So this morning, I had to leave my design class because of ignorance so extreme that it was either walk away, cry, or turn to violence.
Since violence is not the answer (unless you want to get it wrong on purpose), and if I’m going to cry, I don’t want it to be in a college classroom. Instead, I went out and sat on the steps.
Because one of my fellow students made a statement about another student – one she shared another art class with:
“She’s like special needs. She’s so annoying.”
When I tried to explain that equating “annoying” and “special needs” is not cool, and that she didn’t understand what she was talking about, she said that she didn’t want to say anything by accident and would like to be educated.
I again tried to tell her that her statement was insulting – that she was saying that special needs equaled annoying, but she kept defending her statement, saying it wasn’t meant to be insulting. It was that this girl in her other class was just so special needs and annoying.
The annoying part of this other girl, it seems, is that she doesn’t follow directions and does her own thing. The teacher doesn’t correct her, but this girl in my class feels the need to “help” by correcting her.
Now, if the girl in question truly is special needs, there may be a reason the teacher lets the girl not quite follow directions. There may be a reason the girl can’t follow directions. And, regardless of whether this girl is special needs or not, there may be something at play that the teacher knows and the students don’t. There may be a reason that the girl does not follow directions. And it’s no one else’s business if that is the case.
After a few attempts at educating her about the fact that she is being insulting by discussing why special needs people are annoying, I gave up because she clearly does not understand. I pointed out my son was autistic, that I knew many people on the spectrum, that her judgment of others who were not like her was closed-minded and would upset many people, and she just kept repeating that she didn’t mean it to be insulting. It was just that this girl was annoying.
Then her friend sitting next to her says, “Well I was reading this thing in my doctor’s office about autism, and some of the signs are when people are like obsessed with something and are like, what’s that word, you know – anti-social.”
By then, I was ready to bang my head on the desk just to get them to shut up. They had no idea what they were talking about, they were being insulting, and they were not interested in learning anything, regardless of their statements.
It’s now far enough removed that I can look back and just shake my head. There’s only so much I can do to educate others, and if they aren’t interested…if they truly believe that people who aren’t like them are “annoying,” I have only one thing to say at this point:
If you don’t like someone and you find them annoying, leave them alone.
Stop equating special needs with annoying because, let me tell you, what is really annoying is your judgment of non-neurotypical individuals when you have no knowledge to base that judgment on.
There’s a restaurant that we love going to, but it has a sign on the door, stating that parents should keep their children seated [under control] for the sake of other patrons. It’s a nice restaurant. Good food. Fancy food. Thai food. We like going there. But we can only go there at night because we know that, during the day, we’d bring Simon, and he would not stay in his seat, and he would not care about the other patrons. But…cell phones and noisy drunks are allowed.
Now, I’m not trying to say anything bad about this restaurant. Simon wouldn’t like their food, anyway, and I believe that restaurants can choose to avoid loud, noisy children – even if we have and love kids, we all need to get away sooner or later.
So instead of going to a restaurant like that when we feel the urge to eat out, we go to a decidedly family (and cheap or cheap-ish) restaurant like Denny’s.
Ah, Denny’s! Home of the $2/$4/$6 menu, shot glasses of syrup, and friers using the fat from their opening day!
Not that I’m complaining. I like Denny’s. My husband likes Denny’s. And, most importantly, Simon likes Denny’s.
When we go there, though, we start thinking about how to minimize Simon’s impact on tables around us. We try to keep him from touching people in the next booth. We remind him to use his inside voice. We distract him with drawing and writing. Anything we can think of to avoid the dreaded stares that, of course, I always want to respond to by shouting, “It’s Denny’s! It’s not a 5-star restaurant! It’s not a library!” (But I don’t.) (I just stare back.)
We went to Denny’s on New Year’s Day for a late lunch and special treat for Simon since I had to fly out the next day for a residency for school.
At first, we were seated by ourselves – empty booths on both sides – and a large, loud table full of a big family nearby. All going swimmingly. Until they sat an older couple in the booth behind us. Simon had been sitting with his arm over the booth, which we convinced him to move, but since our food hadn’t arrived yet, he was busily repeating an episode of some TV show – but just his favorite scene, of course, completely out of context, and over and over and over again like a record with a scratch in it.
I was waiting for one of them to complain. They just had the right vibe of “how dare a child be a child in public!” (yeah, you know that vibe, right?). But they didn’t. And then it happened. The guy’s cell phone went off.
“HELLO? HELLO! YES, WE’RE AT DENNY’S…”
And I’m sure there was more to the conversation, but I tuned it out, the same way I tune out loud children or annoying noise.
But it made me wonder. Which is worse – people who talk loudly on cell phones in public or echolalia?
In both cases, you’re only hearing one side of a conversation. In both cases, you may have absolutely no idea what’s actually going on. And in both cases, the person talking is oblivious (or mostly oblivious) to the effect he/she is having on those in the vicinity.
There is one difference, though. With echolalia, it’s not on purpose. It may not even be controllable. It just happens. No rudeness or annoyance intended.
So stop giving nasty looks to the kid reciting Blue’s Clues and hold those looks for the loud cell phone users or drunks. Cause they deserve it a whole lot more.