Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"I don't like people looking at me!"

"Don't look at me! Why are you looking at me?! "

For a moment there, I thought Frankie was talking to me but then I followed his angry gaze and noticed a lady near by who was as surprised as I was to hear the kid's words. We were at Target, shopping around and waiting fore Rebecca near the fitting room. I was so embarrassed for Frankie's words that I just attempted to apologize to the lady (profusely!) and hardly had time to digest the meaning of such statement. My son was using his words - very clearly by the way - to express how he felt about someone looking at him...nothing wrong with that, but at the same time, he was breaking one of the most basic society rules: "don't blur out what you really, really, think." Granted, I know that Frankie's Autism doesn't make him very social, but I was expecting shyness, not blunt honesty!

After the lady walked away, I looked at Frankie and talked to him about what had just happened and here is where the real funny part happened. While I was talking to him I was using all of my "training" and newly acquired skills to help him substitute an inappropriate behavior with a socially accepted one (thanks UW team!). Well, that didn't work. I told Frankie that when people looked at him, he should look back and say "hello" - no can't do, he said he didn't like people to look at him. Then I said, he could just look away if he didn't feel comfortable but that didn't fly either - he said "No" again and with a very annoyed expression, he repeated really slowly: " I... don't....like.....people.....looking.....at.....me! and that was the end of it for me and I dropped the subject.

Later on that afternoon we met up with Raci and Victor for lunch at the mall and I started to share with Raci what had happened earlier; I had not finished my first sentence when Frankie interrupted me and said "I don't like people looking at me!" I couldn't stop laughing and that was probably the wrong thing to do but I couldn't help but to recall how many times I didn't really like people looking at me either! What exactly was wrong with that, anyway? Yes, yes, it's wrong because it's rude. BINGO! that was the ticket, I told Frankie that saying things like that hurts people's feelings and they get sad. He listened. I didn't get the same answer I was getting before and it felt like he was truly taking the time to process that piece of information I had just given him. I trust that in the future he learns to comply with this basic social rule but I'm sure he will do it, not because he agrees with it but because he doesn't want to hurt people's feelings. That's just how he rolls......

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