Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More on unfair quizzes and...interviews

A quick google tells me there are a lot of quizzes gauging how "retarded" someone is. Also there's a quotation by David Sedaris about being retarded that about 350 people voted that they liked on a literary website. This is GoodReads. You, too, can vote on it as your favorite quotation, but you can't indicate anywhere that it's discriminatory. I know I didn't grow up using the term because I knew what it meant and how it could harm--I remember the first time I heard it used as a slur on the playground to another child. I was shocked. My husband has never used that word. He's always accepted my family readily--I also have a cousin who is very severely autistic. And honestly anyone who didn't wouldn't have been with me any longer. My sister's boyfriend, now husband, was the same way. Unfortunately, this can't be said of absolutely everyone.

When I was small, I remember my mom becoming angry and leaving a church event because someone was making fun of people. Not just using the word, but making fun of them. A few years later, this woman's own child was left permanently brain damaged after a car hit her when she was on her bike when she went into traffic. An instant can change everything. I hope her beliefs changed, but I know that many people don't find their disabled children fit in with their lifestyle.

I didn't remember anything being different about my uncle. I didn't think it was odd that he lived with my grandparents--my aunt did too until she was married. My great-grandmother was always there and other relatives visited and stayed. I remember he was an endless source of art supplies as well as my favorite cassettes, and in retrospect, he showed a lot of patience. My mom had to explain eventually to my sister and me, as I did with my kids.

How do I expect to be changed by being his guardian? More patience and more calm, and not for the reasons people would expect--not patience and calm with him, but patience and calm because of him and the way he reacts to the world. He shows these virtues himself and is a good role model for others. He doesn't speak poorly of others and though he will get angry, he doesn't act on it. He does have good insight into others' emotions, able to point out that someone was just jealous and thus reacting negatively to others (an observation without speaking badly of them). He would like to live with us, and it's important to me that our home be a comfortable place for him. As my mom says, he's good company and she'd rather be around him than someone who would make fun of others.

My cousin is more profoundly impaired and I haven't seen him in a long time due to circumstances more complicated than I can write about here (not my choice, or his sisters'). I can only hope that he's not in one of the terrible state institutions now that he's reached 18, though I can't see him fitting a step-parent's lifestyle since his sisters didn't. But I cannot see making fun of him--what he has difficulties with is not funny. And what he enjoys doing--listening to books read by others, cuddling with his sister, playing with his toy cars--is heartwarming to think of. I worry about him, as do his sisters.

Yesterday I found out that my son has been bullied for three years by four older boys on his bus. He sits at the front and my daughter at the very back and she reports not knowing (which I believe, by the amount of noise emanating from the windows when the bus pulls up). Plus it sounds like these boys hid it, briefly standing up over the bus seat to hit him, for example. He is vulnerable even though he is just a little different--he doesn't initiate conversation with a lot of people and generally doesn't converse or respond as fully as others do (this can be really frustrating when I need information). He doesn't defend himself unless it's with his sister, and I've never known him to "tell" on another child before, not once. He just doesn't take initiative like that, even when he should, even when people took his supplies at school (I asked why he didn't have them anymore). An observer in his classroom noted that another child picked up his chair and moved him over and he did not respond at all--most every child would at least object. There's some concern now since his sister is going to middle school and will not be on the same bus. This situation makes me really sad--I guess somehow I expected he'd tell me if something came up. Instead, he'll often refuse to do something or go a person's house if he's been uncomfortable, without telling me why. I am not pleased about having to pick him up--not upset because of him, but because it victimizes all of us--that uses about 35 minutes of my 2 hours a day of sitting up. What do I do on days I'm more bedridden? We also share a car, making it more difficult--this means picking up my husband before and after work as well if he gets a new job, without him just taking the van and leaving me here about 50% of the time.

I am also worried about the bus driver's abilities and judgment for a few reasons too.


Parents have got to talk to their kids about difference and bullying. Difference doesn't mean you pick on someone.

Anyway. My husband has some upcoming interviews and is at a couple of specialized job fairs today for companies actually doing some hiring. Some of the opportunities he's called about would require a cross-country move, but that could be nice, depending on where. Wish us luck!


Lisa Moon said...

I am so sad to read about your son's experiences. My son had a similar problem around the 3rd grade, then the principal thought him 'defiant' when he would run and hide under the stairs at school and refuse to come out. This was after the principal made absolutely NO disciplinary action towards the bully/ies, but instead, my son got in trouble for his responses! Ohh, if I only knew then what I know now... it still fills me with rage to think of this years later!

Luckily for your son, you're far more informed than I was back then. It certainly is not fair that you must drive your son because the bus driver/company can't/won't manage their riders!

On your husband's interviews, I will be keeping my fingers crossed that something ideal (or close!) turns up for you! Especially if it involves a potentially positive move, perhaps to a suitable climate and with better accessiblity!

FridaWrites said...

Thanks, Lisa--I think often I'm too naive about him and what to do--I have a lot of frustrations with the medical system and the schools because of his experiences. More recently I think the schools are tolerating bullying less and less rather than blaming the victim--I certainly remember my sister being blamed by the assistant principal, who made fun of her for being dumb and pulling out her IQ scores and comparing with his (no, she's not dumb). The victimizers certainly did't have good grades. And one incident in high school where someone twice tried to run over three of us with her car--and we were blamed for it! We had done nothing.

Even if my response in this regard is slow, I want him to know it's okay to stand up for himself and that other adults will step in for him, that procedures are meant to protect him (and people will fight for him if they don't). We've had to do this before. Fortunately our school principal does not put up with bullying at all!

Thanks for the good wishes. We may be coming to a good climate near you!

yanub said...

Oh, an interview! Do I understand right that it may be in a northwestern direction? Well, I hope he gets the job. New challenges, new opportunities for all of you!

The bullying angers me. I see it way too often, parents and school officials giving tacit support to abusers--er--bullies. Victims taught to never complain less the situation just be made worse. I hope that this period of you needing to drive your son to school and back home is short lived. It should be the parents of the bullies who have to bear the consequences of their children's bad behavior. Shame on the school for not making sure of that.

FridaWrites said...

Yanub, yes, it's in a very NW direction. :) There's a lot to do there that we would like to do. He's also driving to an interview locally today.

I think I may have actually worked things out--I talked to the principals/assistant principals, and they told me they'd make sure he's safe and will talk to those particular kids. I was just told one of them has gone on the bus herself and it made things a lot better. Though they've had assigned seats, I talked to one of the other moms about her son and my son sitting together--currently the bully's been sitting between them. He doesn't talk a lot about what's bothering him either, so though she'd heard some, she didn't realize how bad it was. Another parent confirmed to me that her husband had to go out to the bus once and tell one of these kids to stop bothering her kid. I'm just glad he knew who it was--he has trouble identifying the people sitting at his table at school sometimes. The irony is if we have all this worked out but move--though I still think they'd be here at least the first few weeks, and he deserves peace even during that time.