A lesson learnt

I’ve learnt a lesson about online behaviour recently.  I read a blog post on an education issue written by a mum concerned about an incident at her child’s school.  I will not provide a link to this post as I don’t want to inflame this issue any more but I do want to discuss the responses to it.  The post attracted a number of negative and judgemental responses from people who did not know the school or the facts of the case.  It was hugely worrying to read such negative reactions being directed towards someone and I felt incredibly uncomfortable reading it.  I did wonder if people felt that in order to support the blogger that they had to make negative comments about the individual(s) concerned.  I also wondered whether once this negativity started it just built up as everyone else followed suit.  It is the sort of behaviour that I sometimes see on FB where discussions can end up emotional and lacking any sort of balance.

I have no issue with people supporting one another; this is one of the great benefits of the online world where people can support one another through difficult situations.  However, I do think people need to consider their views more carefully before criticising a nameless person online.  Negativity breeds negativity and when such comments build up it is tantamount to bullying in my opinion.  I appreciate that that was probably not the intention of many of the commenters but when mass criticism builds up then unfortunately that is how it appears.  We all need to remember that behind cases like this are people with feelings and children with feelings.  How would we feel if we and our children were discussed like this online?  How would we feel if we didn’t have the opportunity to defend ourselves or explain our position?  Not everyone has access to the online world.

Claire Louise raises a very important point in her post when she said it reminded her of being at the school gate and I have to say I agree with her.  In my experience the school gate is a hive of gossip based on rumour and speculation.  It reminded me of the time when a number of parents had been gossiping about my son behind my back.  I didn’t realise we were the subject of gossip until a parent dared to challenge me and say to my face that my son did not have autism!  I took the opportunity to explain my son’s autism though I resented being forced to defend my son’s disability like this!  (You can read more about this incident here.)  Not surprisingly I have not spoken to her again; in fact I don’t talk to anyone from school anymore.  Many of them don’t care if a vulnerable child or their parents become the objects of idle gossip.

It saddens me a lot when people behave like this whether it is at the school gate or online.  Gossip when based on rumour is damaging and has the power to really hurt the people at the centre of these discussions.  I appreciate it is easy for all of us to be drawn into these conversations but we need to think carefully before we judge other people, particularly when we do not know all the facts.  We also need to think about what message we are sending to our children?  Do we want our children to copy our behaviour in the playground and online?  I don’t.  I want children to learn to respect one another regardless of who they are and where they come from.  So it makes sense that if our children are to learn respect for one another then we must behave in an appropriate way as well.

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14 Responses to A lesson learnt

  1. Gemma says:

    I haven’t seen the blog post that yourself and Blue Sky are alluding to, but it sounds like a bad situation for all concerned. I hope that everything will return to normal for all concerned very soon.

    I don’t know if you’ll remember my own post about what happened to my son at his school recently, but am happy to tell you that, at a meeting (which I was supposed to have been told about even though I can’t travel all that way alone, and was kept out of the loop) the headmistress had her knuckles soundly rapped by her superiors, and my son is now back in school – where he should be – twice a week until the summer holidays, when he leaves the school for good :)

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Glad to hear your son is back at school. Its a shame that some heads are so poor at including our children (and us) but pleased that someone has brought your headmistress up on this. Thanks for commenting. Deb

  2. Thanks Deb, you are right, it is time to move on. It is a very hard balance to strike between wanting and needing to express very real emotion, whilst at the same time not totally putting people off wanting to listen. I am new to the blogging scene, so don’t have an established voice & I want to build relationships, so it’s not sensible to totally upset people at the beginning, but equally if I am going to be true to myself and the reasons I started the blog it wouldn’t make sense to gloss over difficult emotions in order to soften the reality of how I feel. I hope we can move forward now and try to build a little bit more understanding.
    PS. hope the sticky ribs were good. x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Hi Violet, hope you had a good day and yes the sticky ribs were great thanks (son did well).

      Going back to this post, I don’t often write stuff like this because I hate upsetting people. However, this time round I was so upset about what I read that I thought it only fair that I wrote about how I felt for a change. It isn’t the first time I’ve come across discussions that have become very emotionally charged and I felt it was time to record my own feelings about this. I know what its like to be talked about behind my back and when it related to my son’s autism, it was deeply hurtful. Seeing these comments took me back to that sad time.

      I realise we can all get carried away by emotion but I just wanted to write a reminder to myself and others to try and think a bit before we write. Like you, I also try and be honest to myself and to my readers; it is never my intention to upset people and I will try and avoid this whereever I can but neither am I going to hide away from the more difficult issues.

      To campaign for special needs means confronting these issues from time to time, I think. Anyway, thankyou for commenting and yes I hope we can move forward too. Deb x

  3. Blue Sky says:

    Uncomfortable is exactly how I felt reading the original post as well. And I do feel very sorry for the children who missed out on a trip that they had earned and were expecting. I think that writing a letter blaming a parent (s) for cancelling the trip is at the heart of what went wrong, but perhaps the principal was very upset too? Many of the commenters who have been criticised are blogging friends of mine, and I do not feel comfortable judging anyone. I felt that the original post is an example of where the internet blurs everything. Some of the readers/commenters knew the school, some didn’t, and it seems that no-one knew the full facts, which surely makes it very difficult to be objective. One thing I do want to say though, and that is that I hope that this issue will not put up further barriers between the special needs community and other parents – we have a lot of work to do in raising awareness and increasing understanding. And sometimes we need to be tolerant of those who do not yet understand.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks for your comment and yes I hope it doesn’t cause a rift between groups of parents either. I just hope everyone can learn from this and be more supportive towards one another in the future.

      Personally though, I’m tired of trying to educate others and not being given an opportunity to be heard (ie my neighbours). My family suffered a lot through the ignorance of that family and we are still hurting now. We still fear further complaints from them, we still fear social services being called in and even worse is that my son’s details are probably on a database and he did nothing wrong. And yet, the family who caused this are continuing their lives as if nothing happened; they don’t live in fear. Sorry to rant like this but such is the rawness of my emotions at the moment, I’m not sure I can show much tolerance to those who choose not to listen or learn about disability. Deb

      • Blue Sky says:

        You’ve been put through the mill Deb, so I can understand why you’re tired of trying to explain and educate, but I can’t see a better alternative at the moment xx

        • Aspie in the family says:

          You are right. Sometimes it easy to become fatigued and cynical by it all but I know I will feel better in time. Thankyou for your patience and support. Deb x

  4. Lizbeth says:

    This is the second post I’ve read on this and strangely I have no desire to see out the offending post. There are so many views and the whole story is often hidden behind opinions and it gets twisted beyond recognition and before you know it, the real story is neglected and people are bickering…..sigh. I do hope this settles down, for everyone’s sake.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Emotion can take over sometimes and this is one of those times. As you say, lets hope things settle down for the people concerned. Deb

  5. Jim Reeve says:

    Maybe it’s because I’m a guy, but I don’t notice that much gossip at my son’s school. It’s kind of small so I know that everyone knows everyone, but I rarely hear about parents talking about other kids.

    I try to comment positively on people’s blogs, but I too can be a bit harsh without even knowing it. That’s why I proof read my comment before submitting it. Hopefully then I can edit it for negativity and spelling/grammar.

    • Aspie in the family says:

      Thanks for your perspective Jim. It may be a gender issue because my husband hardly notices it either whereas I seem to notice it. Saying that, after the incident in the playground I have become quite sensitive to how people perceive me and my children. I agree with you; I think we can all be harsh without realising it. I know I’ve written tweets that haven’t come across in the way that I wanted but when I’ve realised my error I always try and apologise. Good tip about proof reading a comment before posting it; I hope people consider this because I think we all need time to reflect on our words when interacting online. Thanks for your comment Jim; your views are always welcome. Deb

  6. Great post again Deb. Although I have no time (!) this is something I also felt strongly about, so have also written a blog post on this. School gates and gossip are soul destroying; that’s partly why I felt the need to let all of the parents of children in my ASD girl’s class know by email exactly what her diagnosis was. This way, a minority will still disagree and whisper about it behind my back, but at least they have the facts and I’ve been able to educate a few others along the way. x

    • Aspie in the family says:

      I hope your daughters class respond well to knowing your daughters ASD. I wasn’t so open about my son mainly because by the time we got his diagnosis and adjusted to it, he was then out of school. The gossip started at that point. Since then I havent felt it appropriate to be so open about it mainly because my son has been bullied because of being autistic. It seems that the kids in the local secondary school think that autism and aspergers are an excuse to bully. So for my daughter, I will not be open about her aspergers at the moment; as she’s that bit older now I’m letting her decide whether to tell people or not. Thanks for commenting. Deb x

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