Dear Mouthy Housewives,
A group of us suspect that a girlfriend’s kid may be autistic, or at the very least have some major sensory processing issues, and it’s becoming more apparent as our children get older. However, it is also apparent that both parents are in some sort of deep denial and use comedy to brush off some of the child’s behaviors. It doesn’t seem very fair to the child and we fear the longer it isn’t addressed, the longer the child goes without help.
Is there an appropriate way to approach a friend/another parent about this without hurting feelings or overstepping boundaries?
I’m not a doctor nor do I play one on the Internet. However, I am a mom raising an eccentric kid, which means I not only have real-life experience with the autism/sensory question but I’m also highly qualified in the medicinal use of vodka martinis. (For myself, of course.)
First off, I don’t see the problem with using comedy to brush off some of the child’s behaviors. From your friend’s perspective (and certainly mine), humor may be the only thing keeping her from eating paper, sniffing glue, and making homely pottery in a convalescence home.
Second, tread carefully with armchair diagnoses. Dr. Google, along with his hunchback assistant, Media Hype, has an entire generation of parents hyper-aware and fearful of any variations in childhood behavior. We’ve become a society dependent on illness and disorders.
Besides, what Dr. Google (or professional doctors, for that matter) won’t tell you is that many of these same behaviors can also be signs of high intelligence and advanced creativity. Contrary to Media Hype, giftedness in young children doesn’t always show itself in the way of a 2-year-old playing Mozart or reading Beowulf.
For some children it can show in the way of a 4-year-old freaking out over noises or reacting as if button-waist pants are tools of the Devil sent to earth so we mothers can work his evil by making our child wear chinos.
But it could be your friend’s child isn’t a future (insert your favorite genius) and possibly has a developmental problem. The next time the child’s issues become apparent might be a good opportunity to ask the mom if she’s discussed any of the problems with the child’s pediatrician, and then let her take the lead in the conversation.
Either way, parenting a child who doesn’t follow the APA-approved developmental timeline is no day at the spa. Unless you’re getting 100 simultaneous Brazilian wax jobs, then it possibly compares.
Parents like us need positive support, not an intervention. We need to know the differing perspectives of atypical child behavior, not just the disordered ones, which means a lot of reading and researching both sides of the coin. That way insight can’t be confused with denial and we can speak with doctors and teachers as informed parents.
But most of all, we need the people around us to believe in the potential of our child.