The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Thursday, March 26, 2009


Mothers Naturally Freak When Schools Wrongly Label Kids

A couple of months ago I got a call from my son Julien’s preschool requesting a meeting with both parents. We figured it was about his speech delay, which we weren’t yet worried about, given that he was learning two languages at home.

When we met with the director and our son’s teacher, they handed us a list of seven behaviors they felt were unusual. Three of them had to do with speaking, as far as we could judge, two of them had to do with zoning out and distractibility, to summarize. One had to do with motor coordination and the last, with drooling.

All of these items might be normal in a much younger child, they said, but Julien was three. These items had nothing to do with his cognitive abilities or intelligence, they assured us, and they agreed that he is an intensely social, affectionate, empathetic child. 

But these items gave them great concern. They asked us to observe him at home for two weeks and report back.

My husband and I were still not worried. During the observation period, he only did one of the items with any consistency (repeating a question three or four times), which we took as normal. The motor coordination issue we chalked up to the fact that his legs are rotated slightly inward on his hips, which we were assured he’d outgrow by age seven.

But his preschool insisted there was a problem. Apparently, the behaviors were happening a lot at school, especially toward noon when there were more kids present, and they wanted him to be observed by a psychologist.

Now we were worried.

I checked in with his pediatrician first. She had me come in, held out the list, and said, “I was very surprised, because these items are indicative of mild autism, and your child didn’t strike me as autistic.”

My heart leapt. “What?! But my child is extremely social.”

“Well, there’s a whole spectrum,” she told me. She then spent forty-five minutes asking Julien questions, having him do things, watching him play. Finally, she shook her head and said to me, “You have nothing to worry about. He is not autistic.”

I exhaled relief.

Later that day, I relayed this experience to the person who was arranging a psychologist to observe him at school. She said, “I work with autistic kids all day; that’s all I do, and you have no idea how many calls we get from preschool teachers worried that one of their kids is autistic, and it turns out, they’re not.”

I found this interesting. Do we have such heightened awareness of autism now, that we so easily label certain behaviors as such?

I appreciate my son’s school is over-vigilant rather than under, however a mother has enough to worry about without getting such a freaked-out scare.

By Cindy Bailey


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Scary! This is not the first time I heard of a school suggesting this to a parent-even though they are not qualified to diagnose!! I must say-it is helpful for teachers to bring awareness to some behavior that is not typical. We were advised to have our kid "assessed" by his preschool. He was found to be "average". But the atypical behavior led us to get a second assessment and it turned out to be a an auditory processing weakness- something completely different than our initial concern. People want answers and reasons for things that are different-forgetting that all kids develop at different rates. There is a rush in this country for quick answers and quicker fixes so sometimes people look for diagnostic reasons rather than waiting and monitoring. Good luck! They are probably jealous because he is potty trained and the other kids are not!

Cathy Burke
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