Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Group therapy: Would you let your son with special needs go to a dance with this girl?


It's that time of year when we're going to start seeing those viral videos in our Facebook feeds of the girl/boy with Down syndrome crowned prom king and queen. I have a son with disabilities. I just heard from a teacher at his school that a "sweet" girl in his grade would like to ask him to the middle school formal, and that she would like the teacher to record him asking her. The teacher thinks it's amazing. I truly am interested in other mom's opinions because I know I can be kind of cynical. 

My son is a great, well-liked kid who doesn't need community service or to be the star in a viral video. He doesn't even know this girl. When we talked about the dance, which he wants to go to, I asked, "Do you want to go with a girl or your friends?" He said, "My friends." I said, "Well, what if a girl asked you?" and he said "I'd say 'yes'" but he's likely forgotten all about this.

He loves going to school dances and wearing a tie, and he'll have an amazing time regardless. However, since I've never heard from this girl as someone who might like to connect with him outside of school, I just have to wonder about the motive and whether it's more self-serving "I'm doing a good deed and including the kid who stereotypically doesn't get included." 

Although I like the thought of him going to the dance like a "typical" kid, he's still going to need help. When he went to a dance earlier this year, so did others in his class and so the teachers and helpers were there to handle bathroom needs and helping him buy snacks. I'm not sure who would do that if he's just with this girl (I've reached out to the teacher).

Still, my point is that he will need help whether or not he goes with this girl so in the end, I don't think he'd gain any extra independence going with her. I am leaning towards responding no and saying that my son will save a dance for her but prefers to meet up with friends—except I'm just not sure. 

This mom would appreciate your thoughts—weigh in below!

29 comments:

  1. Go to the dance with friends, not the girl.

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  2. If the he doesn't know this girl and she's not made an effort to know him or hang out with him prior to the dance, and she wants her proposal videotaped...It sounds as if she wants to be the next viral story about how sweet it is that she took him to the dance. Why does she want to ask him if he doesn't​ even know her? I agree with your feelings of hesitation, especially since his first response was wanting to go with friends, and saying he will save a dance for her.

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  3. I would say no to videotaping for sure! I can't imagine what her purpose for recording it would be other than posting it online, which seems icky to me. With that said, I don't see the harm in her inviting him (minus the video recording!) and letting him decide. Maybe you could talk to him beforehand about what he would prefer and make sure he feels comfortable saying no if he would rather go with friends? And make sure that staff will be available to help him with his needs, obviously.

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    1. Leaving aside all the other entirely valid concerns, if I were from a younger generation I would definitely want a video of me asking someone to prom, no matter who it was. It's an occasion that I'd want memorialized. That it's also possible to post it online is a side effect of any photo or video nowadays.

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  4. I think that what stuck out for me the most wasn't that the girl and teacher want to record this (although that bothers me, too, as the end result or reward for her asking him to the dance -- she gets to "inspire" people with a treacly video showing how cute he is for asking her and how awesome she is for accepting him) but! But that he doesn't know her. To me that suggests a creepy kind of calculation or curation on her part. Pick a kid with special needs! Make a thing! Be Facebook famous! I might be being overly cynical here myself, but it seems like if she and he don't have any prior relationship or interest, it's a pretty calculating thing to do.

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  5. There is a range to what is possibly going on. The short answer is Max should likely just go with his friends. The girl is very young and may have wondered previously how to get to know Max better or be more inclusive, but lacked the skills and guidance to do so previously. She may have seen the school dance as a way to do this. The problem I have is ( and again she is very young) that the desire to videotape it, the fact that she and her parents have not managed to help express interest previously - smacks of opportunism and desire for attention. I'm frankly surprised that the teacher seems to have bought into this now hopelessly cliched paradigm instead of gently guiding her. At Max's age, CP or "typical" my opinion is that dates for dances are a bit premature and going with friends is more developmentally appropriate. Full disclosure - not into the idea of neurotypical people doing people "favors" so was already predisposed when you posed the question. The girl needs more guidance.

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  6. My experience with children and grandchildren tells me "typical" middle school boys most often want to go to the dance with their friends rather than with a date.

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  7. That fact that SHE requested the recording of her asking him is a red flag, as is the fact that she has never shown any other interest in your son. It just screams "Make me go viral as the heroine in a feel good story!" Ick. That's the feeling this gives me. And full disclosure...I can be pretty cynical too so maybe I'm overthinking it all.

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  8. Could he go with the girl WITH his friends? Maybe make it a group thing? I agree that it seems oddly random on her part and he certainly doesn't need to be anyone's pet project. But new experiences are good, so in a group context it could work in his benefit.

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  9. I'd definitely feel a little suspicious of her motives and turned off. Why wouldn't she make a point of spending some time getting to know him first? Maybe she'd like to nix the video proposal and join Max AND his friends and get to know everyone a little better. Just my 2 cents.

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  10. Maybe it's a lesson for both kids (and the teacher!) about social interactions and friendships being personal and not just for pictures and videos. She can ask him if she really wants to, and he can say yes if her really wants to, but no videos allowed. I would maybe call the girl's mom and see if she is aware of the whole thing, and say you would be more comfortable with the whole thing being private.

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  11. There was a video circulating last year of a pretty, popular girl asking an autistic classmate to Prom. Everyone thought it was just lovely, and I thought it was an attempt to go viral and land on 'Today'. Maybe I'm just cynical and crabby, but when someone feels compelled to record their "good deed," I feel compelled to question the motive. That's not to say that's what's going on here at all, but I think people (kids, grownups, everyone) need to learn how to form genuine relationships outside the spotlight.

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  12. I'm suspicious. I'd say yes to asking, no to videotaping. If she truly has no ulterior motives, she'll be fine with that.

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  13. Why not suggest arranging a brief get-together *before* asking to the dance. If the girl resists, land toward possible opportunism. Otherwise, it'll be a chance for everyone to better assess the dance issue.

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    1. I second this. It could be the girl really does want the chance to get to know him better, but is just shy or unsure about how to go about it. And, yes, since everyone seems to tape everything nowadays this MAY be ok, BUT the suggestion above seems like a really fast and easy way to find out. If she wants to meet with him in a non date pre-dance kind of way, I would take that as a good sign. If it goes well, great! If not, or if she refuses to do a separate meet up, I would take that as something to be cautious about.

      Has anyone reached out to the girl's parents, if just to check that they are ok with the whole tape-and-post thing? I'm not saying that his parents should reach out to the girl's parents, because that could get pretty awkward and weird (especially if the kid is a lot more inclusive minded than the parents are), but the school/teacher can certainly do it, just to try to get a better handle on what's going on. - Alyssa

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  14. I think your response is perfect. Her intentions are likely not bad. She's young & I'm sure she's moved by seeing such videos online (they're everywhere!)but obviously has no ability to see the situation from a broader perspective. Max going with friends & saving a dance for her is a great way to respond! Hope he goes & has fun with everyone.

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  15. I'd say go with the friends. I have multiple reasons for this, 1) they are in middle school-you don't need to have a date in middle school! 2) from personal experience dances are way more fun with friends. 3) the videotaping is very, very off putting to me. 4) you, as the mom asking is not sure. 5) and finally I'd worry that if he went with the girl, she could leave him for her friends or not actually include him. If it was his friend, or buddy from a program like Best Buddies, I would be more willing to say yes because then he would be known as more than his disability to this girl. If she really wanted to spend time with him at the dance, she do so regardless of being his "date" or not.

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  16. Pretty overwhelming agreement on this one. He should go with friends and the girl should ask him for a dance. No videos, no fanfare. Make a memory and a new friend.

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  17. I think the specific request for the situation to be video taped is a little weird and off putting, and I feel like as a mother I would want to connect with the girl and her parents before anything happened... just my two cents.


    Paige
    http://thehappyflammily.com

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  18. I have a son in the 8th grade and their informal dance is this coming Friday. Based on when my NT daughters went to the same dance - most 8th graders go with a group of friends, not as couples. I don't like that she doesn't know him. It makes me feel like she is trying to do a good deed. I wouldn't want anyone to use my son for their good deed. Regardless of who was doing the asking - I wouldn't want it video taped. Too often I think teachers and typical students see our kids as inspirational and not just a fellow classmate. For my son's dance they will have para's at the dance so that ALL of the 8th graders can participate (as required by law). A young man who is a high school junior and part of the staff at my son's afterschool program will be with my son. While I love the para's, this young man will blend in as he helps Luke have a great time and be safe.

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  19. I think your son's voice is the important one here. Can he not make this decision? That said, I agree that if he decides he would rather attend with this young woman, videos are not appropriate.

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  20. Hi -- I'm not sure how old your son is, but I think it would be a great opportunity for him to respond to this girl himself, and make his own decision. I think it would be a missed opportunity to take that away from him. It sounds like he has a back-up of going with his friends that he's comfortable with.

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  21. Parallels to your concerns arise for typical children, as well. In MS, it's often the girls who are aiming to be more socially advanced (i.e. "date" or couple up), and often these couple creations are for show (i.e. instagram pictures) and not for relationships. So, sometimes, they ask boys (or have friends ask boys) who are fairly socially immature, but would make an attractive picture to join them in their "couple" op. So, the boy, is, to some extent being used for another end (not for friendship or a relationship).

    What to do in this circumstance? I've tried to explain a bit about the social interaction, to the socially immature, but typically developing 13 year olds. There are positives, the opportunity to participate in an activity. The negatives can include the boy thinking that the ask means more than it does (that happens a lot) or just not really being ready for even "pretend" couples. With a typically developing kid, I'd give him the opportunity to make the decision, after having the discussion, even though I'd have some trepidations.

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    1. As an example, I would cite to an incident in which the girls shifted around and passed the camera around so that each of them could produce a selfie with a socially young, but tall, handsome (and, yes, his parents were rich enough to be known in the community) boy so that they could produce a "status" picture for instagram. Another less socially immature, but equivalently "instagram" worthy boy knew how to avoid the situation (and wanted to).

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  22. If this is the first time this girl has ever come up then Max should go with his friends!

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  23. Nicely written, Jen! I agree with your instincts about this. After all, it's your decision and you need to protect your son!

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  24. I would say no to the video taping. It doesn't sound like this is one of your son's friends, so no I probably the best answer all around. My son is still several years too young for dances, but he has several "typical" girls from his classes that actually are friends. If one of those girls was interested, I would say yes, but I would be leery of a random girl I hadn't heard of before.

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  25. Leslie O'DonnellApril 5, 2017 at 10:43 AM

    I'm with everyone else. Max aught to go with his friends, but offer to save a dance for her -- bonus if the plan is for *him* to ask *her* for that dance, so her taking that opportunity to get to know him better is based on just that, and not on her salvaging plans to end up the next 'amazing teen' to get handed a giant check on Ellen just for being a decent human being, by recording this smaller gesture and framing it into something bigger than it actually feels to Max. There's a chance she's got more genuine intentions, and a chance he could win her over to having them, but it's hard to get a clear look at and examine those chances through all the waving red flags....I mean, what with her not actually really knowing him, having never shown a personal interest in him before during or outside of school, and then with her first thought not being talking to someone who actually is friends with and/or helps care for him (about what he might like, etc.), but to try arranging a recording and setting herself up ahead of time as the sweet hero doing an amazing thing. This frames Max as a tool she can use to give herself an opportunity, not as someone being seen worthy of an opportunity, himself. Moreover, when you first asked Max if he wanted to go with a girl or his friends, he chose his friends. To me, that holds more meaning than him saying, afterwards, that he'd go with a girl if she asked him, because the former is about what he wants most, and the latter is about what he feels he aught to do. Even if this girl was someone who inspired less suspicion, I would think that the fact that Max would prefer to go to the dance with his friends than with a particular 'date' would be the clincher to the decision.

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  26. 100% agree that the invite shouldn't be videotaped and this can be turned into a teaching moment that this girl won't forget. I don't think she should be shamed for her instincts — even if it was motivated by the prospect of social media fame, she is doing something that is, objectively, a Nice Thing. I think it's unfortunate it falls to this boy's mom to teach her, which is why talking to the teacher (who should also have a teaching moment re: the video) is important. Hopefully this interaction will result in the boy hanging out with the girl and her friends in some genuine, low-key settings and set up a good friendship on both sides. But I'm disappointed the teacher thought videotaping was a good idea — IMO, the teacher is the one who needs the sensitivity training just as much as the teenage girl.

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Thanks for sharing!



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