So, I was listening to a radio show today the other day and they were doing a segment on the "weird kid at the park". The story was that there had been a kid who was just making weird noises to try and get a little girl's attention and the little girl made a public service announcement to boys that that is NOT the way to get a girl's attention.
Guess what! I am the parent of that "weird kid".
My 6 year old is autistic. He absolutely has made strange noises at kids in an attempt to get their attention and get them to play. We of course work hard to teach him other strategies. But, that is also autism and making noises are one of his favorite ways to play. In his mind, he is battling Pokemon or racing Sonic the Hedgehog. But from the outside, it looks like a kid making noises. Also, at 6 he does not care about girl or boy-he just wants to play.
Ironically, shortly before I heard this radio segment, I had made a personal post on social media about our ongoing experiences with other kids at parks and in school. It got me thinking again, if parents and radio professionals are talking and laughing about "weird kids at the park", then no wonder we have had so many awful experiences. So here is is again, in blog form, my plea to other parents:
Dear other parents,
Please teach your kids there are many ways to play. Teach them that some kids play in ways that look different and that it is OK.
Teach them there are so many beautiful ways to express joy (including jumping, flapping, and vocalizations).
Teach your kids how to include others. Offer them gentle ways to decline when someone wants to play with them and they don’t want to.
Teach them kindness by walking the walk of being kind. Stop using words like "weird" and "crazy” to describe people. Seize moments to show them what kindness and inclusion look like.
Possibly most important: don't assume they will always know how to make kind choices on the playground and be there to correct them. Especially if they are older. Unsupervised “polite” kids can be incredibly cruel.
I am tired of having to protect my kid from yours. I am tired of hearing them call him names and make fun of him. I am tired of being the one to ask them to stop. I am terrified because this is only the beginning. If other 6-7 year olds are being this cruel, I cannot imagine what will happen at 10, 12, 15.
Listen, I am not saying your kids have to be friends with mine. I am not saying they have to play together. But, I am saying that they should be able to coexist. I am saying that my son should be able to go to the park one time without being made fun of.
The parent of an autistic human who wants a friend
So, that "weird kid" at the park could be neurodivergent and honestly could be doing the best they can. It would be great if adults could be good role models for kids and promote acceptance and inclusivity.