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What Goes Through This Mom's Head When You Say 'All Kids Do That'

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My son wouldn’t get out of bed this morning.

All kids do that.

No, what I mean is that he refused to get out of bed and I had to carry him out of his room.

All kids do that.

No, I mean that I had to lock his bedroom door so that he would not get back into bed.

All kids do that.

No, I mean that he threw himself at the door, beating it and ramming his head, shoulders into it. His skin was getting red spots on where he was hitting against the door.

Do all kids do that?

I had to wrap my arms around him and guide him to my rocking chair to try to soothe him.

Do all kids do that?

He was feeling powerful anxiety. He was terrified of going to school because he doesn’t know how to deal with the other human beings there. My son who scores off-the-scale on standardized tests can’t figure out the social rules, and that terrifies him, too.

Do all kids do that?

My son was in pain and trying to get away from what scared him.

My son was in pain and I had no idea how to help him.

Most of the time “all kids do that” is well-meaning, intended to be reassuring that my son is not different, as if different was something to be avoided, something to be saved from.

There are times when it is hurtful, when it has the effect of dismissing my concerns and worries, when it is obvious the listener is the one uncomfortable with “different.”

It becomes clear that I have not communicated well what it is I’m trying to say, either because I can’t find the right words, or I’m reluctant to describe behavior I know that all kids do not do, because I don’t want to see the fearful “different is to be avoided” expression on the listener’s face.

Most of the time I am polite. Most of the time I accept the comment assuming the well-meaning intention and roll on. But in my head I might be having the above conversation.

Maybe irritation flashes across my face — a split second that, if the listener is observant, reveals that in my head I’m shouting, “How the hell do you know?”

Sometimes there are people who don’t say that. They get a look on their face that tells me they understand “My son wouldn’t get out of bed this morning” is code for all the rest of what happened, that my placid comment is really the tip of the iceberg. Maybe they aren’t afraid of “different.”

Or maybe they simply see my own fear and pain that my child is in pain. They don’t try to problem-solve for me or try to give me advice until I ask for it. They listen with kindness and compassion.

When I find those people, it is like a glass of cold water in the desert, fresh air in a stale room, sunshine after a storm. I want to hug them.

Follow this journey on Autism Mom.

Lead photo source: Thinkstock Images

Originally published: October 5, 2015
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