Wait, wait don’t help me –

I have written before about T. using the Proloquo2Go® software program at school. (Check out my post: On Being Typical and Not-So-Typical.)

He and I had a second opportunity to co-present to his class before the school year ended. What prompted the presentation was the fact I witnessed nine children in as many minutes offer unsolicited “help” to Thor. This included the following: Trying to pull his backpack off his back; grabbing his hand to pull him up the stairs; grabbing him on both sides of the face to make sure he listened; and, pushing him into line.

I believe the particular children involved thought what they were doing was “helpful” because each said things like; “Here, T, I’ll help you”; “No, up here, T”; and, “I’ll show you”.

I was able to intervene fairly quickly in each incident. Because I found it all ALWFUL I used interventions that did not messenged my better self:

“Hey, you, stop!”

“Do not touch him!”

“Oh, I do not like that!”

“Move away, now!”

“Hey, I’m talking to you!”

A brief thought on the role of the natural helper in a civilized society. The natural helper could also be known as “a bossy boots”, “a know-it-all” or “someone who has ego needs met by helping others”. Think about “the adult” you know who is always trying to “fix shit”.

A brief reflection on the celebrity status of ‘the disabled student’. I wrote about Thor being seen as the Little Big Man on Campus. This is a status I mistakenly thought would protect him in a inclusive school setting. I realized too late that status denotes here-is-someone-with-a-disability-let’s help-him.”

It was not until I got home I realized this must happen all the time to him. At dinner that night, Ward and I talked to Thor about what I had witnessed.

“I saw some stuff at school today like…and I was wondering how you feel about that?”

T slammed his fork down on the table. He made jabbing and smashing gestures and said, “Mad!” He amended it, “Hulk mad!”

A brief moment of introspection. I am a complete asshole for not knowing this. (I get we do the best we can with what we have but introspection is a good thing for humans particularly parent one’s.)

Why didn’t I know? Is it a communication issue? Is it a Ds issue? Is it a six year old issue? Is it a six year old boy issue? Does it matter?

I asked T if he and I could do another presentation together to tell his class how he feels about the whole thing.

A resounding cheer, “Yea!”

A brief aside on enthusiasm: Enthusiasm is really under-valued.

The next day I informed his kindergarten teacher we were doing another presentation. Fortunately, for her she was thrilled.

Thor and I discussed what buttons to create in Proloquo2Go®.

The Best Thing since sliced bread.

The Best Thing since sliced bread.

His recommendations were:

“Wait!”

“Ask me.”

“Stop!”

“I am mad.”

“I want to hit.”

My recommendations which were approved by him:

“Just because I am smaller than you I don’t need help.”

“You may not understand me but I understand you.”

I was nervous about the presentation. What if they asked about Down syndrome?

The presentation itself went well.  In fact, it was great. I think the kids were shocked T understood things the same way they do. I also think they understood they were not actually being helpful.

As we finished and before the teacher had the chance to ask for questions Michael’s hand shot up.  I had a sensation of dread in the pit of my stomach. The teacher asked for questions. This was Michael’s cue to go all Horshack from ‘Welcome Back Kotter’.

Thorin pointed to him, “Michael.”

In my head, “Please don’t say it.”

“T…T…um…T…”

The “dah-dah-dah-DAH!” soundtrack from hokey suspense films was pounding in my chest.

“Yea, T. I just want to know why…yea…why…”

In my head: “Michael, give a mother a break here.”

“Yea…um…T…T…why you like ‘Captain America’ so much?”

Breathe.

P.S. – ‘Nan’ posted a comment to this post that included a great link on the politics of “helping”. Worth your time to read it. Thanks, Nan! Hell-Bent on Helping.

This entry was posted in Adopting, Advocacy, By Notatypicalmom, Down syndrome, education, Inclusion, Parenting, Special Needs and tagged , , , , by Kari Wagner-Peck. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kari Wagner-Peck

Kari Wagner-Peck lives with her husband and son in Maine. She is a writer & storyteller who home schools with her son. She has a M.S.W. and has been at various times a practicing social worker, documentary videographer, film festival director and retail clerk. She is the author of Not Always Happy: An Unusual Parenting Journey, May, 2017, Central Recovery Press. She has been published at The New York Times Well Family blog, The Huffington Post, The The Good Men Project, The Sydney Morning Herald Daily Life blog, BLOOM and Love That Max among others. Author page: kariwagnerpeck.com Twitter @KariWagnerPeck and Facebook: www.facebook.com/NotAlwaysHappyLive/ Email: kariwagnerpeck@gmail.com

9 thoughts on “Wait, wait don’t help me –

  1. Yea! same same here. All the kids in Jaime’s class want to “Help” him. I do believe they love him and want to help and want to be in his good favor…………. and yeah the “learned helpless thing” and your perspective is making me think “O lets help the disabled thing” well we take the good with the bad and try to get to a good middle ground. ( and it is important that our kids are not perpetually seen as the “little kid”.) You are not an asshole… this parenting thing is huge. BUT I love your approach and I believe it is key for most things for our kids: self advocacy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!communication. I have Go Talk Now and am trying to figure out how to incorporate it.
    I do think it happens all the time and I think we need to enlist the teachers help in stopping that behavior from some other kids and perhaps there is one kid who can help be an advocate : “Jaime can do it himself!” as well as, of course, Jaime being able to say that himself”

    Do you have a post about day-to- day use of the ipad in school???
    Thanks
    Liz Tree

    • Liz,

      Hell yes to the middle ground! Thorin has had some great help by kids that was very respectful. I think it took the staff and me awhile to figure out the difference. I wish I had examples of day-to-day use. That is my goal for first grade. They didn’t use it enough. Part of the reason I was going in with him to present. Number one goal is use it! Great for home particularly for talking about feelings.

  2. I work with kids with special needs in schools and this situation is a tough one, especially as kids get older. Either the student becomes angry and acts out physically or they can’t function without someone (teacher, aide, classmate) telling them what to do.

    Some teachers actually encourage the other kids to “help” in this way. Grrr…

    • Communication is not easy for any of us. This has been a good reminder for me to keep checking in and going to school.

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