Don’t ignore him.

The other day, Casey said something that jolted my insides. He was frustrated by his inability to connect with some of Carter’s friends. I believed it was more Younger Brother Syndrome than his autism. He was venting about that and about school. Finally, exasperated at trying to tell me what was bothering him, he put his head down and mumbled, “They ignore me.”

Oh my heart. I hadn’t even thought about it. I hadn’t even made the connection to all of the many terrible times I had said to Carter or Peyton, “He’s having a tough time, just ignore him,” as Casey raged and said things he didn’t mean. I had taught my kids to ignore their autistic brother.

Then I imagined all of the times well meaning teachers had probably said the same thing about Casey at school when he was having a tough time or stimming. “Just ignore him.” The kids learned to not stare at Casey when he was freaking out, but in so doing, they also, simply, learned to ignore him. To tune out his noises, his stories, his joys…him.

Casey is not always ignored, of course. We have wonderful neighbors and he has an amazing team of teachers and the kids in his class are great. Kids are born wanting to be helpful. They are innately accepting. It isn’t until they are taught, whether we mean to or not, to not be accepting. It happens accidentally in times where we are well meaning.

I never wanted my kids or the kids around Casey to be afraid of him. I never wanted them to think that he means the things he says when he’s mad or that he’s weird because of the things he does to self soothe or because of his intense interest in a couple of subjects.

What it comes down to, is that Casey is an amazing kid. His autism is apart of who he is and will forever be. If I’m going to ask that people accept him, it means all of him. To not just ignore the parts that are different. To understand that when he’s upset, he doesn’t mean what he says and he’s working on it. That stimming serves a purpose and shouldn’t be discouraged and it’s not wrong to watch or even join in with him. Sometimes, it’s terribly fun.

Just, please, don’t ignore him.

Why teaching kids to ignore behaviors doesn't help in the long run
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14 thoughts on “Don’t ignore him.

  1. So sad that he is feeling that. Hugs to him. I try to use the words “He needs space right now.”
    It broke my heart when one of the kids in my son’s class said “A.. gets to do whatever he wants.” It made me aware that they really do see him as different and don’t really understand why. I think they do enjoy him, but hate to hear anything that gives other kids reason to set him apart.

  2. My bug, A, is Autistic. A girl who rode on his bus came up to me and said, “I don’t like A because he’s creepy.” Sadness, rather than anger came over me and I told her that he was not creepy, but that she just didn’t understand him and not understanding something can make it seem creepy. I explained that if she took the time to get to know him, he would not be creepy to her anymore. I think they became somewhat friendly with each other after that, but now I homeschool him due to other circumstances. He does have a friend who is very protective of him and tolerant of his stimming, his noises, his anxiety… I respect that boy’s father for raising such a wonderful boy.

  3. Oh my heart. Big hugs to you and Casey. What a horrible feeling. When one of kids is throwing a tantrum I find myself saying those same words “ignore him.” Thanks for sharing this. I’ll chose my words differently next time.

  4. I understand when you say “just ignore him” what you really mean is “give him space” and “learn to tolerate his stims.” But sometimes we forget to say what we mean. Thank you for reminding all of us to choose our words carefully.

  5. It’s hard to navigate being a parent in general, especially to someone who has different needs than our own. Thank you for sharing this. You have such a beautiful family and I am so thankful to know you and read your story.
    Addie and I send you and Casey all our love- sometimes I hear stories of parents telling their kids to eat their veggies so they will grow big and strong and their kids say no they won’t. Words are so literal to children, we sometimes end up just wanting to put our foot in our mouth. You’re wonderful ❤

  6. oh my heart. It’s so true – sometimes we say things without realizing what the larger impact of the statement might be. Thank you for sharing this — and for reminding us that no one should be ignored, but rather accepted, for all that they are.

  7. Thanks for posting. I’m a teacher, and I’m pretty sure I’ve said those same words to some of my students. It’s time to rephrase some things I think.

  8. I’ve been reading along for a while. I don’t know why, but this one really touched me. Made me think that we should all look at our words and actions from d child or young person’s perspective. Would change the world.

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