May 2013

Standards of behavior

I was driving to the gym this morning, thinking, with a smile on my face, about last night. Last night, my boyfriend and I walked hand in hand to get some frozen yogurt. Along the way, I was filled with joy and decided to skip. He laughed at me, kindly. He has long-since embraced my quirkiness, and I can be my true self around him. And he said, in a lovingly, jokingly way, “Do you think people can’t see you?” And I replied, “Of course they can see me, but I don’t care.” And I went on, to say, “They probably laugh and then think how envious they are of me to be so comfortable with myself.”

And that was it. And it wasn’t until this morning that I realized. How fine of a line it is. When we work with our autistic, Aspie, NVLD kids. How often do we tell them, “That’s unexpected, that will make someone have a weird thought about you,” when if it was a neurotypical individual doing it, we would view the behavior as, “Wow, they have enviable self-esteem to be so comfortable with themselves that they do x, y, or z without worrying about it.”

I last wrote about not extinguishing “weird” behaviors unless they are detrimental to one’s becoming their true self. But it goes deeper than that. Our standards, our viewpoints, the lens in which we view behavior is so different, and it hit me big today.


THIS. Jess so eloquently put it into words (as she always does), and I want you to read it. Please.

But, in case you don’t click over, in case you don’t read it and fall in love with Jess’s writing and her family and her incredible daughter, I will happily ramble away and tell you about it.

She talks about how, when setting a goal for her daughter, she asks the question, “Is this a goal that I would set in order to help my daughter to become that fullest version of herself or is it one that I would set simply because it will help her meet societal expectation?” And THAT is what I guide my treatment on. Many of my colleagues will disagree. And those colleagues are the ones who may desperately aim to extinguish flapping, squealing, jumping, other stimming behaviors. The colleague who, during class change time, yells at my student who did a jump and a squeal. (Because, he has learned, and he knows, that class change time is actually a GREAT time to do that, and he had been holding it in all throughout class) But those behaviors? They’re the ones I ignore. That don’t bother me. That, if anything, I LOVE, because they are real and true and they are providing an outlet, for thoughts and emotions and feelings and everything that otherwise would remain trapped and distracting inside. And if it is something that is truly getting in the way of a child’s becoming, then that’s one thing. I have used Social Thinking and behavior plans and visuals and countless tools. Because there are certain behaviors that are harmful to themselves or to others, or distracting in an intolerable way.

But if it’s just a “quirk?” If, at its core, it’s simply a difference from how the majority of us are? No, I have bigger things to worry about.

And, I just want to add — we ALL have quirks. And nobody put us on behavior plans for them. Sometimes I make funny noises, say weird things, I’m plenty awkward. And I’m a fantastic speech/language pathologist, I’m well-respected, and my kids like me for being who I am. Said a 6th grade boy, with Nonverbal Language Disability: “Thank you for being weird sometimes, it makes me feel better about being weird myself.”

Everyone is weird. Everyone has quirks. Sometimes that weirdness becomes dangerous or distracting. But sometimes it’s just….fun. And then, it’s okay.

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