Sunday, September 25, 2011

Sensitivity Training

Let me start by saying that after you read this post, you are going to like me less. Two of my fellow bloggers, Cari and Joanne, just posted about things people unwittingly say that cut us, parents of kids on the spectrum, to the core.  Just a few years ago, I was one of the worst offenders myself.  I confess that I often said "That is SO retarded" or "I am so retarded." One time someone gently corrected me on this, and I thought to myself, "What expressions are left that you can say in this politically-correct world?"

It gets worse. All the time I was randomly spouting off the "R" word, I had no idea that one of my long-time co-workers was silently going through his daughter's autism diagnosis. Guess when I found out? About a year later when my twins got their diagnosis. I was in tears telling my manager, and she said, "[Co-worker]'s daughter was also diagnosed with some developmental issues. I think it was autism. He doesn't really talk about it. I don't think too many people know."  My manager must have talked to this co-worker right after I left her office because about ten minutes later, he motions me into a conference room to talk.  I learned all about his daughter's story, and there were many kind words of understanding. I'm pretty sure my jaw was on the floor when I first found out that one of his kids had autism.  I mean, I talked to this person everyday.  I had already worked with him for eight years at this point.  And all the while I had no idea what he and his family had been silently enduring.  Looking back, I know I asked him all the normal baby and kid questions about his daughter. I'm sure I thought his answers were short because men don't always elaborate on all the baby stuff.

Now, three years later, we're both quiet about our kids' issues, and some of our co-workers still have no idea that we both have kids on the spectrum, but I can't tell you how comforting it is to know that there is someone in my office who just understands. A lot of my co-workers have kids, and when everyone was going on about how awesome their kid was doing in school or soccer or whatever, I knew there was at least one other person there who understood that I was juggling ABA, OT, and speech instead of soccer, dance, and Chinese.


  1. I'm glad you wrote about this. I am admittedly guilty of saying the "R" word as well. Heck, I say ALOT of things I shouldn't say. I don't think that we should necessary be afraid to say anything, because agree, the world is sooo PC you almost can't say anything.

    I just think that when you are in the presence of someone who you know is struggling with an issue, it calls for some compassion. The world will always be judgmental and silly, and people will always say stupid things, and so will I. But sometimes I just feel like we need to look a little deeper.

    I always say I was a better parent before I had kids. Because apparently I had all the answers then. Different story once you really do. We are all human and flawed, and am so thankful that I have a loving God who forgives all my idiot moments.

    If there is one thing I've learned in this life so far, all the hurtful bad moments are the ones I really grow from.

    AWESOME post Gretchen!

  2. Lord, I have been terrible about the slurs, or at least using some terms like retarded as perjoratives. I admit everything. I don't think it makes us unlikable, though. I'm proud that I don't do it now, even though I had to be smacked in the head by life to realize the error of my ways, ha! Great post. I'm glad you have someone at work who gets it.

  3. Yes, I agree Cari, compassion! And yes, I'm thankful God keeps teaching us and is forgiving. He has humbled me in so many things. Thanks for reading Joanne. Since I have stumbled on your blog, I really enjoy your honest posts.

  4. I don't think the "R" word is any more acceptable than the "N" word. If people look at what it means, there is no reason to use it. I have always felt that word is inappropriate (I worked at a group home for 3 years before/during nursing school). Thanks for having the guts to say it's not okay!