Foot-in-Mouth Disease

November 9th, 2010  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  5 Comments

I took JP to yet another birthday party this past weekend. Must say that I enjoyed this one a great deal, not least because the parents were considerate enough to have the football games on a giant screen in the living room, and even better, they were apparently fancy liquor aficionados—I had a top-shelf brown liquor drink in my hand within five minutes of entering their apartment. And they served pizza pockets!

Unfortunately, I screwed the whole thing up. At some point during the party, conversation among a gaggle of parents turned to neat things various children can do. I mentioned a young girl I met recently with Asperger’s  Syndrome. I recounted how I gave the girl JP’s date and year of birth and that she was able to tell me what day of the week he was born. I think I said something like, “Pretty useful savant, eh?”

One thing I noticed at the party was how excited the birthday boy’s parents were that he and JP had become friends. They apologized for only having JP over for the party and not for a one-on-one playdate, and their friends all seemed to know who JP was; his friendship with the birthday boy had been discussed in advance. I thought this was a little unusual, but not noteworthy.

What I found out later that day from the birthday boy’s father is that the son has Asperger’s. He was telling me how much their son had thrived in his new school, how he had come out of his shell, and how Asperger’s complicated things. I felt this sinking feeling. Eventually I would go home, the friend would relate what I had said, and then… what?

Had I really done anything wrong? Or was discussing Asperger’s at all sin enough, particularly as I did so from a position of ignorance, and with a posture of slight amusement? I don’t really know, but I hope I didn’t come across as flip as I felt while telling the story. JP really likes this kid, and I’d hate to think I messed it up for him.

Oh well, just being me: dumb.

[Note: I wrote this post one-handed, with Ellie in my arms. I got mad skillz.]


  1. clara says:

    November 9th, 2010at 11:57 am(#)


    Nice post. As a parent of a child on the autism spectrum maybe I can help illuminate the other side. Those parents have likely gone through a world of pain and trauma that is largely unknown to parents of typical kids. Their hopes, dreams, and ego-riddled visions of their offspring were dashed like a poped balloon when they realized their child had a disorder. To say these parents are likely oversensitive is probably not more projection on my part – they are likely very sensitive about their child. Your comment about the savant girl would be funny to me, because my son is now 11 and all this *stuff* is old hat to me now and I no bristle at the slightest shift of the wind. All those parents want is for their child to have friends, to fit in somewhere, to not be rejected, to not be hurt. JP is important to them, he is a link to the world they hope their son will be a part of or continue to be a part of. there are many JP’s in my son’s life and I do talk about these kids as though they were worth their weight in gold. If I were you I would just take this as an opportunity to acquaint yourself with other versions of parenthood, and help JP grow into someone who is aware that we are not all the same, not fearful of those who are different, and can be a friend to a child with asperger’s. And the best thing you can do for these parents and other parents is to be welcoming of their child in your son’s life. Hope the above makes sense, I am not much of a soap-boxer.

  2. dadwagon says:

    November 9th, 2010at 1:44 pm(#)

    Clara–Agreed, on all counts. And to be clear: I like this child, want him to hang out my son, and feel no differently now than I did before knowing about the Asperger’s. I also understand any sensitivity his parents might have. The intent of the post was to convey my embarrassment at opening my big, fat mouth. Great to hear from you, btw. –Theodore.

  3. clara says:

    November 9th, 2010at 1:50 pm(#)

    Intent understood. ah, you should have a “like” button on here, facebook has rendered me too lazy to respond beyond having to click something once. So, “like”.

  4. Chris says:

    November 9th, 2010at 1:53 pm(#)

    As a parent of a PDD-NOS 4 year old, I’ve also been on the other side. First, don’t beat yourself up. Almost all the parent’s I’ve met with children on the spectrum are used to comments, strange looks and unfortunately parents who won’t let their kids play with ours.

    If you do get invited back, don’t bring it up. That sounds like a minor comment so don’t make a big deal.

    And do encourage JP to play with the boy. Ask JP after school if he and the boy did something together. Sometimes the hardest part of being the parent is knowing that your child wants to do something with the others, but either doesn’t know how or is being excluded because he is different.


  5. Nathan says:

    November 10th, 2010at 9:10 am(#)

    We do have a ‘like’ button! Just above the comments. You can ‘like’ this officially!

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