big kid, so when he started getting boisterous and near-violent, he frightened them badly. His parents’ way of dealing with it was to repeatedly scream at him, which had no results whatsoever. This led to very tense, uncomfortable visits, with my daughters sticking to me and my husband like glue. We finally decided that enough was enough and haven’t seen them since.

  • Library Diva November 12, 2013, 12:24 pm

    Catrunning, what an awful story. That mother is incredibly selfish. I’m sure her son was not all that interested in this party and wouldn’t have minded being “excluded.” She not only ruined another little girl’s birthday, but she’s ruining her daughter’s social life if she forces her to include her brother in everything she does. She’s also setting up her daughter to resent her brother instead of love and care for him.

    At 11, the girls shouldn’t need parental supervision at a party like this. Why didn’t the mother just drop off her daughter and go home? And then she had the nerve to complain about the way the food was served after her son ruined it? That whole story just makes me so angry. She’s not doing either of her children any favors. If her son genuinely can’t serve himself with utensils, she needed to do it for him. If for some reason there was no other option than to bring him to this party, she needed to come equipped with something for him to do so he wasn’t roughhousing through the entire thing. But really, she shouldn’t have brought him at all after she was told not to.

  • Hemi November 12, 2013, 12:47 pm

    @Asharah & Abby- re: @Catrunning’s story- I can almost bet if the b-day girl’s mom had said no, your son cannot attend the party, in addition to a huge fit, she probably would not have let her daughter stay.

  • La November 12, 2013, 1:24 pm

    I’m an autistic adult, and the fact that I can go around and have a fairly good quality of life can be attributed to the excellent support and coping strategies – including having people teach me social skills. (Including this site – I learn social skills cognitively rather than by imitation, so having a place that sets out what to do clearly is an excellent resource and I would like to thank the admin.) I may not have perfect social skills, but I have enough that people are comfortable with me and I can communicate with others. I’m not going to pass for allistic, but y’know, I can be polite and friendly and that’s what really matters.

    @Callie Arcale – can you please not say stuff like “diagnosed long before it became fashionable”? The increase in autism diagnoses is due to better research and awareness, not ‘fashion’, and it has helped many autistic people in groups who are traditionally under-diagnosed – such as people designated female at birth (like me – even though I’m a man, and non-standard gender is more likely among the autistic community) and people of colour.
    Saying it’s ‘fashionable’ minimizes the problems we have and reduces our access to the support and resources we need – because according to that worldview, we don’t really have autism, we’re just not trying hard enough, and that kind of belief really screws people up.

  • LizaJane November 12, 2013, 1:47 pm

    Let’s face it, ALL kids are ” delayed ” at something. That is to say that they all develope differently. That doesn’t mean you don’t try to teach them how to act.

  • Asharah November 12, 2013, 2:11 pm

    @Hemi, I realize the boy’s sister would probably have not been allowed to stay either, but in this case it would have been simply delaying the inevitable. I doubt sister will ever recieve another birthday invite from either that particular birthday girl or any other girl at the party for that matter. It’s sad because the mother is ruining things for both her children. Son will probably wind up institutionalized because nobody, including sister, will want to deal with him once Mom can’t care for him anymore. Sister is having any social life she has destroyed and will probably be nursing a deepseated resentment to brother for the rest of her life for destoring her childhood.

  • Anonymous November 12, 2013, 2:23 pm

    @Abby–I have a feeling that Catrunning allowed her friend’s uninvited son to stay at the birthday party, along with the daughter who had been invited, because she was afraid that her friend would have removed both kids if she’d objected. Catrunning, is that right? In my experience, the “I didn’t have the heart to tell Son he wasn’t invited” kind of snowflakery, is a close cousin to the “If Son can’t stay, then Daughter can’t stay either” kind of snowflakery. I don’t agree with it at all–even absent the developmental disability, it’s normal and healthy for siblings to be allowed to have their own separate friends and activities, but when special needs come into play, I think it’s especially important. Kids need and deserve the chance to spend an afternoon, a day, or however long (think sleepovers, summer camp, etc.), as just “Sarah Smith,” rather than “Sam’s sister,” or “That girl with a mentally handicapped brother.” For the latter statement, I cleaned up the language a bit, because I don’t think you can say that other word (that a lot of kids are more likely to say), on here. The other thing is, when parents enforce the “Special Needs Sibling Must Be Involved In Everything That Other Sibling Does” edict, then Other Sibling’s fun is often diluted, out of embarrassment at Special Needs Sibling’s behaviour, at having to have the parent there for Special Needs Sibling, and even from having to wrangle him or her to keep the behaviour from ruining the event, if the parent isn’t there. To top it all off, Other Sibling often gets told that he or she should be “so grateful” to have been born without special needs, which can undoubtedly grate after a while. I know all this, because I actually went to school with an able-bodied girl (let’s call her Mary) who had a sister (Kay) who’d suffered a stroke at the age of three, and was in a wheelchair, nonverbal, incontinent, and needed help with pretty much everything. Mary was, fortunately, allowed to have a life separate from her sister’s, and seemed mostly happy, but even at the age of twelve or so, I noticed that Mary was much more mature than her peers (she was a year behind me in school). Anyway, if Mary was here right now, I’d bet you anything at all that she’d join in with the “Let Other Sibling attend a birthday party by herself” chorus, because having one child with special needs, doesn’t automatically erase the other child’s typical needs, and forming one’s own identity, separate from a sibling, is a pretty major need.

  • Abby November 12, 2013, 2:52 pm

    @Asharah & Abby- re: @Catrunning’s story- I can almost bet if the b-day girl’s mom had said no, your son cannot attend the party, in addition to a huge fit, she probably would not have let her daughter stay.

    Probably. It wouldn’t be pleasant, and it really sucks for the younger sister. That being said, the party was ruined for all the girls (including the younger sister, who now has her family’s embarrassing behavior as her social cross to bear) and it caused mom an extra expense, as well as extra headaches. At some point, you just have to mitigate the problem as best you can. The mom throwing a fit and flouncing off with both kids would still be preferable to me than everyone having a horrible time, my daughter’s birthday being ruined, and having to throw out a ton of food and replace with it an expensive last minute order. But lesson learned- I doubt anyone from that family was invited to anything by anyone present at that party.

  • Hemi November 12, 2013, 2:56 pm

    @Asharah- I guess I was just pointing out the obvious. 🙂

  • RC November 12, 2013, 3:00 pm

    I’m still stuck on the filming thing… I really do not understand why people, at a social gathering, would stand there and film their kids. Especially doing something as mundane as eating oranges. Filming graduation, sure, birthday parties, ok, but filming snack time after a tennis lesson??

  • LizaJane November 12, 2013, 4:13 pm

    @Hello, “I always handle these situations with grace….and try to set an example”. Seems to me that that’s exactly what the OP was doing.

  • Catrunning November 12, 2013, 4:23 pm

    Hi Anonymous – You are so right – I remember my friend even saying she was afraid that if she said Brother couldn’t stay, then Mom would have made Daughter leave as well! And I intuited that Daughter was somewhat of an “outsider” in the close social circle of the B-day girl and the other invited guests. So I think you guessed right – the little girl probably did not have much opportunity to socialize without Brother.

    I felt so sorry for Daughter – she was constantly cringing at “Brother’s” escapades. I think that until the goody bags were handed out, he enjoyed the party more than anyone else! He wasn’t deliberately violent – if so, there would have been no problem asking Mom to take him home immediately. He just had a hard time physically controlling himself, like he didn’t know his own strength and was extremely uncoordinated. When he pushed to the front of the buffet line, he accidentally knocked several little girls down on their knees, laughing something like “me first!”.

    Plus his hygenic issues took away everyone’s appetites. I understand the need to be sensitive to people with special needs and realize that they may not understand how other people view their behaviors. Plus the fact that their parents or other caregivers are so used to their behaviors so they have lost any “shock value”. But I just can’t believe that the Mom did not realize in advance that his behaviors would be likely to cause problems for the hosts and other guests. She was probably just focuses on what she thinks is best for her son and that’s how she gets through life.

  • Library Diva November 12, 2013, 4:30 pm

    Anon, good point about siblings needing to form separate identities. The girl in this story is reaching the age where she’d want to do that, anyway. She’s working on becoming “Becky the soccer star,” “Becky who’s awesome at math,” or even “Becky who’s BFFs with Sylvia and Alissa” rather than One of the Smith Girls. When some young man (or woman…don’t want to make assumptions) asks the girl in the story to Homecoming or Spring Fling in a couple of years, will this mom have the “coldness of heart” to keep her brother home?

  • Natalie November 12, 2013, 4:57 pm

    La, thank you! My son has ADHD and I frequently hear comments of, “Oh, are you SURE? Have you tried changing his diet/exercise/limiting TV/cleaning without chemicals/a different doctor/just giving him a cup of coffee in the morning/etc?” Yes, I AM sure. It’s been like this since he was three. If you would like to challenge his diagnosis, feel free to take him home for a day or two without medication.
    I agree that diagnoses of ADD/ADHD, Aspergers and Autism are on the rise, but not because of a mass over-diagnosis. We are now able to recognize the signs earlier and have names for these disorders. Growing up (I’m in my late 30’s now), I had a friend who was what we called “hyper”. She couldn’t sit still. Couldn’t be quiet. Couldn’t remember her two lines for the Christmas Pageant. I hated being stuck doing group work with her because it meant I would do 90% of the work while she bounced off (literally or mentally) to do something else. She had a hell of a time getting through school and failed out of college.
    As an adult, she finally was diagnosed with ADHD. If she had been diagnosed as a child and not just labeled “hyper”, she might have had better grades and might have finished college. The good news is that now, she is a successful professional, but that is after years of trying medications, behavior therapy and learning to deal with her diagnosis. Thanks goodness for technology, because now she has constant reminders and alarms on her phone at all times.
    Long story short: the diagnoses are real. Saying they are just “in fashion” does a disservice to those who have them and those of us who love people who have them.

  • Kimstu November 12, 2013, 11:14 pm

    @La and @Natalie: You’re quite right that it’s not “fashion” that’s responsible for producing more clinical diagnoses of conditions like autism, ADHD, etc. nowadays. (And kudos to all parents and children, teachers, therapists, etc., who are working hard to meet the challenges that such conditions entail.)

    However, I think it’s fair to say that some parents are indeed exploiting the rising trend of awareness of such conditions by using them to excuse poor behavior WITHOUT any clinical diagnosis. They don’t put in the work to teach their kids good social behavior, so naturally the kids’ socialization and manners end up lagging behind the norm for their age group. And then the parents claim (without any actual medical confirmation) that their child is “developmentally delayed” or has a “learning disability”, so how dare anybody criticize poor little Snowflake’s behavior.

    Eventually, of course, Snowflake’s peers and teachers step in to provide the social guidance that Snowflake isn’t getting at home, and Snowflake’s alleged “disability” gradually disappears (which, of course, would not happen so easily if Snowflake really DID have a genuine cognitive or developmental disorder). But this just reinforces the dismissive attitude of many people who don’t take REAL diagnoses of special-needs conditions seriously.

    So the “Snowflake parents” are doing a serious disservice not just to their own children, but to all the children who really DO have the problems that they glibly invoke as “fashionable” excuses for their own poor parenting.

  • La November 13, 2013, 12:44 am


    The problem isn’t fashionable diagnoses, the problem is that these parents either feel they can’t do anything for their child, or that they don’t want to do anything. Which would be a problem even if the kid is neurotypical, it’s just people are more willing to accept it when the kid isn’t. 🙁

    And most people with mental disabilities do seem to ‘grow out’ of the worst of their disabilities – mainly because they learn coping strategies and alternative ways of doing things. It’s still there. The really bad stuff – for example, meltdowns – still comes out when I’m stressed. Fortunately they’ve turned into twitching and aphasia rather than the ‘tantrum-like’ behaviour of my childhood unless they get really bad.

  • Marozia November 13, 2013, 3:02 am

    Short answer to 1st question is NO!!
    When I read @Catrunning’s story, I also felt the same way as everybody else. One must also ask the question about the mother of this young 14 yo boy. What is the family situation like? Are the parents separated/divorced? Is this mother coping alone with two children even in a marriage? Is she forced to stay at home and cope with this young boy? Does she get support from her spouse or any agencies regarding her son?., and many other questions one should ask.
    I have noticed too with friends’ developmentally delayed children that the kids themselves are apt to ‘tell on’ one parent to the other, saying ‘mum/dad didn’t let me do blah, blah, blah..today’, which further invokes quarrels with couples on how to parent these children.
    All children need to be taught manners.

  • Hemi November 13, 2013, 9:22 am

    @Abby (#78)- I agree that it would have been better for the mother, her son & the daughter to all leave the party instead of ruining it for the b-day girl. It just sucks that the daughter doesn’t get to enjoy 1 girls-only party without her brother & mom crashing it.

    @Library Diva make a great point- what happens if by some miraculous event this girl actually gets to have a semi-normal social life and gets invited to homecoming or a dance? Is the mom going to dress up brother and jump in the car with the daughter & date, so she doesn’t have to be “cold of heart”? What about if the daughter marries? I can see the mom insisting that the brother stand at the altar and get a ring from the groom, too!

    Not everyone is going to make allowances for, or let her son run roughshod over everything. Eventually he is going to get excluded from something and the daughter should not have to pay for it. I think the mom would be doing her son a favor by teaching him that he cannot attend every single event his sister does. I feel very sad for the daughter. 🙁

  • Anonymous November 13, 2013, 10:35 am

    @Catrunning–Not to pile on you, because I’m totally on your side, but how much do the other parents know about this girl’s situation? It might have helped if you’d taken Rude Mom aside, and offered to drive Daughter home after the party, if she took Son home with her, “because he really wouldn’t enjoy a girls-only spa party anyway.” Of course, I don’t even know if this would have been possible; if you drive and own a car, if you had another event to get to afterwards, if you’d already been planning to drive several other party guests home and your car was full, etc. I’m also not saying that that family’s situation was anyone else’s problem, but maybe Rude Mom climbed up on her “inclusion” soapbox in that moment at least partly because she didn’t want to have the inconvenience of packing Son up and taking him home or elsewhere (amid complaints, undoubtedly), only to have to turn around and pick up Daughter later (cue more complaints from Son, that Daughter had gotten to attend a party, get a loot bag, etc.) Of course, not doing this wasn’t rude, AT ALL, but I bet Daughter would have really appreciated it, and it might have even really cemented a relationship between her and Kittenrunning.

  • Natalie November 13, 2013, 3:02 pm

    @Kimstu, I appreciate what you’re trying to say. I have run into several parents with very poorly behaved children who tell me things like, “Well, we’re just SURE it’s ADD. After all, her brother has it! We’ve never gotten her tested, but that must be what it is.” “Don’t mind little Jimmy. He’s got autism. Testing? No, we haven’t done that, but from what we’ve read, it’s the only reason he could be acting like that.”
    People like this do a huge disservice to their children, themselves, and to children who really do have an atypical neurological diagnosis.

  • LizaJane November 13, 2013, 6:19 pm

    Kimstu, EXCELLENT post!

  • Miss Alex November 14, 2013, 12:14 am

    @La-Thank you for saying what I was not brave enough to say.

  • chechina November 15, 2013, 7:10 pm

    I think those of you that state the mom videotaped it because it was “funny” are right on the mark. Clearly she didn’t mind him being “embarrassed” on tape! That poor kid.

    Catrunning’s story is so upsetting on so many levels. The boy seems like he requires a little extra attention, and the hostess was not ready to give it and the mom didn’t provide it.

    Personally, people showing up at my house uninvited is a huge thing for me, so I would have no issue reminding mom and boy that they were not invited, but the little girl was. If mom said that the little girl couldn’t stay either, I would say that it was a shame, give the little girl her goody bag, and say that maybe my daughter and her could have a spa play-date another day. But I can see why someone else would feel that would be too cold.

  • Enna November 23, 2013, 5:43 am

    The mother is reponsible for her child: if he cannot do it himself she needs to do it.

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