A few days ago I posted this on Twitter:

Saw a young kid angrily flailing and hitting a teacher when I picked up Riley today. Jeeeeeesus.

I wrote that because I’d just returned home and was still thinking about what I’d seen. I’d been bothered by it, quite a bit. I didn’t mean my comment to convey any kind of judgment but in retrospect I can see how it might have come across that way—so much is left unsaid, right? Like, did I mean “Jeeeeesus, what an asshole?” I did not, but I suppose it isn’t even remotely clear.

At any rate, someone emailed me about my tweet. She wrote that she hoped the kid was okay, that the teacher understood, and that the community tries to understand. She mentioned that while she wasn’t sure how I’d meant it, she thought I should see a blog post in which a parent detailed a struggle with her special needs child, one where he had a helpless reaction towards some other children that included hitting. She included one of the lines from the original post, which read:

“I expected to see everyone gawking, looks of shock mixed with pity and a dash of “don’t get near that kid, freak-out might be contagious” tossed in there for good measure.”

I read the post she linked (I asked Mir’s permission to link it from here as well), and it about broke my heart. It was so beautifully written, so vivid. I was glad to read on and see that the incident had happened in an supportive environment:

“Instead I saw… a few glances of concern. Kids who’d turned back to whatever they’d been doing before. A couple of understanding, encouraging looks in my direction. The main teacher walking over, asking (my son) if it was okay if she sat down, too. The parents of the other boys involved speaking quietly with them about what had happened.”

Still, my first reaction to receiving the email was one of confusion. Maybe defensiveness. I thought back on what I’d observed outside of Riley’s school and couldn’t see how I was supposed to understand it. I’d seen a teacher leading a young boy—her hand was on the top of his backpack, which he was wearing—towards the area where parents meet their kids, while the boy thrashed and furiously swung his arms at her. His grandmother had approached, looking completely helpless, and he screamed something at the teacher that caused her to say “I won’t let you speak to me that way.” The teacher then told the boy that she hoped he had a good weekend, and she walked away with the rest of the class while he stood there fuming, still yelling, still red-faced and out of control.

I couldn’t understand it because I didn’t know what was going on, I had no idea why the kid was acting out in that way, all I knew is that it looked intense and awful and a little scary. My reaction was pretty close to what Mir describes as being something she was worried about seeing on that day with her own son: I was absolutely shocked, for sure, and I felt miserable for everyone: the teacher, the boy, his family. I wasn’t worried that his freakout might be contagious, exactly, but in all honesty I wanted that kid to be gone—or at least greatly calmed down—before Riley came out of the school.

If what I saw from that unhappy boy isn’t uncommon—if striking out with words and violence is a reaction he occasionally cannot control—well, what then? How do parents and fellow students learn how to handle that in the right way? Because I don’t know how to see something like that and not find myself staring, not feel shocked. I don’t know how to not be worried about the safety of my own kid.

I have no idea if that boy was just having a colossally bad day, if he needs more help than this mainstream school can provide, or if he’s somewhere in the massive gray area in between. The last thing I ever want to do is seem as though I’m judging a child’s behavior, especially if it’s something he simply cannot help. So . . . what, then? I’m thinking I probably didn’t need to blurt out some random OMG I SAWR ME AN ANGRY KID post on Twitter, but in the moment, what should I have done? What if it happens again? How do I be the protective parent and the understanding community at the same time?

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Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

I think sometimes we post out of a knee jerk reaction to have our peers help us understand a situation like that. Even if we don’t realize it at the time of posting. We rely on their comments to help us work through the situation in our mind.

Leandra
11 years ago

I’ve been on both sides of this fence lately b/c my daughter has been acting out at school. Not to the extent that the boy you mentioned was, but certainly her behavior is not acceptable. She hasn’t hit anyone but she has yelled at a few people. And I watched a little boy who was clearly struggling at our bible school this summer and I did nothing because I didn’t know WHAT to do.

I’m not sure that there’s anything you should have DONE. You might want to give Riley a heads up that there’s a little boy who’s having kind of a hard time (chances are Riley knows) and to be kind to that boy, because sometimes those kids need a friend more than anything else. And I think you have to trust that the teachers will do what they have to do to protect YOUR children.

It’s not easy, no matter which side of the fence you’re on.

Nicole
Nicole
11 years ago

Yeah, don’t over-analyze too much – ask JB what he would have thought by your comment – and your story, he will agree. we are fortunate to have kids who behave (for the most part) and don’t have a disability or a living situation that causes such disruption but if you have to always being worrying about every PC comment and thought and point of view your blog wouldn’t be so poignant and funny. don’t be too hard on yourself!!!

Nolita
11 years ago

We are allowed to have our own reactions and the initial one may not be the “correct” or “final” reaction about the outburst or acting out but it’s ours and real. I’d be zipping my kid outta there quickly that time and any other follow up times. I’m sorry….I’m not a sensitive person. I was right there with you on the annoyance being the first reaction to kids getting boo-boos though. If that helps at all. Next time maybe message the friends on Twitter that you trust won’t be judgy? Or post that random message in all caps up there? ;.)

I would totally understand if someone posted a message like that after witnessing my kid freakin’ out like that. However, would not be cool to post a picture of the freak out (only I can do that)…

Anonymous
Anonymous
11 years ago

As a parent of a special needs child,that tweet is my worst nightmare. And it reminds me that most parents have know idea what our world is really like. No young child wants to be out of control…maybe the hallway was too noisy or too bright, the backpack too itchy or the wrong color.

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

It’s posts like these that make it painfully obvious that the parent of a special needs child will forever be misunderstood by the parents of typical children, even when asking “how should I have acted to not cause pain”. Why do you worry for the safety of your child? This teacher seemed to have the situation under control, and your son isn’t even in the same class. Also, what makes this child any less deserving of a ‘mainstream’ education? Whatever his need, if there even is one, the school is required by law to handle in an appropriate manner.

In the moment, you watch and see that the teacher did her job–the boy was not a threat to himself, to her, or to any other children (at least the way it was described). And rather than question the boy’s presence at your son’s school, you should encourage your own child to befriend children of different abilities. Children with special needs deserve the same education, the same possibilities, and the same treatment as other children.

shari zychinski
shari zychinski
11 years ago

oh boy. i have a special needs guy — 11 and non-verbal — and all i hope for each day (especially the bad days) is understanding from strangers.

moojoose
11 years ago

I honestly didn’t think that tweet was problematic. It was the grown-up version of “Mom, why is that kid acting like that?” And is it really any different than going home and saying the same thing to JB or another friend? How many other moms saw the same thing and talked about it in playgroup the next day? They probably got similar responses to what you got via email, and that is totally the point. Adults have tools to handle situations like that that spare the feelings of those in the moment. And now you have the foundation for a good discussion with your boys.

Heather
11 years ago

If it happens again I’d offer to help the teacher if you were in the position to help. Maybe carry her bag or ask if you could get someone else for assistance. Other than that I’d just be understanding. If you were very concerned about what you saw and it seems that you are/were, don’t feel you couldn’t approach the teacher and ask about the incident. I would rather be informed if there was an issue than make sweeping assumptions about what you saw. My child can behave like this and I would be happy to explain to anyone who saw an outburst why it happened. It actually takes a load off of me to know that people don’t think I have a spoiled, unruly, heathen for a son.

This makes me think of another post you wrote about the children standing so nicely with their parents and not acting like rabid monkeys. Sometimes it’s our children who are behaving, sometimes it’s other children behaving and the behavior looks so foreign to us. I experience both instances daily. My middle child was just diagnosed with ADHD (inattentive & hyperactive), ODD, & has sensory issues to boot! It’s always a good time in my house! What you *may* have been witnessing is a small breakdown from over stimulation, but I’m just guessing based on what would trigger my own son to hit and become aggressive like that. When Brady is overtired or way too stimulated he starts hitting me. I didn’t know that a year ago about the behavior, but now that I know what it means I can usually stop it before it happens.
This boy may have just had enough for the day and since he possibly has a special need his reaction to the emotion of reaching is limit is lashing out. My child does.this.every.day. when I pick him up from preschool. He needs to be at preschool, he enjoys being there, but the process of leaving school & transitioning to home is just too much for him. Plus he’s tired. Some children just don’t operate the way they should, if that makes any sense. I can tell you that Brady would never hit another child, he only hits “safe” people… me, his father, his older brother.
I wish I could offer more than my personal example but I think the best you can do to be proactive is to ask your son what he would do if someone hit him, arm him with some words to use such as “hands are for playing, not hitting” or however you would handle that (some children know they can defend themselves back). I’d also want the other parent to *not* go out of their way to avoid me, I’d like to know that they at least have some empathy if not understanding. My son isn’t a freak he’s just neurologically different. His executive function system in his brain isn’t wired like the other children. He’s not a bad child, he’s just not capable of controlling himself like a normal child when he’s overwhelmed, but he is not a danger to anyone. I wouldn’t allow him to attend school if I knew he would be.
I think this post was wonderful and kind. Thank you for giving me this point of view to read about what people may think when my son lashes out. Oy :)

moojoose
11 years ago

I also would like to add…just like a parent of a child of special needs wants to protect their child from harsh judgment, and has every right to do so, you have every right to react and want to protect your child and maybe even yourself from observing that kind of behavior. There is no fault in that. It is a tough thing to ask kids to understand, especially at ages as young as your boys, and this is only your first week of having your oldest out in the real world, so to speak. You have every right to want to protect him from knowing of all of difficult things that are out there all at once or before he can handle them. That is what motherhood is all about, no?

Pete
Pete
11 years ago

Both of my kids have had special needs children in their classes and they never really paid any attention to them when they acted out. By the time I was exposed to them I didn’t pay an attention either since I had heard about them from the kids. I imagine without knowing it would be weird at first.

Jessica
11 years ago

I’m not sure we should look at every situation where a child is struggling with something – be it controlling their emotions/reactions or something else – and immediately assume the child has special needs. Is that what special needs parents are advocating here? It sounds like you didn’t necessarily think of this child as special needs, which I think is perfectly appropriate. I may be wrong, though.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have compassion. Even if that child was just having a really bad day, having a bad day sucks. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, though.

I don’t know. I just feel like, without more information, this was not a situation that called for “Maybe he has special needs, did you ever think of that, jerk?” Not that I’m saying that’s what the someone who e-mailed you DID. It sounds like she was very nice about it and I think it’s great she e-mailed instead of @ replying. It’s just what sometimes happens in these situations, which causes the individual calling out the writer (or Twitter-er) to be just as guilty of being judgmental as they perceive the writer to be.

jonniker
11 years ago

Ooh, Jessica, I LIKE YOUR COMMENT. Because: yes. I can’t comment on this particular post, but it’s a common phenomenon, that of people jumping to be angry and judgmental without pausing to ask for the very same understanding they are so stridently demanding.

marcie
marcie
11 years ago

I admit, I don’t understand Twitter. Celebraties, athletes, news outlets, maybe. But everyone else? I don’t understand it. Why do we all feel the need to constantly update people on what we are doing, seeing, feeling, etc. I feel like it gets people in trouble more often than not, for the very reason that people can’t always ‘read’ how something is meant to be conveyed. Maybe some thoughts should be just that, thoughts, not social media fodder.

Heather
11 years ago

@ Linda, honestly, the same thing Moojoose said – it’s your job to parent your children and you aren’t being insensitive or doing anything wrong by getting your son out of there.

Before I had children I swore up and down my children “would never do this” and “never do that” and would always “behave”… You just never know the circumstance or the issues a child may have, but your #1 job is your children, you’re their advocate and there to keep them safe.

I have a friend who is constantly tweeting and updating her Facebook status with “Children today are all spoiled brats” or “What kids today need is a good beating”, from someone who has no children and zero understanding of special needs at all. In my eyes what you did was ask about the situation and how to deal with it, what many people do is to give unsolicited, asinine advice, and judge. Your post is appreciated by this special needs mom.

Janet in Miami
Janet in Miami
11 years ago

Hi Linda,

I have 3 special needs children – they are autistic, but in different ways. My oldest one is more aggressive than the two little girls, but the most he would do as a little guy is try to run off. He didn’t try to hit anyone, but he would flail around if someone had to catch him (this was before they were able to put him in the correct, autism program)

Those regular school teachers were just golden with my little runner boy, and I’ve been forever grateful to them.

So, if you see that again, maybe just go to the teacher and give her a little pat on the shoulder. Ask her if she is OK and tell her how wonderfully she handled the little guy. She sounds like she was aware of his issues and handled him firmly but with dignity.

Don’t feel bad about being shocked yourself though. That’s a natural reaction. I know many autism moms that carry business cards that they hand out to people who observe meltdowns, that briefly explain that their child is has autism, and what that is. Those sensory issues can be a bear for these little people to learn to deal with.

Janet
Logan is 22
Katy is 10
Cami is 8

Our family’s (brief) story is on page 10 of this on-line legal magazine:

http://www.gpmlaw.com/uploadedFiles/Resources/Articles/Dec-Jan-Know-T-Johnson.pdf

crisi-tunity
11 years ago

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Take it a little easier on yourself. You are not a bad person because you reacted this way: because of what Jessica said, in big flashy lights – maybe that kid was actually just a jerk. Maybe not, and if the kid is special needs he deserves sensitivity and understanding, but…you didn’t do anything wrong! You didn’t run over to the kid and swat him or reprimand him, you didn’t say anything nasty to his parents. You didn’t do anything except tweet that you saw something, and, you know, we all see the world through our own eyes. It would be nice for the whole world to be less judgmental, but being entirely UNjudging of everything and everyone is absolutely impossible.

You’re fine. You’re completely fine.

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Janet, the cards sound like an absolutely amazing idea. I know it must feel awful to feel misunderstood, and it seems like that really has the potential to help in individual situations.

Mama Ritchie
Mama Ritchie
11 years ago

We have a kid on our block who is sweet, funny, so interesting to talk to, and he has autism. His mom treats it as “high functioning” but we’re beginning to have our doubts based on his behavior. When he gets upset, he gets violent. He aims to hurt. So far, he’s gone after dogs, his brother and his mother. This boy didn’t ask for this, and I know it must be hard on his mom, but I wonder what should my limits be with my children playing with him. He’s a tinderbox. It’s a difficult situation for everyone involved. What’s the right thing to do?

Megsie
11 years ago

I love this post because it is straight from the heart, and genuine. If I saw a kid “lose it” I would just explain that we all lose our self control sometimes, and remind my kid how lousy that feels…when you are out of control. I may use an example of when I threw my last temper tantrum. That may lead me into a teachable moment, with my typical children, that their job is to figure out how to keep their self-control in check. It is hard to do, and everyone is just learning at their own pace–just like how to read, or play baseball or whatever. Some kids need more help than others to stay in control. Then I would continue to ask my kids how you can help other kids stay in control…ask the teacher for help when you need it, walk away if you see that someone is getting too angry, know the triggers for a kid in your class and avoid those…etc. It is a perfect teachable moment for everyone.

Melissa H
11 years ago

A friend of mine has a son who is autistic and quite violent and I have to admit after hearing her stories I would worry if my child was in his class (we live in different towns so it’s not actually possible). The child simply can’t control his anger and lashes out (with fists) at whoever is closest. They work SO hard with him and he is smart enough to regret it later but in the moment it’s impossible for him to control himself. I always feel so bad for her having to endure the stares/silent judgment but inside I know I’d also be the silent judger if I didn’t know their situation and just witnessed the behavior. Not sure what the point is here except that your reaction seemed totally normal and I need to read the comments for ideas!

Fidi
Fidi
11 years ago

My kids are not special needs, but they are “special” nonetheless. The older one is what different pediatricians called “difficult”, “interesting” or just aknowledging that we might “have our hands full”. Small things will set him off and throw him into a funk. But he is purely verbal in his outbursts. The younger one is more even-tempered, but will hit family when he is overly tired. So far he has never hit anyone else (except trying to hit the teachers in preschool – when overtired). But special needs or not, there seems to be a common theme in the responses. The likelyhood that this kid is going to lash out to any other kid seems to be very low. And the one bad habit most kids pick up from other kids at school seems to be the use of inappropriate words. So witnessing this behavior should also not cause any worry. And I would not know what to do, nor am I sure if there is something I should do when I see this. (When you seem me struggeling with my kid, you can help my by picking up stuff that I may drop in the struggle :)

Lucy
Lucy
11 years ago

I wouldn’t worry, I’d say it’s a natural reaction.

I can see this from three perspectives:

One – of a child just being naughty

Second – of a child with special needs who has something they can’t make sense of or convey, so this is their outlet at that point in time.

Third – of a child who may have behavioural difficulties because of their life perhaps outside school, or even in the playground.

I’m writing this as a mum of a special needs child, who has a brother who was terribly bullied in school. I don’t think your comment was judgemental at all, but as this discussion is evolving, perhaps we can all consider how we may perceive these situations. My son is seven and attends mainstream school. Both he and myself are often avoided by the children and the parents – perhaps they don’t know what to say – who knows. My son behaves very well (teachers have said he is an example to the class as he is so diligent and a close follower of the rules!), however his autism displays with hand flapping – perhaps this makes people uncomforable. There is a boy in his year who sounds very much like the boy you have described. He often ‘misbehaves’. However, it breaks my heart that from his first year in school, parents in the playground would openly bad-mouth him, and warn their children away from him, when actually he has had a very difficult home life, and when I would help out in the school, with a bit of attention and understanding, he could be the most delightful child.

I’m off on a tangent I know, but this has got me thinking…

jonniker
11 years ago

Mama Richie, we have a similar situation with our next door neighbor, who is seventeen, amazingly sweet most of the time, horribly violent the rest of the time. She also exhibits inappropriate behavior near our home (looking in windows, commenting to me later what she saw me doing, etc.) that we feel powerless to correct, as her mom is … not particularly friendly, to put it mildly.

I am never sure what to do in these situations, when you want to be understanding, but also want to enforce limits for your own safety and comfort (and by “comfort”, I mean not sitting in the living room and watching television with a spectator).

jonniker
11 years ago

OH! I will say that this is enlightening in hearing that it’s not likely that the children will lash out at other children/people. I mention it only because her mother took me aside and told me how horribly violent her daughter can be and to … watch out, or something. She (the mother) is not particularly communicative or helpful, and has simply served to undermine her daughter’s efforts by putting a level of fear into her neighbors about her by way of, I don’t know, apologizing. If people are nervous around her daughter, it is because she has specifically told them to be.

Bottom line: I never know what the appropriate thing to do IS, particularly when there is bad parenting involved, which is clearly the case here, for reasons far above and beyond what I’ve outlined here. I feel awful for the child. I think her mother is ill-equipped and disinterested, and she suffers the most.

Linda
Linda
11 years ago

Well, not to put my foot in it more, but I am not sure about the comment that “The likelyhood that this kid is going to lash out to any other kid seems to be very low.” How does anyone know this who isn’t intimately aware of the child’s behavior patterns? Isn’t it just as incorrect to make generalized assumptions of that nature as it might be to believe he pummels kittens in his spare time?

Kelley Rye
Kelley Rye
11 years ago

Agreed on your comment about making assumptions, Linda. Without being aware of what’s going on in this child’s life to make him act this way, any number of things is possible. Expounding on the likelihood that someone will do someone without knowing them is far-fetched, to say the least.

He could be special needs, having a bad day, not ready for the demands of kindergarten- or, conversely, that might just be who he is. He might just be one of those people who has a really short fuse.

I mean, it’s been known to happen, y’know? Some people are really just born with that snappy streak firmly in place (I ought to know, I’m the daughter of one of those people- according to my grandmother, he was a hellion from day one).

He’s also got the softest heart of any person I have ever known, and is one of the bravest people that’s ever walked this earth.

I honestly think the problem comes when we start trying to over-analyze people in an attempt to be sensitive. Every time someone has a tantrum or blows their top shouldn’t be an opportunity for us to make assumptions about what’s different or wrong with that person- it does the kid a disservice as well as the people around him. It also has the disturbing effect of making us treat everyone we meet like they’re made of glass- want to make someone REALLY feel singled out and awkward?

jwoap
11 years ago

I think that you shouldn’t feel badly about what you tweeted. I know this isn’t PC and I will probably get shit about it but we live in a society where we are too PC — I think that we should be allowed to share what we feel. Linda didn’t post anything hateful, she posted an observation and her feeling about what she say. Which is perfectly acceptable. She does live in America you know.

Em
Em
11 years ago

Not to ignore most of your post, though I will because as much as I run my mouth, I don’t have the answers. Any of them. I don’t know. BUT that teacher kind of rocks. What is it about teachers (preschool ones especially, in my experience) that they have a way of reacting to children that is clear and calm and positive? I have none of those skills. I’m in awe of it.

Brigid
11 years ago

My daughter had a few special needs children in her kindergarten class. The teacher did a fantastic job of explaining what would make those children more comfortable (those children were not present for that conversation) ie Mark does not like to be touched. Please be sure to give him plenty of room when we line up. And Steve is bothered by loud noises, so he will sometimes wear earphones when things get too loud. Did these children ever have meltdowns? Sure. But the kindergarteners learned a lot from being their peers and adored them as people. It seemed to be the parents who had the biggest problems. Not the parents of the special needs children, but the parents of some of the neurotypical children who didn’t want their children exposed to their behavior. In that case the children were leap years ahead of their adults.

All that said, when my son tested into a pre-k program for developmental delays, I mentioned to his speech therapist that he might be in a class with kids with much more severe disabilities and I wasn’t sure how he (read I) would do with that. I didn’t want his behavior to model these other children. That therapist gave me a look I will never forget – I wanted to crawl into a hole. So my son might be the one next year in kindergarten who the other kids have to look after.

Smile. Make eye contact if it’s appropriate. Let the teacher know she’s appreciated. Let your kids know the world is made up of a lot of different people, and teach them how to be gracious instead of fearful whenever possible.

Heather
11 years ago

I know that *my* son will only act out with us and not with teachers, children, or other parents. The way the psychologist explained it to us was that we are “safe” and he acts out against us because he does feel comfortable. This is just my personal experience so I can’t speak to what any other special needs children might do or why the boy at school was acting out.

I think the responsibility falls on the school, the teacher, and the parents of any child who may harm others to determine if that child belongs in the classroom. Yes, they have a right to an education but they do not have a right to harm anyone. Hurting others is not okay and no one should ever feel unsafe. I wouldn’t place my child into a school if I thought he’d hurt anyone.

This is our 3rd year at our preschool and we’ve had more instances of neurotypical children hitting & hurting other children than any of the special needs children doing so. It’s obviously possible the child you saw was just a very poorly behaved child but the chances are stacked against that, normal children, even if they misbehave at home or for their parents typically do not lash out and hit teachers. It’s not the norm, but it’s entirely possible. Some special needs fits/tantrums/explosions are like a normal outburst x’s 1000. It’s that much more intense. The difference is a SP child typically cannot control their behavior, a normal child will hit knowing it’s not okay and being able to control themselves (in most cases). But I’m speaking from my personal experience with the preschool we’ve attended for 3 years. I may have no idea what I’m talking about in the elementary school world.

I would still tell the teacher that what you saw happen was uncomfortable and you are concerned. Being informed is not a bad thing and since Riley attends school there voicing your concern or asking questions is your right.

Liz
Liz
11 years ago

those kids are the kids i work with. just talk. talk to their parents. talk to their teachers. talk to your kids. talk to *their* teachers. you’ll learn. that you even want to try and understand puts you ahead of lots of people.

“the out-of-sync child” is a book that is a good place to start.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
11 years ago

My Son had a child in his class a couple years ago that would have fits and throw stuff, a lot. He would even throw his desk. I was worried about my Son getting hurt by this child. There was nothing that could be done with him apparently and the next year he was gone. I don’t know if he was special needs or what but I didn’t like having to worry if my child was going to have a desk thrown at him in school.

jl
jl
11 years ago

“Saw a young kid angrily flailing and hitting a teacher when I picked up Riley today. Jeeeeeesus.”

Funny, when I read that, I thought you were remarking on how difficult those situations must be for the teachers, not being judgemental about the kid! I don’t have a problem with it either way :) I think it was a natural reaction. I’m sure you didn’t stand there and gawk all horrified-like.

Have to say, I am very much humbled by the comments from the moms of special-needs kids. Your kids are really lucky to have you.

Shawna
Shawna
11 years ago

I know that this discussion has become mostly about dealing with children who are special needs, but my then-4-year-old daughter was hit repeatedly last year by a plain ole, non-special-needs, neurotypical classmate who sometimes played with her and sometimes physically lashed out, seemingly randomly. It does happen.

We never did find a solution except to tell our child not to play with him, and to ask the teacher and bus driver to try to keep them seperated. Other than talking to the teacher and principal several times, and being assured that this little boy’s parents had been talked to, we just didn’t know what else to do. Any ideas on what to do if it comes up again would be welcome, because that seemed like total BS that it could happen over and over again.

Mico
Mico
11 years ago

I don’t have school-age children, so I don’t have advice for this specific situation.

But it strikes me that this is an opportunity for learning, just like any other.

You’ve never seen children act out in that way, and you don’t understand why some do. Now that you’ve asked the question, you’ll start getting answers. And the next time you encounter this situation, your response will be different, as informed by what you’ve learned since then.

No biggie.

(It reminds me of how immature my friend and I were at about age 22 when one of her coworkers showed her how to use an epi-pen in case he went into an anaphylactic shock. We reacted with “Ewwwwwwww!! Weird!!!!” How totally lame of us. If I were in the same situation now, I wouldn’t blink an eye. Call it education, and maturity.)

Sarah
Sarah
11 years ago

Linda, I think your reaction was normal. It’s distressing for all involved, including bystanders. The hurt kids reaction you wrote about over the summer and this seem similar to me though. Like maybe your expectation of a kids ability to control themselves is more advanced than what is likely.
My own 3 year old has some issues but has no diagnosed special needs now that he’s aged out of speech therapy. He has acted like this with me at home but not at school so far, and not with Gramma who is his “nanny.” Just me and hubby.

Whatever the reason for the outburst, the teacher handled it really well. She didn’t get dragged into his issue or make it worse and she set an example about neutral language that was about her safety and protected herself. It wasn’t shaming or mean, just honest. Feel good that she has that skill.

Shelly K
Shelly K
11 years ago

Hi, Linda. I’m another mom of a special needs child, and I have a couple thoughts. First, the beginning of the school year is tough on all children, but those with special needs especially. It can take some time for kids to get used to the new routines, learn to block out the extra sensory input like loud noises, extra touching, etc. that they didn’t have to deal with during the summer. It can also take time for the teachers and aides to figure out exactly how they can best help these kids – my autistic daughter came home and screamed at me for hours on end for the first couple months of school last year, until we started giving her 10-minute sensory breaks after the more chaotic parts of the day like lunch time. After we adjusted her schedule, she came home smiling and happy.

My second thought is that I tend to have the same kinds of gut reactions about people acting or appearing different or scary in public, but have learned over time to not react overtly. I always try to remind myself that I do not know what is going on in the big picture – something bad may have just happened, there may be special needs, whatever. But inside, people all have feelings, all just really want to be loved and accepted and find happiness. If they’re having a bad time and they see you react negatively, it’s only going to make it worse for them and their caregivers.

Were you right to want to get your kids away from that scene? Heck, yeah! But if you see the kid again, don’t assume he’s trouble. If you have to explain a scene like that to your kids, just say “I don’t know exactly what was going on there – the kid was obviously having a bad day, but the teacher was taking care of him.”

Does the kid have the right to be at your school? Heck, yes. If he’s dangerous to himself or others, he should have an aide with him to help him control himself before he hurts someone, and he should be getting therapy of one kind or another to make it better. That’s between the school and the parents, though.

Kids with behavioral issues do better in mainstream classes for lots of reasons, but a big one is that they get to learn typical behaviors from the neurotypical kids.

Archer's Mom
Archer's Mom
11 years ago

I am the parent of a special needs child and I resent most of the comments posted here. I actively choose not to disclose my son’s neurological disabilities. First, because I feel it is an untoward invasion of his privacy just to explain away a passing stranger’s discomfort of some ‘situation’ that my child has created. Secondly, I see most children my son’s age with the same or worse behavior and attribute most of these situations to living in today’s world. I hate the stares I get when I am publicly dealing with my son’s issues. it creates an indescribably awful parfait of emotions inside me. Worse is when you see the witnessing party again and you know you are getting treated differently. You never know what is really going on. You stared because you didn’t know what to do and you hoped it would never happen to you. You crave to know what causes that kind of outburst so that armed with that knowledge, you’d be able to avoid it. But hasn’t it already? I remember an equally eloquent post written not too long ago where you were emotionally out of control dealing with your son’s behavior. What did you most want then? To forget and move on. Start again. Bottom line Linda, is your son will come into contact with lots of things at his new school and that should be the lesson here. Every day is a new day and we all as individuals should get the benefit of the doubt. Each and every day. And for all the typical parents just wanting to ‘protect’ their typical children? It’s September 12 people and the sooner you realize that you cannot prevent or control your child’s experience, but just shape and manage their response and preparedness, we will all better understood.

willikat
11 years ago

I agree with JL–I thought you were referring to what teachers deal with, not that the child was awful. And even after knowing the child may have some issues, I still don’t think it was mean or judgmental. You were taken aback. I did laugh at your fake Twitter posting though. I can see how some people took it that way now that it’s pointed out.
I am not a parent and I have no freakin advice on this particular topic. I think you are a compassionate person, so I would have never assumed you just thought this kid was nuts or something.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

I’m not sure there is a large, epic lesson here. Sometimes kids act out inappropriately for a wide variety of reasons. I see it all the time at grocery stores, malls, parks….

Do you want your kid involved with it? No. Will it happen at school, the playground or other places your kids will be? Yes. Can you do something about it? Yes. Tell them no one has the right to hurt them and then tell a trusted adult.

The truth of what Archer’s mom is saying is you will not be with your children 100% of the time. Just like you teach them about stranger danger and inappropriate touching, you teach them about bullying and hitting. Your kids will not want to be in close proximity of someone wildly throwing punches or someone who regularly taunts them.

Hannah
11 years ago

One thing I really dig about your writing is that you come across as so honest, so real.I think it stimulates such interesting and productive discussions. Just…well done!

“How do I be the protective parent and the understanding community at the same time?”

Well, for one thing, you probably need to be part of the community. I mean, of course you are now a part of your school’s community. But you don’t know that kid, or his parents, or that teacher…because, you know, your kid has been going there for like one day! How could you know them? So: spoiled brat, having a bad day, special needs, poltergeist, there is no way for you to know what his deal is at this current moment…so I would hold off on worrying about needing to protect Riley, until there is evidence to the contrary. I think a lot of people have had really good ideas, like, talking to the teacher, check and see if she is alright, talking to Riley about what to do if a kid does become violent (special needs or not), and the whole wait and see thing.

And finally, I loved Shelly K’s whole comment, but I especially like this part:

“My second thought is that I tend to have the same kinds of gut reactions about people acting or appearing different or scary in public, but have learned over time to not react overtly. I always try to remind myself that I do not know what is going on in the big picture .”

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

I’d also point out that my daughter does have Sensory Issues that when they were not diagnosed caused for some wildness that must have been off putting to other parents.

I don’t see it as “bad kid” vs. “good kid”. I hate labeling children so young. I think it was a bad moment that is over.

Amy
Amy
11 years ago

Didn’t think it at all. First day of school is such an emotional day for kids and parents. Everyone learns. My daughter had her first day of kindergarten and told me “We learn all kinds of things!” I agree.

Kris
11 years ago

You had an honest reaction to a situation you saw happening. I am with the commenters who commented about things being just a little too PC these days. Nobody is allowed to have their own feelings without being told how they are wrong in them. I also agree that there is no proof that the child is special needs. I understand that special needs children need something different while still being streamlines, but I had to deal with a bad situation that has left a bad taste in my mouth when it comes to that. My son was in headstart with an autistic child, and the teachers explained that his brain worked differently, and how because of that, they had to treat him differently. It was all about doors int he brain being open or shut. Well, my son saw him getting extra attention, being able to go outside when he wanted, being able to leave the lunch table when he wanted (I know that he was leaving due to sensory issues, my 5 year old didn’t, he saw a child being able to have his own set of rules) and so he came home telling me that the doors in his brain were shut and he wanted to be able to do all the things his friend at school was able to do. When I talked to the teacher about this, she told me I needed to get my son into counseling to be able to learn how to deal with children like this. I took him out of headstart instead. Oh, and this child was violent, to the teachers, and to other children. I witnessed it, so the thought that the threat of violence towards other children is low isn’t true. And if you still think it is, you can see the scar on my son where he was bitten by this child, hard enough to break skin, and scar.

Kris
11 years ago

My guess would be that the kid was just having a bad day. It happens to all of us. If you’re still concerned, ask the teacher about him. Discreetly, of course. And ask if there’s anything you can do to help, if he has special needs & it happens again.

My 3-year-old has autism, so I know how scary it can look. He’s a headbanger, and I’ve had 2 black eyes already this summer. It’s just so hard, because he doesn’t mean it; but still. It fucking hurts. Being hit by my own son, and the judgement that inevitably follows.

My son often tantrums in public – it’s usually because the lights are too bright or it’s too loud or there’s too many people or someone gets too close to him. Last week, I had my hands full (carrying 2 Papa Murphy’s pizzas, if you must know); and he had an epic meltdown in front of the store. What could I do? There were ants all over the sidewalk, so I couldn’t set the food down OR let him rage. So, I picked him up by the elastic on the back of his shorts & the back of his shirt with my free hand & carried him back to the car, kicking and screaming. And one woman walked by us, looking absolutely horrified. I wish she would have offered to help – to take my purse or the pizzas – or even just said something nice.

So, yeah, at the end of the day, just ask questions & try to understand the situation. A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

Kris
11 years ago

Also, if you’re comfortable doing this, please make sure the teacher is documenting/reporting these incidents.

Again, as the parent of a special needs child, I would never, ever want to keep my son in an environment that isn’t the best for him, the teachers, and the other students. Like it or not, not all kids *should* go to mainstream schools. Violence can’t be tolerated by anyone, at the hands of any child, whether they have special needs or not.