9.03.2010

Think Before You Comment!

I'm going to pull a Foghorn Leghorn on you: Have you seen -- I said, have you seen -- the astounding weekdaily essays we're showcasing at The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism? In just the past three days:
There's been a bit of a stir in the comments section on that last post. So, I'm going to repeat here what I commented there:

I believe some commenters may have misinterpreted Pia's open letter, and inferred negativity and hostility where none was intended, and when in fact Pia was apologizing for any misbehavior on her (and our, the parents', part).

We consider teachers and the other professionals who work with our children part of our community. We also consider TPGA a community-building space, one where we promote greater understanding and the greater good on behalf our our children and (again) community. I would ask that everyone try to come from a position of understanding and questioning when commenting, rather than defensiveness.

If an entry makes you upset, I would ask you to do four things before considering commenting in a way that could cause harm or strife:

1) Walk away from the screen for a while, and think about why you want to comment.
2) Re-read the essay or comment. The writer might not have written what you think they wrote.
3) Consider why you want to comment. Are you trying to bring about greater understanding of important perspectives for the good of the community, or are you feeling angry and defensive? If it's the latter, go back to #1.
4) Ask the writer if they are saying what you think they said. Think carefully before using provocative phrases.

And remember that you're never alone.

7 comments:

  1. Terrific guidelines for how to take a step back.

    I've found that since I've gone through various rings of fire with my son's behavior and first impressions I've become more "automatically defensive" as a person. I've gotten used to people wanting to criticize me, so unfortunately it is a "once-bitten, twice-shy" type reaction for me to assume the worst.

    I would imagine many people in the community (parents, educators, medical professionals) similarly are on edge.

    (In fact I just wrote a thank-you note to the Special-Ed coordinator in our school district because I'm pretty sure 99% of the interaction she has with parents is because they are complaining, not because they wish to compliment the system. Those who are satisfied by definition aren't going to think to approach her.)

    But of course in the same way that I'd hope people would get to know me and my son before lashing out with hurtful comments, I'd similarly expect that I should understand their intent before making my own assumptions that the comment was really supposed to be hurtful.

    Bravo!

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  2. Thanks Kari, I know it hasn't always been easy for you and your handsome boy. And almost all of us have had bad experiences on both sides (and good! lots of good, for us at least).

    It's my hope that here online*, where we can talk to professionals who aren't linked to our kids' specific IEPs and services, we can get to understand each others' perspectives even better.

    *Online at TPGA, I should say - this is my personal space so I'm testier and less measured here.

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  3. I read all of the comments on that post, and I was saddened to see the negative reactions. I am the mother of two children with autism, and I'm also a regular education teacher.

    As a mother I've encountered so many negative impressions about my son. Even co-workers who know me have perceived my child as a behavior problem. I too have had to "fight" the system to get my child the services he needs.

    On the other hand, I understand why the teachers who commented felt so defensive. For one thing, many decisions about the children in our classrooms are not made by us, but by district policies that often consider money and numbers over the actual needs of a child. Also, the training that educators receive about teaching children with autism spectrum disorders is minimal at best. Teachers find themselves overwhelmed and under fire from parents who are advocating for their kids, but come off as blaming the teacher. For example, in my first period class I have five kids with ADHD, one who is bi-polar, and one with Asperger's. It's not easy to meet all of their needs in a class of twenty-nine kids--and that's with me understanding what those needs are. Most teachers don't have my autism experience.

    As parents we have to be the voice for our children, but please remember to approach conferences with a "team" mentality. It doesn't have to be us vs. them. Most teachers will try if you explain in a respectful and mature way.

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  4. I really like your four suggesttiond. Can I borrow them to use elsewhere? I think they could be useful in many situations and I don't want to forget them.

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  5. That's all very good advice!

    Confession... I do love a little internet flame war now and then.

    I really liked Pia's open letter. People shouldn't jump all over her right at the moment she reveals such vulnerability and asks for consideration! Just WOW.

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  6. It is SO easy to run in guns ablazin', shoot first and ask questions later. Squid gives solid advice on how to process reading something which may put up your hackles.

    IEP meetings are NEVER fun and you feel like you're scratching and digging for every morsel. It's HARD not to feel like you've been dragged over a cheese grater. I'm glad to have read this article. Brilliant.

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  7. amen!

    i can't tell you how many times my (sometimes very emotional) reactions to posts or comments have changed upon a second reading. and a deep breath can do wonders.

    some time ago, i wrote the following in response to a searing, very personal attack on my blog. i've found myself returning to the sentiment countless times in more recent days ..

    'As advocates for people with autism, we ask people to open their hearts to those who are different from themselves. We ask them for compassion and tolerance. I hope that we can interact with one another from that place – a place of tolerance and understanding and above all, respect.

    I’d hate to see any of us spend what could be useful and productive energy tearing people down.'

    above all, we all want to create a better life for our children. we must stand together or we will fail miserably.

    thank you for the reminder!

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Respectful disagreement encouraged.

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