Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Totally awkward parent moments


We had a visitor at the house the other week, someone Max had never met before. He was excited, and wanted to get her attention to he could tell her all about his upcoming Cars 2 birthday party (upcoming as in, December). And so, he reached up and patted one of her boobs. I watched her glance down. She shot me a "What's up with that?!" look. I gave her a "What are you gonna do?" shrug and a sheepish smile.

Awk-ward!

Max is getting taller, as kids tend to do. Thing is, he's now at the perfect arm's length for reaching people's chests. Combine that with the fact that he has issues properly directing his hands because of the cerebral palsy and Max is pat-pat-patting women's boobs all over the place.

Usually, ladies just ignore it, an innocent offense of the kind a younger child might make. And Max does appear to be younger than his age, which helps. Every so often, though, I get strange looks. At Target the other week, Max pat-pat-patted a worker to show her his new Cars 2 DVD and she reflexively brought a hand to her chest as I grabbed his away. "Sorry," I muttered, "he didn't mean it!" and hustled my little groper over to the the cash registers.

Freud might have had a field day with this if, say, he had a blog. Personally, I do not think I am underestimating Max and he is secretly getting his jollies out of this. I've had discussions with him about private parts, and while he understands that nobody except us and our babysitter can touch him down there, the idea of not touching women up there is beyond him right now. "Max, don't pat my chest," I'll say when he does this to me. "Pat me here!" and I'll point to my arm or leg. He nods. And then: Boob pat, pat, pat.

I'll admit, there's a chance he inherited the inappropriate patting from me. Back in kindergarten, I had a teacher I adored, Mrs. Goodman. One day, she had a conversation with my Mom. "I appreciate how much Ellen likes me," she said, "but I have black-and-blue marks on my rear because she is always pinching me there to get attention!"

In the scheme of Awkward Parent Moments, the boob patting ranks below ones like "Did Max just drool on the birthday cake?" I'm not raising a perv; sooner or later, Max will understand and the patting will end. For now, I'll deal with the awkwardness—along with the fact that my beloved husband is entirely too amused by this.

So, what awkward parenting moments have you dealt with lately?

78 comments:

  1. Ha ha - love it.

    I shared Ashlea's butt grabbing ways (she is a little shorter than Max) on one of your weekend link ups:

    http://thinkingofstartingablog.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/winning-friends-and-influencing-people.html

    Lucky they're cute hey!

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    1. HA!!! Yes, his cuteness saves him in many ways. Sabrina's too!!!

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  2. On purpose or not, a child touching a woman’s chest is unacceptable (of course I am not talking about breastfeeding). If this happens the child should be addressed (firm voice, not yelling) at the moment it occurred to learn that it is not acceptable to touch a woman’s chest and it is a private part. I think it is good to give an appropriate alternative such as, “You can say hi” or “shake hands” depending on the situation.

    Our daughter will soon be three and a half years old. Last week we were sitting on the opposite end of a park bench of someone we didn't know (a mom of a child on the playground) and our daughter climbed up on the mom and said hello. I told our daughter, “No climb, say hello, we don’t know her.” I did feel a little awkward in the sense that I felt like I was judging this mom as some kind of weirdo by saying “we don’t know her” but my experience is that children with special needs often have difficulty with social boundaries and need things to taught very specifically--its ok to climb on mom but not a stranger. I’d rather feel a little awkward around a mom who probably understands than have our daughter climb up on the wrong person someday and be molested.

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    1. Agreed, at minimum the parent should at least acknowledge to the other party that was touched, if the child can not understand, that they know it was inappropriate.

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  3. Poor Max... also, that's funny.

    Stephen is 6.5, and just this past weekend, we were walking through a store, and he had his arm out, running his hand along the rack of clothes on hangers (just as kids do...), unfortunately, he didn't pull his arm in as we approached a man standing in front of the same rack, and he almost goosed him. Fortunately, I saw what was going to happen and pulled his arm in for him. Things happen like this even with typical kids, so it's not worth getting really upset about. I'm sure you talk to Max about it, and it will just take some time. :-)

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  4. A friend's daughter used to lift up women's shirts to see if their belly button was pierced. Sigh. It IS awkward but still sort of funny.

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  5. Sounds perfectly innocent and indeed grabs attention! All my awkward moments come from Coopers often smart arse comments but most of the time it's hard to understand so he gets away with it! It is always in response to someone talking or treating him like a baby.

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  6. Sarah is on medication to 'help' her bowels move and consequently, she is unpredictable when it comes to having to 'go'. It will mean she stops in the middle of a store or anywhere and assumes her position (she's diapered). She has no idea that her choice of time and place isn't socially acceptable. Yeah, the looks from other shoppers, children and workers is really hard to deal with.

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  7. I can imagine it's embarrassing for you, but I wish it wasn't! People need to chill out. There is no way Max is doing this intentionally and I don't think, personally, it something you need to deal with in a firm voice. But that just my little ole lowly opinion! I remember once in church my son found if he pushed on the cup of my bra, when he let go it took a minute to pop out. (ok, yeah, in my skinny days and there wes padding involved!!) For half of church services I was pulling his little paws away from continually pushing on my boobs!! I can laugh now!

    I loved the purple shovel from the previous post. What a gift. You owe that cousin!!

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    1. You son touching your breast is one thing, I am sorry but as someone that is not a mother, but has a special needs sibling, I don't think I need to "chill out" if someone touched my breast I would at least expect an apology form the parent-as simple as "sorry, we are working on it" not a laugh and clear desire to ignore a situation that made me very uncomfortable.

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  8. Gabriel is beginning to get social... And is at shorts-front height... He patted an Australian man "hi" on his...well, the other day at Land of Make Believe ;)

    Also, Gabriel & I are taking Mommy & Me yoga together... he's learning to take take deep breaths & BLOW OUT... RASPBERRY STYLE!!! Ha! So calming ;)

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  9. I had to stop reading your blog because of stories like this. I also have a special needs child, and I get that Max can't understand or control his movements in the same way as same age peers. But a toddler can be taught not to pat a woman's breasts, and I am getting no indication that you've done anything to teach him his behavior is appropriate and give him alternatives that he is capable of that are appropriate (like, perhaps, not patting at all.) This is so frustrating to me, that you expect your son to be treated like a "normal" kid, but don't hold him to the sam standards.

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    1. Anon, you seem to have missed the paragraph where I explained to Max not to do this? I try my best to raise him right. It doesn't always take, sorry you don't get that. Also: You might want to inform your alter-ego not to comment here, since you stopped reading this blog and yet your alter-ego is still speaking up. I highly encourage you to find other blogs that have no sense of humor about raising kids with special needs. Cheers!

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    2. LOL...thought the same thing...one of ANON's personalities didn't get the cease and desist on reading the blog. I read your blog and had no trouble seeing that you did in fact reprimand him. these things happen. Teddy speaks inappropriately at times. as a previous poster reported he's also diapered and has no idea we aren't all making in our pants every day. I personally LOVE reading your blog because you don't take it all so seriously. Ted drools as well and it is comforting to know that others deal with this issue.

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    3. I think your humor may have been misplaced and made the paragraph where you tried to say you were working to divert his inappropriate touches as a lack of concern/recognition that regardless of Max's ability is it still very very insulting and violating to others. You wouldn't want max to be insulted or violating and it is hard to see you joke and pass it off as not a major concern when others are violated and insulted, weather intentionally or not- as we all know actions- how we treat others is not based always on intention. People don't mean to be rude when staring at Max's drooling- but you take it as rude and hurtful, having other's intimate parts touched- weather intentional or not is the same thing.

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    4. At a minimum, "I apologize if that made you uncomfortable, it was not his intention to violate your intimate body parts" would be better than a "sheepish "what are you going to do." At least acknowledge to those who are violated that it is a concern.

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    5. Yikes. If someone's kid patted my lady business and their mom turned to me and said "I apologize if that made you uncomfortable, it was not his intention to violate your intimate body parts" I would feel TOTALLY creeped out. I don't really want my business touched, but I certainly don't want someone saying "your intimate body parts" to me either... makes me feel weird just typing it. Maybe that's just me :)

      As a teacher, I think redirecting the behavior is important (sounds like Ellen did just that-- but in private where it was most appropriate) but so is the intention of the child. There's a difference between wanting to touch a private area, and wanting to get someone's attention by accidentally touching a private area. I say cool it, redirect, chuckle, and move on.

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    6. Yes, I agree there is a difference between accidental and intentional touch and what this post discribed-you don't know the child and the parent is trying to "play it cool" by shuffling the child to check out. How would a random individual know this was a special needs child rather than a parent that was just okay with groping?

      Further by acknowledging Max looks like a younger child, and thus assuming people are more understandable it is further re-enforces treating those with special needs differently and as a child at all times, picking and choosing when you want the public to view a child as special needs and normal is hard to understand. Understanding only goes so far, and when it violates personal space it crosses a line. What is so wrong with saying, sorry he doesn't understand and was just trying to get your attention? It is considered unacceptable if the public does not understand other factors of a disability such as drooling and non verbal behavior, but at the same time it is unacceptable if they do not understand and accept behavior that is criminally inappropriate? No one knows the intention of the child but the child and parent, ignoring it is offense and likely to lead to people being even more stereotypical of those with special needs It is not as far fetched as it seemed...he has special needs, his parents thought it was laughable to let him touch by breasts, I never want that to happen in the future, so I will go out of my way to make sure myself and my children don't have to encounter the possibility where it is funny to touch my breasts. How do you have that conversation with your child- is that something you want? He touched my breasts because he is disabled but you can't well ever? I just think that there could be a much bigger effort at diverting the behavior at home, and making sure that the public knows that this behavior is neither funny, appropriate, or a special needs behavior that in order to be human we must accept.

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    7. The whole point of my comment was- not acknowledging whatsoever that Max crossed a boundary (no need to say intimate body parts) makes it seem like you don't worry about his actions and such as this post is entitled- find them embarrassing and not troubling. I doubt the woman at Target found this funny, and as Max ages- no one will. He has come so far and it is hard to understand how he can not learn to tap an arm or a leg rather than a boob. It further sounds as at home, there is some diversion- I understand how having your child touch your breast is much less invasive- but if he is learning that touching a breast gets attention (let's face it- we all feel it INSTANTLY- it is surprising, awkward and automatically a HELLO- because typically people do not pat breasts do get attention. Someone tapping us on the arm will surely not gain the instant response that you as a mother, and even more so as a stranger reacts to. I guess that is why I support the previous comments. A pat to the breast is not a past to the arm, both in the physical aspect and the instantaneous attention it grants- kudos to Max for finding literally the button that will allow him instant attention, but it isn't appropriate. If he can't control it that is one thing, but if the diversion efforts are grounded in efforts that you include just ignoring it, rushing him to the checkout and surprise reaction it is hard to take it seriously. Other readers have noted you shouldn't pay attention to it- but like I said a pat to the breast- gains attention of everyone instantaneously, regardless of how you respond after he still, brightly and smartley so knows he gets immediate attention from it. Post diversion efforts seem pointless and rather diverting and not finding it funny, possibly realizing that he is bright enough to know that this type of touch gains immediate response and is not a fault of his CP for finding that area, while hard I think is necessary. I for one would be horrified if a child touched my breast and the parent attempted to laugh it off even as a sibling of a special needs child-It just isn't right.

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    8. So if you have decided this is just a phase- then how about when he touches you in the breast not paying attention? This way he will learn foremost that you do not acknowledge his touching in that area. If you don't give him attention for it until he pats an arm or a leg, then even if it takes some time (as like I said EVERYONE responds immediately to boob tap) then eventually he may change his way- basic behavior patterns.

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  10. When Matthew was 13, he liked to pat babies bottoms to see if their diapers were wet.
    Awkward

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    1. That just made me laugh. What a considerate kid!

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  11. My daughters both do things like this--one is special needs, one is not. Honestly, neither of them even think about the fact that what they are touching is a "breast". If you make a big deal out of it, they are likely to do it more, just to get attention (as I have learned, the hard way). We have talks about privacy and personal space and I remind them, very gently and understatedly (on purpose), not to do it when they do, but I try not to sweat it, for EITHER of them. They won't do it forever and, in the grand scheme of things, this isn't something to worry about.

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  12. I think that's really funny, and if it were me I would certainly smile and not think of -thing- of it. My son, when he was much younger, used to want to see if other people were wearing diapers like him and sometimes we'd be in a store (or wherever) and he'd just walk up and touch people's bottoms to see if they had a diaper on. Yes, it would freak people out. Yes, I had to explain that he didn't know what he was doing and how sorry I was. Yes, I corrected him. And no, it did no good. Well, eventually I guess it did. LOL

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    1. Celine, your son and Matthew (see above!) were clearly separated at birth!

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    2. My son is Matthew also! LOL

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  13. SooooMax is a Boob Guy and you are a Butt Gal? :)

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    1. You've totally got us figured out, Rachel! Hey, doesn't Boob Buy and Butt Gal sound like the name of a bad sitcom?

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  14. Dear Ellen and all! great snippits of life... these too shall pass- Ellen will never run out of stories to share because she is a gifted insightful story teller. You are a catalist to many great discussions, thank you!
    AND>>>Thanks for doing the redirect to Anon, i really appreciate it! sometimes those replying really dont get that their behavior is inapropriate -maybe their mom didnt give them clear direction as to how to read and respond in a considerate thoughtful manner- cheers!

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  15. She IS teaching him, she's just not flipping out over it! Chill!

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    1. Target Woman: Oh I was violated and the mom thought it was funny. Chill I will be. Next time a child like Max approached me what would you do- open your arms wide or protect your breasts? If it wasn't thought as funny and was addressed as wrong when it happened that would be one thing. Accepting a violation of personal body parts is another.

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  16. My nonverbal son cannot resist trying to grab when he sees someone eating ice cream in public. A few times he's been to quick for us and we have had to offer to buy a replacement cone. I have learned that when we on an outing where he's expecting ice cream, to buy it immediately upon arrival, instead of saving it for later.

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    1. That is great you offer and do not ignore or find it funny when something happens that is not appropriate! Your fix it attitude likely leads others without any concern or uncomfortableness around other non verbal children and is very kind and considers others. Well done! and As Ellen said AMEN!

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  17. This is hilarious. My daughter just finished potty training and is now in the habit of pointing out everybody's "peeped" Its awful -_-

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    1. Perspective: at least she's not pointing out everyone's POOP. There. Don't you feel better?

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  18. That is funny, yet uncomfortable. Since it seems to be conceptually complicated for him to understand right now, maybe make it simpler. We touch people on their arms. We have found that giving a much simpler framework works better for both our kids, no matter what the issue is. When they are older/more cognitively ready, we can expand it.

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    1. You know, I will try that, Kim—usually I go into "We don't touch people up here, we touch people on the arm" but just straight up talking about arms is a good idea. That said, he still lacks control over his hands and it'll take a lot of concentration for him to direct them just to arms. We'll keep working on it!

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    2. Not sure if your post expressed this and could be why there are angry comments. You said you say "arm" but then he touches you in the breast again and you don't do anything? I am almost positive that is why people are upset- it seems as you try to tell him and then are sort of like "oh well, whatever, he will grow up" when he immediately doesn't do what you say. When boobs are involved, I feel like a bit of re-enforcmeent would be vital..at least if you want the world to understand his actions.

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  19. My two year old looks down everyones shirts, man or woman, checking to see if they have necklaces.... because necklaces are obviously awesome. If they do she gets excited, if she doesn't see one she reaches her whole arm in the shirt just to make sure she can't feel one farther in the shirt. If she still doesn't find one she just leaves her arm in there... Luckily she looks like she is maybe 10 months old, so nobody seems to think its such a big deal.

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    1. OK, friend, you win The Awkward Moment Award of the day. And your prize is, wait for it, The Booby Prize. He, he. As I've said many times, YOU'VE GOTTA LAUGH!!!! And keep trying to teach.

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  20. Abby has an intellectual disability and though almost 7, is a "talker in progress." However, she can curse like a sailor! Drops the F bomb perfectly, and says "Damnit" and "Shik" every time she drops something (often). Makes me laugh, though I do get those disapproving stares....

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    1. I think if Max ever dropped the f-bomb I might get a bit excited, because he has never yet said an "f." Eeep. What kind of mother am I? Anonymous is right, after all!

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  21. A young friend (4) gave my chest several solid pokes one day and asked "Is there a baby in there? There must be a baby in there!"

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    1. OK, that is seriously better than having a kid pat your belly and ask if there is a baby in there. NOT THAT IT'S EVER HAPPENED TO ME. Oh, noooooooo....

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    2. Well, if it's in my chest it's a really small baby!

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    3. Not that anyone ever called me Flatso in high school. Oh, nooooo....

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  22. Yes, I've been there. My 4 year old non verbal amazing little boy loves to stick his hand out of shopping cart or dinning table or anywhere and side swipe anyone walking by. It's his way of getting attention and sometimes he might touch inappropriate places. I always say sorry and tell him to dont do that but it doesn't stick. He continues to do it. I feel he is still to young and not capable of understanding plus nonverbal so it's hard to get people's attention but I still consistently correct him. I do worry what will happen if he continues to do this as he gets older. He is really cute and a little boy now but I am sure if wont be so cute when he is 20 or 30 so I worry worry worry. Hopefully it will stick one day. He also used to love pulling on my shirt when he was riding in shopping carts and expose me.... Pretty embarrassing for me... He has since stop that but now my 1 years normally developing daughter seems to get a kick of doing that too... So it not always bc of their special needs... Kids will be kids. I too loved your purple shovel post... Need to find one of those for Andrew!!! We still highly struggle with him entertaining himself :/

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    1. Given that my worry bank is pretty much all filled up right now, I am choosing to delay the deposit of another worry about whether Max will continue to do this when he gets older!!! Re, the purple shovel: Available at Five Below, had Dave go and get a backup one today!

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  23. I have a tiny 2.5 year old groper, too! We're working on "gentle touches" and "nice touches" as she's discovered hitting and pinching as a way to non-verbally communicate. Every time I have her show me (or someone else) and "gentle touch" she rubs our boobs. Moving her hand to a different body part, generally the one she just socked, doesn't work.

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  24. Hey -- he's a guy! When I was in college, I was friends with a blind guy. He used to bump into women and grab a feel, just for fun. His roommate would tell him where there was someone "feel-worthy" and would direct him in that direction. By the end of the semester, and a few slaps, he finally stopped, but only grudgingly.

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    1. You know some quality people, Paula. ;)

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  25. I'm an elementary school librarian and I'm usually getting my butt patted-- although my ta tas have not been spared either. Last year a little girl (probably about max's height) said "Guess what Mrs. Smith?" then reaching up she patted my boobs as she said "I LOVE BOOKS!"

    As for awkward special needs parent moments, I have a hard time getting people to laugh at my jokes when I tell them about my son. I wrote about it a few weeks ago:http://www.whatdoyoudodear.com/2013/06/i-laugh-at-my-kid-and-you-can-too.html

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    1. ROTFL about "I love books!" AND your post, which is hysterical and everyone should go read it now. Here's a post I once did on cracking a joke about Max and the awkwardness that ensued: http://www.lovethatmax.com/2010/10/on-making-bad-jokes-about-special-needs.html

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    2. Thanks Ellen! Glad you enjoyed the post. We should be allowed to poke fun at our kids just like everyone else, right? :)

      Your post killed me. HA! Not that I'm not saying we should laugh at kids with special needs BECAUSE of their needs, but we can lighten up a bit I think. Kids are funny regardless of whether their typical or "special." At least mine is!

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  26. I don't for a second doubt that Max has difficulty directing his muscles. He seems like such a smart, funny, and sociable kid, and I can only imagine how frustrated he must be with his body's limitations.

    I work with teenagers and young adults with special needs. Like Max, some of them have difficulty controlling their movements. I know that, so if they touch me inappropriately I give them the benefit of the doubt. Instead I redirect them to touch my hand or my arm to get my attention. Hands and arms are "safe" places to touch. My chest is my "private body". We define our "private bodies" as anything that a swimsuit would cover. So for women, our chests are private. We use visual aids to reinforce the idea.

    Other people might not be so understanding. While the woman in Target might have been surprised when Max touched her, it could still be written off as "he's just a kid". When Max is a teenager or an adult, it might not be so easy.

    Again, I do not think he is intentionally groping or harassing anyone. Far from it. The problem is that this behavior isn't just awkward, it's potentially more problematic. I've had instances where the people I work with are accused of sexual harassment because they grabbed/touched someone's breasts/bottom. It's a painful and confusing thing for the person with special needs as well as the people who love and care for them.

    I hope this made sense.

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    1. I totally get what you are saying, Annika, and even though I joke about this now, it will definitely not be funny when Max gets to be older. I am hopeful it will end as both his cognition and motor skills improve!

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    2. As am I! Max has so much potential.

      I'm glad it made sense. I don't want to offend or criticize. I think Max has an incredible support system.

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  27. Ellen,
    I totally get this. When my now 34 yr old was about 2 (he has mild cp) he watched his Dad swat me on the butt one too many times and began to think that was an appropriate way to show affection to his Mom, WHEREVER we were! His Dad and I had words over that :).
    At school I teach non verbal preschoolers and the chest pat is often their method of choice to get my attention. Actually I get kind of perturbed when other "professionals" get upset about that, especially the speech path. If you don't like it, help and give them more words!!!
    That was my vent, thanks :).
    Lisa

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    1. Trust me on this, Max did not learn this behavior from Dave! :)

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  28. I've got a 19-year-old son with CP who has ALWAYS had an eye for the ladies! A few weeks ago, a cute aide came to watch him for a few hours, and when he saw her, he looked her up and down from head to toe! I told him he needed to be more subtle with his "moves", and show all girls respect:). He also has a fondness for looking for cute girls during church, and paying way more attention to them than to our pastor:) Typical teenage boy:)

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    1. Cute and appropriate. Well done!

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  29. I think it's a combination of his motor control and the need to get someone's attention. I'm a pre-school teacher and regardless of having a disability or not, children will pat whatever is most convenient. Their focus is on getting your attention not on "appropriate touching". Of course re direct their pats and explain to slightly shocked strangers but they'll eventually stop doing it when they get a little taller!!

    Anon needs to take her meds and get her personalities in order. Clearly one of them hasn't stopped reading this AMAZING blog.

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  30. My three year old with Dandy Walker and Hydrocephalus just learned how to take his own pants off, so now he thinks it's his job to take everyone else's pants off. Anyone with elastic waist bands are fair game. He "de-pantsed" his dad in the grocery store the other day!

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  31. Side note- My super smart brother (he is a PHD in Alzehimers an studies cognitive neuroscience...kept saying the "R" word on our last vacation. He had NO idea how offensive or wrong it was. Needless to say I chewed his ass and it has been stricken from his vocabulary. He literally had no idea ho offensive saying he "R" word was. I set him straight :)

    Also, when just MEAN things come up on my news feed I have started calling them out. For example there was a picture of a couple, with a woamen that facebbok made fun of her apparenance. It was shared for purposes of "laughing my ass off" I threw a fit !!

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  32. LOL it's a good thing kids can't be charged with sexual harassment otherwise you would probably have a couple of lawsuits on your hands.

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  33. Oh, I have two more, and I'm sure you will feel better... Stephen (6.5) has some oral sensory needs, and likes to bite on buttons (I have replaced COUNTLESS buttons on his shirts). One day, his kindergarten teacher wore some pants with large, shiny buttons on the back pockets... I think you can see where I'm going with this. I was so embarrassed when she told me about it.

    Also, he earned the nickname "Flash" in pre-school when he started using the toilet. He would just drop his drawers wherever he felt like it, if he had to go or not... in the classroom, out on the playground...

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    1. Right there with you Patty...except my kindergartener liked shiny things, so the day his TA wore a sequined shirt and he literally tried ripping her clothes off...(for shame).

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  34. I can relate. I accidentally touch people's bums. My hands go where ever they like sometimes.

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  35. Loved this post (as all your posts, big fan here). My little girl loves fabric that moves and swishes, especially skirts. She likes to grab the hem, despite all our attempts to block/redirect. On a plane last year, she miscalculated her aim with the very short skirt of the air hostess... eek! Overheard the woman saying to her colleague as they walked away "That little girl just stuck her hand up my skirt!". The sky could have swallowed me up.

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  36. When I give my brother a shower (he has special needs, obviously) he'll touch me up there..but he's visually impaired so I know he's just touching to understand what I look like. :)

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  37. My wife and I adopted a boy with fragile x and severe developmental delays. He was 4 yrs old. He is now 14. His teachers and us have tried to teach him boundaries. And he is still touchy feely with other womens breast. He functions at a 2-4 yr old level. He started in a new school this year and is now suspended because he touched the teachers aids breast. I am at my wits end on what to do. We are going today to a crisis center where he may or may not be hospitalized. The awkward stage has long since passed us by.

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    1. I am just now seeing this; I am sorry about what happened, and hope that your son is doing OK.

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Thanks for sharing!