When It Hurts

Sometimes, when you’re the parent of a teen with autism, you have to write letters like this:

Dear [Regional Autism Consultant] and [Nigel’s speech therapist],

I hope this finds you both well. Nigel continues to benefit from your social skills class, and I want to thank you both for doing it. I wanted to run something by you that I think would be an important addition to the regular social skills teaching. Today I had a meeting with [his case manager], and she mentioned that a student told her about a situation in which Nigel was being taken advantage of and laughed at. During lunch, a group of students were encouraging Nigel to tickle random people, and they would laugh when he did it. As you might remember, Nigel has been targeted in this manner before, and it always pains me to hear of it.

I would be so grateful if you would work something into the social skills curriculum to help him learn to recognize these sorts of situations when people have fun at his expense by telling him to do something inappropriate. He doesn’t realize that it’s inappropriate or that he could get in trouble for touching other people. He thinks he is making friends this way, but the “friends” are laughing at someone with a developmental disability. They know that Nigel lacks social awareness, and that’s why they target him. They are not innocent little kids anymore. And yes, Nigel has been told before that real friends will not get him to do things that he shouldn’t do and then laugh. But he needs constant reminders from people other than his mother. He needs to be taught how to recognize these sorts of situations. If a random student notices and takes the time to tell a staff member about it, then it’s pretty significant. And I’m sure it’s not the first time, even though it was the first time that was brought to our attention (that I know of).

So I think it would be helpful for Nigel to have some reminders about what’s inappropriate at school, and that if someone tries to get him to do something and they are laughing about it, they probably don’t have his best interests at heart, and they should be avoided. I tell him these things, of course, but I think if he hears it from other adults (or peers who care) and is taught how to recognize those situations (perhaps through roll-play), then he might start to understand.

Thank you so much for your time and the work you do with my son.

Best regards,

Tanya Savko

And it breaks your heart, again and again. You believed that things were going well socially at the high school, that the other kids had matured since middle school, that these things weren’t happening any more. You hoped that no one would be insincere with him at his first dance, and you wonder if they were and your son just doesn’t have the social awareness to realize it.

Sometimes, as the parent of a teen with autism, it hurts. You’ve been advocating for over twelve years since the diagnosis, and you still have to do it. You still have to manage your pain and quell your anger. You have to keep moving, keep doing, keep hoping. You have to keep being the parent of a teen with autism.

And no matter how much you love your son and the wonderful person that he is, no matter how far he’s come and how much he’s achieved and how high your hopes, it still hurts. For both of you.

23 thoughts on “When It Hurts

  1. M

    these posts always feel like a gut shot, i hate to hear this. very sorry tanya, can’t imagine how much it must hurt to see this popping up yet again.

    couldn’t be a bigger contrast…these cruel, selfish kids….and there’s nigel, with absolute trust and such a good heart. you wish these kids could see it, sense how awful they’re being, see his strength.

    i hate high school.

  2. fighting for my children

    Sorry this happened to him. I didnt have special needs in high school but I know kids can be cruel. High school can be hell for a teen but I still hope with all the anti-bullying stuff out there these days that it will be better than it was for me.

  3. Macrina

    i hope your letter gets their attention- it got mine. No, most bullies don’t mature, they just change their tactics. I hope things go well in response to your letter.

  4. Tera

    so sorry tanya. i hate to see you hurting even after all you do. we just can’t protect them from life, even when we wish we could. i hope there comes some program to help nigel recognize it. if you find something that works, please send it my way.

  5. Michelle S

    I’m sorry. I am going for the small bright spot in this. A STUDENT spoke up and talked to Nigel’s case manager. A student spoke up for him and did the right thing. Something is working the right way for that to happen….hang in there. You don’t have to have a disability to have your kids taken advantage of, I just think it hurts a bit deeper. Hugs to you

  6. corrie

    I’m also sorry to hear this type of behavior. Does the school have a “buddy” program where friends with good social awareness can befriend without social awareness? We have this in our school system.

  7. Nicki

    I went to an autism seminar once for the place I worked at, and the speaker was talking about things like that. She talked about one high school boy whose classmates thought it would be a fun joke to tell him that a certain girl liked him and wanted him to go up to her and kiss her. they told the boy that if he did this, the girl would be his girlfriend… and if she objected at first, she was just trying to see if he really liked her. So the boy did it… and the girl pressed sexual assault charges on him! So yes, this is definitely something that Nigel’s school should be working on with him and all other students with social awareness issues… AND they should be addressing it with the other students! It is good news, I guess, that another student was smart enough to mention it to a teacher.

  8. Kim

    Oh Tanya, it does hurt. It hurts to read this. Your letters are so wonderfully crafted and I hope they take your suggestions into consideration. Thinking of you and Nigel.

  9. Jazzygal

    That is very hurtful indeed for both of you.
    For what it’s worth I think you’re handling it very well and your letter is perfect.
    It’s something I too would worry about. I hate bullying of any sort and it can come in many different forms.
    I’ve seen recent examples of it in a group event I was involved with. I think we dealt with it positvely….at least I hope so!

    Is it perhaps an idea for the a general talk on bullying in the school?? Perhaps an Assembly chat?? Or would that highlight things too much? xx Jazzy

  10. Lex Savko

    I’m so sorry to hear this. I concur with Macrina, the bullies are getting slicker. May the letter result in real progress on this matter.

  11. Paulene Angela

    It’s really painful, like a knife in our hearts. We’ve got to keep fighting to educate other kids that we need their help, not their jokes.

    Keep pushing for those social skills lessons.

  12. AmyLK

    Hi. I’m over from Corrie’s. My Son has Aspergers. Reading this hurts. I remember high school being hard but its got to be harder when you have special needs.

    Thanks for this site! I hope to get plenty of ideas for Son!

  13. Michelle O'Neil

    A peer told his case manager. A peer thought enough of him to tell someone. A peer looked out for Nigel. I hate that this happened, but I am clinging to that today.


  14. Shannon

    I just found your blog, it came up during a search on teaching autistic teens about changes in their bodies … I am so thankful to have found it!!!

    Your posts hit home and bring back situations that we’ve gone through. I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to share your experiences.

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