Does A Developmental Delay Justify Special Exemptions From Common Courtesy?

by admin on November 11, 2013

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… read them below or add one }

Kate November 11, 2013 at 10:35 am

(Coming from a person with no children).

Idon’t think that having a child with any sort of difference exempts you from teaching them good manners and hygiene. After all, weren’t we all taught these things at one point? The fact that you may have to teach it in a different way or have to teach it for a longer amount of time doesn’t mean that it’s not worth doing. It just means that, like other facets of their lives, you probably have to do it a different way.

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Hemi November 11, 2013 at 10:48 am

I have a question: Was the child with the oranges a new sign-up for tennis lessons? Surely if he was a regular student, (as in took lessons regularly) the coaches would have know he had developmental issues?

The mom should have taken steps to stop the child from putting food that had been in his mouth back in with the other food. To me, that is just gross and I would have probably thrown out the tray of oranges. The mom approaching the coaches and ripping in to them was uncalled for. She should have *put the camera down* and corrected her son.

I work in a business where hundreds of kids a day come to visit our facility and almost every time a child misbehaves, the mom or a teacher will say the child has developmental issues. I know that scientists & researchers are identifying more ways children can be developmentally delayed, but I am afraid that this is becoming a catch all or convenient excuse for every misbehavior. I have no doubt that developmentally delayed children face all kinds of issue I will never fully understand, but when you tell a child no & they fall on the floor throwing a tantrum, then the parent gives in & the child gets up & acts perfectly fine, that seems more like a spoiled child than one who has developmental delays. Or when you ask a child not to touch something because it is fragile, they smack it with their hand, break it & then look at you & smile, that is pure rottenness.

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MJames November 11, 2013 at 10:50 am

It seems like this has almost zero to do with developmental issues and everything to do with the parent wanting to film her kid’s every move (why do people do this? I see it all the time and I just… don’t get it) rather than giving a rat’s ass about anyone else’s comfort or basic hygiene. What a foul person she is for using her son’s developmental issues as a cover for her own shortcomings.

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inNM November 11, 2013 at 10:59 am

Someone has developmental issues, but I suspect it’s more the mother than the boy. Regardless of if she thinks he is her little miracle (I make an assumption by the constant filming) or not, if anyone should be correcting his behaviour it’s her. The first time it happened, she should have corrected her son by words and by showing him what should be done. I also suspect that this is not the first time she has used this excuse to make up for her lack of parenting.
Before you jump on my case and say I do not understand the difficulties of raising a developmentally delayed child, I admit, I do not. However, like the OP, I have observed from the outside. I am good friends with a lovely couple who has a son that is developmentally disabled. They have gone out of her way to make sure he can behave in public, and when he gets over-excited or upset, they either remove him from the trigger or they remove the trigger from the situation. They do not expect anyone to cater to them beyond a basic sense of common courtesy, which, ironically, means people gives them more courtesy. And if he and his mom were transplanted to this story, I can say with almost absolute certainty, that the orange peel thing would have happened no more than once.

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Allie November 11, 2013 at 11:04 am

If he’s closer to 3 than 6, then his conduct is quite the norm and needs to be corrected repeatedly because he’s so little. It has nothing to do with being “delayed,” if such is the case. If he is delayed, then it just means he has to be corrected in such behavior longer since it takes him longer to learn what is expected of him. There’s nothing embarrassing about it, especially since he was being corrected politely. In fact, I don’t see how his alleged delay enters into this situation at all. It’s a classic case of a mother failing to correct her special snowflake and getting mad when someone else does so. On another note, I am quite sick and tired of people living life through the lens of a camera. Take a few snaps or a short video, sure, but then put the damn camera down and enjoy the experience. Are you really going to be lying on your death bed thinking “I wish I’d taken more videos”?

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Jenn50 November 11, 2013 at 11:05 am

As someone whose special needs child has no concern for etiquette/germs/social norms, I can say that mom was being a Special Snowflake. 1) She should have been correcting her son’s behaviour and preventing further contamination after the first sign of a problem, 2) Unless the other moms were being harsh with him, (which it doesn’t sound like) she has no right to chastise them for speaking up. Especially since she chose not to.

When I take my daughter out, I do so for a few reasons. First, because her developmental delays aren’t her fault and she deserves to go out and do things. Second, to socialize her and help her to learn proper public conduct, and third, to educate my social circle about her issues, and encourage understanding about her condition. The mom in this story was clearly only thinking about the first reason, and really blew the second two. Her lack of any attempt to minimize her boy’s negative impact taints society against people with special needs. While I fully understand her desire to spend JUST ONE OUTING not constantly chasing and corralling him, (believe me!) her inaction was unfair to everyone else, and necessitated something that I hate; someone else correcting my kid in my presence.

Not that it was anyone else’s responsibility, but next time, I think I’d say, “Oh, here, Johnny, let me get you a napkin full of food, so you can take it and sit with the other kids.” It would be better if the coach had done this, as they are the authority figure and correction is more expected from them, but as a mom, I’d step up and do it if nobody else did.

Honestly, every time it was my turn to take oranges for my son’s soccer games, I’d have to stop some kid who DIDN’T have special needs from putting their chewed peels back with the food. And if their parents didn’t correct them, I would, regardless of whether they were developmentally delayed, or completely neurotypical.

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Jewel November 11, 2013 at 11:08 am

We have a special needs child and can tell you from our experience with other parents that MANY of them use their child’s condition as an excuse not to teach them basic skills and manners. Yes, it can be harder to teach these kids, but that doesn’t mean we can just throw our hands up in the air and give up. The Mom in this story was wrong, wrong, wrong to play the “disabled card” and is doing her son a tremendous disservice that will limit him even further in life than he already is. The party coordinators would have been perfectly right to push back against the Mom’s twisted sense of entitlement.

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Jen November 11, 2013 at 11:11 am

If the child has developmental issues, than the mother should be taking extra effort to teach the child, not less. Developmental issues don’t mean a child is exempt from all the rules (obviously, certain allowances are made), it just means that extra care, effort, help, and resources should be available to help the mother teach the child how to operate in this world, because she won’t always be here to help her child.

I think the most important job of any parent, whether the child has developmental issues or not, is to teach that child all the tools they need to successfully navigate the world, independently, as an adult, without that parent’s help. This includes the realms of finance, practical knowledge (what do you do when the furnace breaks?, etc.), social (including how to treat people you are in a romantic relationship with), critical thinking skills, as well as a myriad of other areas. If the incident in the OP’s story is indicative of how that mother is raising her son, she’s doing him a grave disservice.

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Lilly November 11, 2013 at 11:18 am

I have two autistic children, ages 6 and 7. When we go to places or on outings like this, we sit them down at the table, bring them plates of food we know they will prefer, and tell them to stay put, untill they are finished. Its non-negotiable. If they want more, they already know to take thier plates to us, where ever we are, and we will get them more.
Since both are also likely to be easily overwhelmed in social situation, we keep a close eye on them. If we see *any* signs of impending disaster, we go home, immediately. It doesnt matter what was coming up non the program, or if one of us were in the middle of something. It simply is not worth the hassles we have to deal with, when theres a meltdown.
We chose to be parents, and so our children, and their upbringing is our first concern. If either of our kids *ever* did something so rude, we would immediately show them were the garbage was, tell them to put the “leavings” in the garbage, and than walk them back to their seats. My children are very developmentally delayed, but it doesnt mean that they cannot learn, or be good in social situation, it just means that we have to take extra time and concern with their upbringing.
The mother may have been humiliated by her child’s actions, and taken it out inappropriately on the Coaches. That projection of embarrassment is inappropriate, and childish. I feel for the child who is growing up in such an atmosphere that will do him no favours.

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Dora November 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

In my family we have a several members who have special needs and developmental issues. Cerebral palsy, Down’s syndrome, autism, ADHD…several are now adult and are at the mental and emotional capacity of 3 to 4 year old children. And yet, all have been taught basic manners. Just like the actual 3 and 4 year old children have. As Kate mentioned, some had to be taught differently, and it took a little longer…but nonetheless they have been taught.

My DH works as a behavioral therapist for special needs children. His career is devoted to helping those with severe autism and/or other disorders how to behave in a socially normative way. Yes, it takes more time and yes, teaching has to be done differently. But these children can be taught. There really is no excuse for allowing them to behave poorly and berate others for being offended or upset by the rude behavior.

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Daisy November 11, 2013 at 11:22 am

Children with developmental difficulties often do very well when parents take a gentle, continual approach to manners and etiquette. When that fails, the children can often be distracted and redirected from undesirable behavior. It’s unfair to the child not to be given, in whatever measure is possible, the ability to interact with the rest of society. In this case, the child’s difficulties weren’t readily apparent, which argues for a lifetime of misunderstanding, and Mom isn’t always going to be there to demand that others make way for him.

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EllenS November 11, 2013 at 11:27 am

All people and families are expected to behave courteously in public. If a person is incapable of polite behavior (by reason of age, illness, disability etc,) then the responsibility falls on the caregiver to see that the child or disabled person does not cause offense or disruption to others.

Babies can’t be polite – you still don’t let them put slobbery food into a common food tray. If a child is unable to use the self-control expected of a typically-developing child, then the parent should use precautions appropriate to the child’s developmental stage.

The friend who gently corrected the boy did nothing wrong (special kudos for telling the boy what he SHOULD do, rather than just saying “don’t do that”). The mom was angry because she was the one embarassed. If her child has been recently diagnosed, she may be dealing with grief and having difficulty accepting his limitations – though understandable, it is still wrong to lash out at others or expect them to put up with inappropriate behavior.

(By the way, I would not be at all surprised to see a neurotypical 6 year old do something like that, and refuse to be corrected by anyone but their own parent. Of course, in that instance, the child would be called “spoiled” or “badly reared” rather than “delayed”).

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livvy17 November 11, 2013 at 11:30 am

To me, it’s entitlement, even if there are bona fide issues. I’ve seen this arguement a lot: “You shouldn’t judge my child throwing a fit in the donut shop, because he has XYZ! Unless you have a kid with XYZ, you can’t know!!”

What really ticks me off about this attitude is that assumes that everyone should have to tolerate the behavior because there are reasons the child cannot behave well. While that may be the case, the parent has other options – if the child cannot behave well in public, remove the child from the situation – yes, the parent may have to forgo the donut because their child is throwing a fit, but that’s what a good member of society does. In the case above, the parent didn’t even ATTEMPT to correct her child, didn’t object to someone else correcting him until later, and didn’t remove the child when he continued to misbehave. Bad parenting, period. When a student had trouble learning, we usually respond with EXTRA help EXTRA guidance and EXTRA repetition, yes? We don’t say, “oh, you learn slowly? Then I won’t bother teaching you at all.” Ridiculous.

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lakey November 11, 2013 at 11:36 am

A parents’ job is to teach a child proper behavior whether that child has disabilities or not. The fact that he has these developmental problems doesn’t mean that he can’t learn at all. Teachers who deal with children who have these issues take extra care to teach them to function around other people. This child will not learn what he is capable of learning if she doesn’t start teaching him.

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Ashley November 11, 2013 at 11:40 am

The mother should have certainly done SOMETHING to stop her son from doing this. Even just getting him a small plate full of oranges that he could have to himself and put whatever trash he wanted on it.

If she’s the type of parent who goes ahead and uses this as excuse for every little thing this kid does wrong, eventually it’s going to get someone in a world of trouble.

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abf November 11, 2013 at 11:45 am

My brother had developmental delays as well, but my mother taught him manners. And I must say his table manners were especially excellent. She saw no reason to excuse him from that. It may have taken her a little longer to teach him, but he learned.

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Hello! November 11, 2013 at 11:55 am

Having dealt with this issue in our own family, and in extended family situations, I will say that different people deal with these sorts of things very differently from each other and differently from “normal” society in general. When a child has a developmental issues, there are a lot of factors involved in knowing how to deal with the child and the issue–therapy sessions, doctor visits, counseling, school teachers, etc. etc. Sometimes it’s more than a parent can even deal with. Not knowing the full story here, it very well could be, that under these conditions, the parent may have been thinking, “wow, look at how well XX is doing today! I really thought we’d come to this party and have all sorts of problems, but the only thing that he’s having an issue with today is something small, and even when the parents are telling him to stop and take care of his orange peels, he’s remaining calm and collected. I am so proud of him!” Why the mom would then come over and berate the other parents could be her way of saying, “I finally had a moment when I could be proud of my son! And you all are acting like he’s some sort of monster!! Give me a break–I could really use a pat on the back and a hug for dealing with this problem 24/7!!” I always take the road of grace in these situations–and whether a kid has a development issue or not, I try to help them out as graciously as possible by setting an example and showing them how to handle their issues (in this case, orange peels). If that still doesn’t work, it’s okay, it’s a long journey from being a kid to an adult and most will learn with maturity.

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Huh November 11, 2013 at 11:58 am

I have a friend who has a special needs son (he is on the Aspergers/Autism scale), and he would freak out if he saw that kid do this! (He is very fixated on cleanliness/germs.)

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Lerah99 November 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I am sure that parenting a child with developmental delays is exhausting.
Just as running around after a toddler is exhausting.

But if a toddler is near open plates of food and tries to put something from their mouth on a platter of food – you don’t just film the toddler.
You grab the chewed up orange slice and say “No, we put this in the trash” and you have the kid throw it away. You repeat that action as often as necessary to make sure no one else at the party is subjected to your toddler’s saliva.

It seems to me that it is reasonable for those same rules to apply here.

This seems to be an extension of the “My kid has Asperger’s so you HAVE to let them act like a little monster” mentality.

My friend Karen has a son diagnosed with Asperger’s. So she works with him CONSTANTLY on what is and is not appropriate behavior. They discuss what are ok topics of conversation, why it is important to listen to your friends even if you are bored, body language and social cues. She spells out tons of things that most kids pick up on naturally. It is a LOT of extra time and energy on her part to help him function as normally and happily as possible in society.

I have never seen Karen more livid than when a kid hit her son at the park. She ran over to make sure he was ok. The other kid’s mom came running too. The other kid’s mom started yelling “Don’t you say anything to my son! He has Asperger’s! He doesn’t know any better!”
Karen replied “My son also has Asperger’s. It is your JOB to make sure he knows better.”

If you are the parent of a child with developemental delays, emotional issues, anger issues, mental health issues, etc… It is your job to find ways for them to interact with society. Just as it is society’s job to make reasonable accomodations.

In my opinion allowing one kid to contaminate the whole tray of orange slices with his saliva is not a reasonable accomodation.
But being willing to explain to the kid 3 times, “No. Don’t put that back on the tray. Put it in the trash over here instead.” is reasonable. The mom should have been doing that BEFORE the peel actually hit the tray rather than leaving it to others to coach her child in proper buffet techniques.

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Rap November 11, 2013 at 12:12 pm

The problem I have with people who do this is that it makes it that much harder for kids with developemental problems to a) get included and b) to learn the correct way to act.

I will say it. I don’t like being around people with developemental delays because I have been yelled at one too many times that little Johnny’s specialness means everyone else has to suffer and no one is allowed to do or say anything that questions Lil Johnny’s parents since they are the parents of a special needs child and no one understands whats that like.

In this situation – if a non developementally delayed child would have been corrected for the behavior, then its not treating someone unfairly. If the delayed child is delayed to the point that he doesn’t understand what he is doing, then his parents need to address the behavior. If they don’t, then they are to blame for any embarrassment they feel. We all understand if a child with developemental issues doesn’t understand something… but his mother should, and should acknowledge the concerns about her child eating oranges and putting peels that have been in his mouth back in the serving area.

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Kate November 11, 2013 at 12:20 pm

Even if he has developmental issues, I don’t see why she wouldn’t either quickly clear up after him herself, since she is standing there watching him do it, or gently ask him herself and than praise him – perhaps it wouldn’t occur to him to clean up, but surely it would occur to her, and she would want to give him simple tasks he could complete and be praised for. Having developmental issues and needing different considerations and expectations at times does not have to be synonymous with being a special snowflake but I think this mother disagrees.

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Ergala November 11, 2013 at 12:22 pm

Both of my children have developmental delays. My oldest has aspergers and my youngest is currently being evaluated. This does NOT exempt them from having manners. We are constantly reminding them to take care of their trash, to say please and thank you, to say excuse me and not interrupt people mid sentence. We’re still working with my oldest 8 year old son on that last one, he doesn’t understand that the character in his video game is not a legitimate reason to disrupt my phone calls.

Because my children have these issues I feel as though I must be more vigilant and rightly so. I don’t allow them to run wild or to do things I wouldn’t allow a neurotypical child to do. As their parent is is MY job to coach them in the ways of social etiquette. The mother in the OP was not doing her child any favors at all. There comes a point where you need to stop using delays as a crutch.

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AthenaC November 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm

“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.”

Exactly. It may not be realistic to expect the child to have good manners, but then it’s the mother’s job to run interference to prevent the child from using the world as his ashtray (to borrow phrasing from a few days ago).

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Jaxsue November 11, 2013 at 12:28 pm

My oldest son has autism. Yes, it is over-diagnosed, but he is the real deal. To say that teaching him appropriate behavior and good etiquette is a challenge is a vast understatement. However, it is my responsibility (and now his group home’s) to teach him right from wrong. To explain to him “why” these are rules is a waste of time. He only understands black and white. But it has to be done! I can relate to having a special-needs child, but I don’t understand people who let their kids be feral (for lack of a better word).

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Stacey Frith-Smith November 11, 2013 at 12:30 pm

There is a lot of shame, anxiety, rage, stress and grief that are part of the package of being the parent or family member of a special needs child. It comes at least in part from society’s reaction to the child and you can see the fallout in the very high divorce rate for families who have a special needs child or children, the escalation of incidents of bullying, assault, disciplinary incidents in school, and shunning that occur (child not invited to class party, children’s church, sports team tryouts… child labelled as bad, stupid, incorrigible, retarded, impossible, antisocial, a bully, nerd and worse) and in the residual idea that inclusion of those with differences is somehow a gift conferred on a less deserving person or group instead of simply the decent and normal way community behaves. Say a name like Ethan Saylor, Avonte Oquendo or Stuart Chaifetz- and images of victims and secondary victims come to mind. All of this is relevant only to the extent that it points out that parents, teachers, carers and coaches need to be educated about and engaged in advocacy for exceptional needs children That mom was looking for attention, for some reason. She might have been an entitled and overly sensitive special snowflake who was projecting some of her own pain and loss on her son’s behalf in an inappropriate and shabby manner onto a fun farewell celebration for a young athlete. She might have been a mom whose journey with her child has so exhausted and traumatized her that she can no longer effectively advocate because she sees offense where none is meant, insult where none is offered, and classifies even benign neglect as abuse. It’s eminently possible for her to fill both of these roles simultaneously. It doesn’t diminish the lack of courtesy and combativeness she displayed- but I cannot help wondering- was her child treated with the same respect, time, attention and dignity as his peers by the coaches and the other parents? If the answer is “yes” then she has nothing to complain of. I suspect, from experience, that the answer may be either “no” or “yes, but only some of the time”.

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David November 11, 2013 at 12:32 pm

This would be all on the parent for not bothering to socialize their child and using any developmental issues the child has as an excuse to keep from parenting.

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Rod November 11, 2013 at 12:35 pm

It doesn’t matter.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying he kid and the family won’t have extra challenges socially, academically, etc. And that it will take extra effort.

I know my toddler is good socially but she needs a nudge to start interaction with other children. Without that, she withdraws from social play. So I provide that incentive.

I also know that she is a very good eater, but she will sometimes chew the “good” bits of a fruit or vegetable and leave the normally edible peel (apple, cucumber, pear) and put the rest back in the plate. She simply needs a gentle reminder to put it in her tray or in the garbage. To stay away from spicy and hot foods, and if curious ask for a sample (she’s a really adventurous eater, but sriracha is still a bit too much at 2.5 years old).

In other words, it’s on us (her family and other adults invested in her life, for we have close friends with children the same age) to provide guidance, discipline, and structure. I think we refer to this as raising children. Videotaping negative conduct without correction accomplishes none of those things.

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M November 11, 2013 at 12:46 pm

I have a friend who doesn’t correct her children in the company of other people because she doesn’t want to humiliate them.

During one visit my friend and her daughter was in my home office where I have expensive machinery. The daughter (age 9) kept asking how much I paid for everything. I was raised to not talk about money or ask adults how much money they have so I wasn’t inclined to answer a child’s questions on how much money I spend on my equipment.

After her first question I answered, “Well, this machine costs a lot of money”.
Next I lightheartedly said, “It was a million dollars!!”
The next time I said, “A million cajillion dollars!!!”

The whole time my friend remained silent even though it was clear I was bean-dipping and not about to give this child a number.

Finally I said, “I know you are curious sweetie, but it’s not polite to ask people how much money they spend on things.”

The little girl said, “okay” and skipped away. That is when my friend spoke up. She said to me, “Sorry, she’s just a kid and doesn’t know to not ask questions like that.”

I think my head exploded. I got the feeling she was actually annoyed with me for correcting her kid. The whole time I was bean-dipping I was giving my friend the opportunity to correct her own child. I wasn’t offended by the child in the least. She is, in fact, a child who doesn’t know any better. I was shocked my friend didn’t take this golden opportunity to teach her child a valuable lesson on manners.

I replied, “Oh I wasn’t offended. She really didn’t know, so I just spoke up for myself. I didn’t feel like telling her much money I spend.”

I can’t wrap my head around her lack of manners or the fact that she didn’t want to chance embarrassing her child with a gentle correction. Children have no idea they have to say “please” or “thank you”. They don’t know that they aren’t allowed to butt in line or have sloppy table manners. They learn by being corrected. Sometimes over and over again. In our family we all feel free to remind our nieces and nephews how to behave. When we give them a cookie and they don’t say “thank you”, someone will say, “Niece, what do you say to Uncle Eddie?” Almost always the child will immediately smile and say “thank you”. They are not humiliated or treated badly. And after a certain age the children know that it’s polite to say “thank you” and do so automatically. We watch and correct children in the security of family and close friends so that when they are older and on their own we feel confident they will behave appropriately.

With a child with developmental issues the parents have a greater responsibility to educate their children to the best of their capacity. If they can’t behave appropriately they should be accompanied by someone who will guide them. This isn’t to say a person with issues shouldn’t be welcomed everywhere. They certainly should. But for the dignity of the person with the issues and for the courtesy of everyone else, some one needs to be responsible.

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just4kicks November 11, 2013 at 12:50 pm

I agree, just because the child has issues, there is no reason not to teach him good manners. The boy was apparently there to learn tennis, so I think he could handle a gentle “Son, don’t put the peels back onto the tray please.” I am a super stickler for manners with my kids, it drives me crazy when kids don’t say please and thank you.

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SweetPea November 11, 2013 at 12:51 pm

I don’t buy the developmental disabilities bit at all. If it were true, she would have said something when the child was given back the orange peel. Seems to me just a case of an embarrassed woman who chose to try and make those around her feel bad instead of take responsibility.

Hopefully your move goes well!

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Calli Arcale November 11, 2013 at 12:54 pm

My daughter has developmental issues, and sometimes does things that are inappropriate. This is why whenever she is invited to something, one of us always goes along. We try to hang back, and not be too conspicuous or cramp her style, but we’re there to gently redirect if she’s doing something inappropriate. In her case, it’s generally that she struggles to deal with frustration or being corrected or not getting what she wanted in some minor, seemingly trivial way. And it’s paying off, because she’s getting better at it all the time. Time was, she’d go nuclear if none of the snacks offered were to her liking. She’s still picky, but now she knows how to be polite and discreet about it.

When you have a child like this, it’s your job to look after them, to teach them correct manners, and to gently and discreetly redirect them when this is not successful. It is not the responsibility of random strangers to know of your child’s disability nor to know how to respond to the child. In some circumstances, I will tell other parents of my child’s disability, if it’s a situation where they would need to be able to correct her, or if I’m having to pull her out — I want to make sure they know it’s not their fault my child has to be removed, and that they’ve been good hosts; sometimes she just needs things to be quieter for a little while, and that’s okay.

This mother isn’t doing her son any favors by tolerating his misbehavior and expecting the world to conform to him. The younger your child is when you start teaching them etiquette, the less trouble they’ll have down the road. They’ll never be exactly like everyone else — but why would you want them to be? a world of same people is boring — but you need to give them the social tools to navigate the world.

My favorite example is Temple Grandin. She’s autistic — classically autistic, diagnosed long before it became fashionable. Back then, the “refrigerator mother” hypothesis was still popular, and the usual fate of an autistic person was lifelong institutionalization. Her mother didn’t like either of those things, and resolved to help her daughter navigate the world successfully. Like other autistics, basic human interaction doesn’t come naturally to her. Her mother trained it into her instead, so she could emulate a normal person successfully. She is a highly respected expert in animal behavior today, and very influential to the livestock industries. So it is completely possible to teach a developmentally delayed child how to behave in public. It takes a lot of work, though.

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Miss Alex November 11, 2013 at 12:56 pm

To me (a person on the mild end of the autism spectrum, if it matters) it depends on the common courtesy the developmentally delayed person has difficulty with. If it’s something like making eye contact, poor table manners, or a tic interfering with the ability to communicate, then let it go. This child should have been reprimanded by his mother because he was doing something that had the potential to make other people sick.

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Cat November 11, 2013 at 1:02 pm

This is so common that I would have thought nothing of her behavior. A fellow teacher brought her eight year old son to our school. I was speaking to her when he sneezed. Rather than asking for a tissue or going into the bathroom to our right for tissue, he walked over to me and ran his hand, into which he had sneezed, over my dress. Mom smiled happily. No development issues.
I went to a friend’s wedding. At the reception, her young son was taking shrimp from a platter on the buffet. He would put the shrimp in his mouth, suck on it, and then replace it on the platter and repeat with a new shrimp. No one said a word.
Children have, in too many cases, become little princes an princesses who must have whatever they wish whenever they wish. Anyone who disagrees is a horrible, rude person who does not appreciate their darling and who should be told off.
I wish I had an answer. Discipline and manners have left our culture or this website wouldn’t be here.

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MichelleP November 11, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I get so sick of parents who do this. It does no favors to children who legitimately do have disorders. My child has a peanut allergy, so I frequently talk to other parents of children who do. The entitlement attitude of them astounds me. They couldn’t understand why I wasn’t on their “side” to get everyone to accomodate their children’s allergies. My mindset is that it’s our problem, not everyone else. My stepbrother had Down syndrome, and a friend’s son has autism. Their parents taught them how to behave and did their best to not allow their issues to infringe on others.

What’s going to happen to these children when they grow up?

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acr November 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I don’t think the child’s developmental issues are at all an appropriate excuse here. All children learn by practicing. Maybe it will take her son longer to learn not to put his slobbery trash on top of the food – but that makes it that much more important for the mom to begin working on that with him.

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Ripple November 11, 2013 at 1:23 pm

I agree that having developmental issues is no excuse for not teaching your child the basics of proper behavior. I work as a cashier at a large store. A few times I have seen one woman who comes in with her grandson, who obviously has developmental issues – he wears noise canceling headphones all the time because loud noises bother him and he is overly friendly with everyone. Because they have come to my line a couple of times, he has learned my name. Yesterday, they were at the line next to me (my back was to them) and he came over and hugged me tightly and said, “Hi, Miss Sally.” This startled me because I didn’t realize he was there and I was in the midst of checking someone else out. As soon as his grandmother realized what he was doing, she pulled him off me and told him that he was not to bother me, I was working. That is what should be done with a developmentally challenged child, not ignore them to everyone else’s discomfort.

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Lisa Marie November 11, 2013 at 1:42 pm

My granddaughter has a real developmental delay issue, she can hardly speak. She will
eventually, anyways, she has very good manners and was taught to LISTEN and do
what she is told. She gets corrected (gently of course) like any other kid. My point
is she was taught manners. By the way she is 2 1/2.

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Charliesmum November 11, 2013 at 1:48 pm

This annoys me. As a mother with a child who has developmental issues, it has always been a part of my job to help him learn how to behave as ‘neuro-typically’ as possible. Yes, sometimes I have to say ‘my son is Autistic, to explain why he’s behaving in a certain way, but I do that so the people give us a bit more time for him to adjust. It isn’t an excuse for his behaviour, it’s an explanation.

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Ellex November 11, 2013 at 1:50 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.

Now that’s not to say that there aren’t better ways of handling the orange peel situation, and there was apparently no way of the OP and the other adults knowing that the child suffered from a developmental issue. But now that it’s known, a little empathy can go a long way.

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June First November 11, 2013 at 2:04 pm

So she was…doing a documentary on bad manners?
I don’t understand why, if it was so embarrassing, she wouldn’t move her son to a different area. Of course, I don’t have developmentally delayed children, so I don’t know if there’s another reason why she couldn’t move him away.

I have a family member with Alzheimer’s Disease, and as the disease progresses patients often do things like that in public. Caregivers are encouraged to let waitstaff at a restaurant know ahead of time (in case their loved one starts acting inappropriately–like thoroughly licking their plate or having a meltdown), or to distract the patient. “Oops, we need to throw that out. Let’s find the trash can!”

@Hemi: good question. Maybe it’s not an obvious disability? I’m really not sure why others wouldn’t have known about the disability, but it’s a good point.

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Snowy November 11, 2013 at 2:07 pm

If her son did have developmental issues, she still should have done what she could to try and teach him. To do otherwise is a disservice to your child, and is a failure to try and prepare him for society.

But I see so, SO many people claim that their child should be excused from manners or discipline due to “developmental issues” (usually unspecified, but sometimes ranging from ADD to autism to things that just sound made up), that I have to wonder if some parents aren’t self-diagnosing and using it as an excuse for why they can’t make Johnny behave. In other words, it’s easier for them to delude themselves and say “Oh, he’s not poorly behaved, he just has ADD!” and let their kids run around like beasts, instead of making a genuine attempt at discipline. They’ve just slapped a label on their kid that their kid does not deserve, and that child will grow up without boundaries.

It’s insulting to the children who really *do* have developmental issues, and to the parents that are doing their best to raise them up healthy and whole and able to mesh with society. It takes legitimate things like autism and anxiety, and turns them into embarrassments by association.

So, this lady, whether or not her kid has issues, needs to do her best to make sure he’s not a problem. From the way she was filming him all night, I’m guessing his “issues” are that he was her little prince and could do not wrong. I’m not sure if I want to be mistaken or not.

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Miss Raven November 11, 2013 at 2:14 pm

I have plenty of sympathy for children with developmental disabilities. Being a kid is hard enough.

However, if you are the parent of a child with developmental disabilities, and your child is not so disabled that he is incapable or unwilling to interact with other people or feed himself, you need to work EXTRA HARD – not less hard – on issues of etiquette, behavior, and hygiene. You don’t get to take a pass on these issues and expect the rest of the world to just deal with it.

This poor boy’s mom is not doing him any favors by refusing to even attempt to instruct him on these issues. If anything, she’s going to make his life much harder.

My two cents.

Also, does anyone else find it weird that she filmed other people asking her son to behave, but didn’t intervene in any way until the end of the party? It kind of just sounds to me like she was looking for a reason to feel persecuted.

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Emmy November 11, 2013 at 2:20 pm

It seems she is using his developmental issues as an excuse to not teach the boy proper manners. It’s similar to not teaching a very young child proper manners, then just say ‘well, he’s only a baby’ to justify the lack of teaching. It may take longer for a developmentally delayed child to learn, but that doesn’t absolve the responsibility of the parent to train him. Besides, if she doesn’t try to teach him he will never learn and sadly that will hurt him in the long run. The mother should have moved the child to another area if she wasn’t going to make sure he didn’t put the sucked on orange peels back with the food. It was very SS that this mother thought everybody should just be OK with her child creating an unsanitary situation for everybody at the party.

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Library Diva November 11, 2013 at 2:33 pm

In certain circumstances, of course a developmental delay justifies special exemptions from common courtesy. This isn’t one of them, though. This mother is doing her son no favors by refusing to teach him anything and blaming it all on his developmental delays…any more than the mother of a neurotypical son would be in this case. The OP had several good solutions, and the mother should have availed herself of one of them rather than allowing her son to engage in unsanitary behavior, putting another parent in the awkward position of correcting her son while she catches the whole thing on her iPhone for posterity, and then having the nerve to berate everyone.

You also can’t make allowances for something you don’t know about. This reminds me a bit of a bizarre former co-worker who complained to HR that she was discriminated against when her bosses corrected her work. She said it was because of her faith and her disability. No one knew what her faith was or that she had a disability until she came out with this. She just didn’t like to be criticized. If this mother had explained that her child had a developmental disability in advance, everyone would have made allowances and would probably have handled this situation differently. But how was anyone supposed to know?

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Shoegal November 11, 2013 at 2:47 pm

The child’s “developmental” challenges are less of an issue than the Mother’s inability to help him navigate society. I can’t be certain but perhaps the lesson about the handling of food will take multiple tries and situations for him to understand what is appropriate – but the lesson still needs to be taught. The mother needs to help her son do the right thing in the meantime. Just standing by and filming while he does the wrong thing is inexcusable. It certainly doesn’t give her a “pass” – she fell down on the job and should be the sorry one. I think she should have been challenged on this. If she refuses to teach him appropriate behavior and can’t be bother to help him – then she shouldn’t take him out into society. If the OP’s friend heard the mother instructing him or trying to prevent him from touching the food and putting it back then she wouldn’t have interfered.

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Karen L November 11, 2013 at 2:49 pm

My guess is that this kid doesn’t have “developmental issues” as much as he has parents that won’t teach him. You don’t absorb manners and good behavior from the air, those things are taught.

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Shyla November 11, 2013 at 3:08 pm

The mother is refusing to parent. A developmental disability does not mean he is incapable of ever learning correct behavior. If his disability was that severe he could not have been in a tennis class. My niece has a developmental problem due to a brain disease. When she does something she shouldn’t we correct her and tell her what she should do. And we will correct her multiple times if necessary. All you need is a calm patient tone. This poor boy is not being parented and in the end he will pay the price.

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Amanda H. November 11, 2013 at 3:09 pm

It’s stories like this and Hemi’s that make me think that at least some of these “developmental delays” are more “I have *delayed* in helping my child *develop* proper etiquette and social skills.” Because really, filming for the whole party rather than correcting your child or even speaking up to the people who ARE correcting him, and then yelling at them about it after the fact? What kind of parent does that, other than one who can’t be bothered to discipline their own children but can’t stand the idea of someone pointing out your own shortcomings by doing it for you?

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Gee November 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm

As the mom of a child with developmental issues, I call BS on that mom. My child is not excused from common courtesy. No way would I let him put something that had been in his mouth back on the tray. How can he learn if he isn’t taught? A lot of people use developmental delays as an excuse to avoid doing their job as a parent. For instance, it can be harder for my son to learn things like how to take turns, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have to learn! We avoided taking him to places with long line-ups until he’d learned to handle it for this very reason. In other words, the world does not have to conform to us, we have to learn to function in the world.

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Angel November 11, 2013 at 3:24 pm

I agree with all the posters here, I have been in similar situations and have to say, I have pressed for further information at times. I work in the health care field and am always curious about new disorders. About 50 percent of the time the parents are more than willing to fill me in. The other 50 percent of the time I am basically told to eff off. Sometimes in a nice way and sometimes in a not so polite way. I don’t think my inquiries are out of line most of the time though, being that a kid is misbehaving and not being corrected–I guess I am just curious as to what disorder(s) exist that a parent is not allowed to step in and correct the child for a misbehavior–without causing irreparable harm. I am thinking there are not too many, but maybe I’m wrong.

All I have to say in addition is, if parents are going to use the developmental disorder or delay for behavior issues, or as an excuse for not taking action, they had better be prepared to explain themselves–if I were a coach or a teacher certainly I would want more information about how to handle a kid with those issues.

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