You Can’t

(These quotes are real, at least to the gist of what was told me.)

“You can’t — no, no whining!  You just sit here next to me and wait quietly for the doctor.  You are NOT going to bother people by grabbing all the magazines and lining them up on the floor.  Don’t even ask ‘why’ — I’m tired of all the Why’s.”

“Will you quit repeating things over and over. What the devil’s gotten into you?”

“Oh, just stop flapping about every time you’re upset!  Your baby sister doesn’t go around doing weird things like that!”

“Sit still, Andrea, no rocking.  We don’t do that in school.”

“Stop doing that!  You’re going to kill the grass, spinning around in circles like that.  Now come inside and quit making a spectacle of yourself.”

“What were you thinking, kicking someone at school?  How do you think that makes ME look — no, you just don’t think, do you? You can’t make friends doing that!  I just don’t know what gets into you.”

“No, you can’t have something special. ‘Have it your way’ doesn’t mean you.  We’re ALL having mustard and pickles on our cheeseburgers.  I don’t know why you have to make everything so damn difficult for me.”

“Andrea, come out of the cloakroom, they’re just testing the alarm bells.  Back to your seat now.  There’s no need to stick your fingers in your ears;  no one else is doing that.”

“I got a call from your teacher today.  You need to stop complaining about people ‘picking on’ you.”

“Quit staring off into space, Andrea.  You can’t spend all morning daydreaming — get back to your assignment.”

“And what’s my little monster done today?  Broken any more glasses?”

“Omigod, only you would want sneakers with green stripes.  Why do you have to be so weird.  That’s it — I’ve had enough of this nonsense, hear me?”

“You can’t stay in the library during Pep Assembly; it’s a school event.  Now now, it’s not that noisy and crowded; I’m sure there’s plenty of room on the bleachers.”

“This is the second time this month you’ve lost your gym clothes.  You can’t keep doing this!  I don’t want to hear any more stories about kids at school ‘taking’ things — you need to be more responsible.”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!  Why are you trying to make me look bad in front of everyone?  Can’t you just chat with people like a normal person, instead of yapping on and on about your damn trains?”

“Get that hood off your head and quit hiding in that sweatshirt.  It’s summer!  What do you have crammed into those pockets?  And when was the last time you brushed your hair?  You can’t go anywhere looking like that.  You’re an embarrassment to the whole family.”

“Quit moping around and snap out of it!  You can’t complain; your problems aren’t worse than anyone else’s.”

“Well, what are your plans after high school?  You can’t stay here; there’s no more child-support.  I don’t even know how you expect to take care of yourself; you don’t have any street-smarts.”

“Why are all the lights turned off?  You can’t want just that little desk lamp.”

“Well I don’t think the lab equipment is noisy, and I have normal hearing. You can’t keep bothering people with these imaginary problems.”

Do those seem reasonable to you?

Does it seem reasonable to denounce someone for protesting about being bullied, for wanting to have things as simple as having their choice in burger toppings or sneaker colors, for having a different sensory experience, or for playing differently?  Is a clumsy child a “monster”?

Is being autistic like being held captive by a monster?  I wouldn’t say so, nor would a number of other advocates, yet Socrates of the New Republic has a link to  the unnerving TV advert from Action For Children describes it as such.  (Or rather, how a boy called Dan narrates it.)  Mike at Action For Autism blog explains the background on AFC.  Over at Biodiverse Resistance, Shiva notes that the advert:

treats “autism” as something somehow separate from the person – as well as assuming that every autistic person really wants to become non-autistic – which is as arrogant and bigoted as assuming that every queer person really wants to become straight, or every black person really wants to become white.

Sharon of The Voyage points out:

Dan’s story is tragic. He’s blaming himself for the problems he faces and has been taught to regard his autism as a monster to be defeated and that he would be better off acting as non-autistic as possible.

And Bev tackles the subject with one of her fabulous cartoons at her blog, Asperger Square 8.  Trapped inside the autism monster … OMG, shades of demonic possession!  For crap’s sake, YOU CAN’T be serious.

ABfH has resources listed for a campaign to complain to AFC about the “intolerance monster”.


  1. medrecgal said,

    1 February 2009 at 4:28

    Wow…did you run into my mother sometime during your life? Half of this stuff sounds like the kind of things she said (and sometimes STILL says) all through my life! Not much fun to recall, is it?

  2. shiva said,

    31 January 2009 at 18:19

    Practically all of that is direct from my childhood as well.

  3. Jackie said,

    29 January 2009 at 14:06

    I found your quotes reflecting how teachers talk down to their students a great insight for others. It’s absolutely horrible how some teachers will mock a special needs student, for defending themselves against sensory assault.

    I have Hyperacusis, and there have been times I need to put my fingers in my ears. I’ve learned I’m not the one who needs to be ashamed, it’s the people who would seek to shame me that are the ones who need to feel shame.

  4. 28 January 2009 at 2:01

    This makes my heart hurt. I have experienced my own version of all of those, yet I still, nonetheless, find myself wishing my own son wouldn’t embarrass me in public, etc. Argh– I just don’t know what to do to help him cope with society sometimes! It was so different for me, a girl, with good ability to camoflage my own ineptitudes, and he lives loud and out there, completely owning his quirks, and… I just don’t know how to help him to be true to himself yet still soothe/teach coping skills to get him through the meltdowns! And the social boundaries! “I know you love your friends, but you cannot be grabbing people’s wrists like that, it hurts them!” etc. Gah!

    Some days it is SO AWESOME. We have such an amazing connection, and we have so much fun together!!! And some days I just want to lie down with a cold compress on my head in a dark, dark room.

    My son and I are extremely alike, for better and for worse.

  5. Bev said,

    27 January 2009 at 1:28

    Wow, Andrea. I had my own version of every single one of those. I swear I just relived my childhood reading this. Eerie.

  6. Justthisguy said,

    26 January 2009 at 19:33

    Wow. I escaped most of this, due to, I reckon, a large Jewish fraction in the schools I attended when young. (They seem to respect nerdiness, even in Gentiles.)

    Nonetheless, I caught pieces of that from time to time, viz: My Dad yelling at me for relaxed facial expression, getting jumped and somewhat beaten up on the way home from school for no reason once, being accused of a crime when actually the victim by fifth-grade teacher… Dang, Ma’am, you had it much harder than I did. I honor you for still going ahead and doing as well as you have done

  7. urocyon said,

    26 January 2009 at 18:20

    That gave me the shivers. Spot on.

  8. Catana said,

    26 January 2009 at 16:26

    Ouch! The pep assembly bit really hit home. High school was a nightmare because of them. Even if I hadn’t been completely uninterested in sports or the school team, having to ward off the waves of noise was always the beginning of a bad day. I would have given anything to be allowed to stay in homeroom or go to the library.

  9. Fledchen said,

    26 January 2009 at 10:16

    Eek. I think you were listening in on half of my childhood.

  10. 26 January 2009 at 8:55

    I will go and have a look at that link. Love your writing. Will be back

  11. Adelaide said,

    26 January 2009 at 7:23

    I think green stripes are very cool on sneakers, especially when they go with pink.

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