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To expect people not to stare - aren't we all taught that it's rude?

(91 Posts)
sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:22:56

I have an autistic son, and sometimes when we are out and about he makes funny noises, or movements, or has a meltdown. It's pretty obvious that he's not just a "naughty" kid as he is too big not to be talking by now. Yet people just gawp and stare - making it 100 times worse. It happened in Clarks the other day, with literally 5 mums and their kids staring at us. I felt like standing up and making an announcement - "my son is autistic, it is a condition he was born with and I am trying extremly hard to get him to behave better, 24 hours a day, but if you wouldn't mind, you all staring at him like he's some kind of fucking zombie, isn't helping, nor are you teaching your own children much compassion or courtesy." I remember being taught it's rude to stare - is that lesson out of fashion nowadays?

PersonalClown Wed 16-Sep-09 14:25:13

I have an ASD DS too.
One of my favourite lines when i'm bitchy not in the best of moods is 'Yeah, keep staring! That'll cure it!!'

DP thinks I'm hilarious when I'm in one of those moods.

posieparker Wed 16-Sep-09 14:25:39

Many people just haven't been brought up well, I hope your ds doesn't notice and that you find some very thick skin. Alternatively perhaps you could have a tee shirt printed along the lines of "If you've time to read this you've looked too long."

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:28:27

Those are funny replies Personal and Posie and have cheered me up!

Hando Wed 16-Sep-09 14:28:46

If I see children behaving really badly (generally I wouldn't know if they had ASD or not) then I tend to look and give one of those "I'm a parent too, don't worry that they are screaming the place down, we have all been there" look."

Perhaps when you are stressed a "Look" feels like a "stare"

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:31:15

For some people it could be that sympathetic look Hando, I agree, but these mums in Clarks were all-out gawping, as if they were at an old Victorian show watching the bearded pig lady.

jasmeeen Wed 16-Sep-09 14:33:04

Unexpected behaviour will cause people to look, whatever the cause of it. It's a natural reaction.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:35:31

A look is one thing Jasmeen - but would you think it's ok to stare for 10 mins at a mum whose kid has a disability. Would it be different if the kid is in wheelchair, and thus with a more "visible" disablity. Is that ok, because the wheelchair is unusual?

pruneplus2 Wed 16-Sep-09 14:38:12

Try making that exact announcement if you ever feel brave enough.

Though one of my friends who is a wheelchair user finds people looking away more difficult to deal with.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:44:46

that is a good point prune - but for me, I would rather people didn't stare at my beautiful boy for being different, just as I would prefer they didn't stare at or mock anyone for being different/unusual (by virtue of their race, sexuality, creed, disability, weight etc). Tolerance and courtesy seem to me to be the marks of a civilised society, and our society is just losing all that. The "it's rude to stare" lesson seems to have got lost somewhere in our Jeremy Kyle generation!

posieparker Wed 16-Sep-09 14:45:11

Did you know the bearded lady was a shaved bear???

cory Wed 16-Sep-09 14:45:37

dd has also mentioned that the looking away is worse

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:46:17

yes I saw about the shaved bear too Posie!

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 14:53:42

It is not quite the same for us Cory - as DS would not be bothered by the starers at all -it's me, as I feel they are "gawping at the wierd kid" and that attitude feeds into "taking the piss out of the wierd kid in the playground" (as happened the other day to my DS at school) and then eventually into bullying at school. I think if we taught our kids not to stare at those who are different, it might help some of that. My heart bleeds in the same way when I see teenage thugs shouting insults at an overweight person, or using words like spaz or mong.

navyeyelasH Wed 16-Sep-09 15:00:02

I look after a child who is black (I am white) and he is autistic. I get this A LOT, when he has a melt down and also get loads of abuse as people think I am not his mum so I must be hurting him, when infact it's because he wants to go on the same swing for the 100th time that day and I wont let him.

I have often thought about making a sign, "I am not killing this child, he is autistic and this is how he expresses himself. Staring doesn't make it stop. So naff off!"

Also some people do give you a sympathy look but mst stare horribly!

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 15:01:54

couldn't agree more Navy - I think people are just being rude and ignorant to stare, and should think twice about what they are seeing.

pagwatch Wed 16-Sep-09 15:08:53

I think it is lovely and understandable that on these threads people will assume that the OP is misinterpreting people looking over, natural curiosity etc.

I have to say though that sadly there are people who will absoloutely stare and gawp and make no attempot to be discreet.
Most people are nice but there is a fair sized minority who don't care that they are causing upset.

DS2 has ASD and I have just learnt to deal with it - we each have to find a way that we are comfortable.

DS1 used to find it harder than I did so we let him word and print some little business cards which he could give to those who were becoming upsetting. It helped.

Now he is 6 ft and plays rugby and people rarely stare when he is with DS2

pruneplus2 Wed 16-Sep-09 15:10:13

I know what you mean sickof but sadly a lot of parents do not know how to explain differences correctly whether they be of race/disability/appearances/whatever.

My DC's both went to mainstream nurserys which had a fantastic inclusion standard and went weekly to play with children from the linked local SEN school which educated children with varying degrees of physical disabilities and learning needs.

As a consequence from a very young age both DC's understand everybody is totally unique and different and more importantly understand reasons why. (Plus, I have worked all my life within mental health support so I am able to explain any queries they may have reasonably knowledgably and appropriately)

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 15:39:49

pagwatch - yes it 's funny isn't it, I find people stare less when my big husband is with me! And prune, I think you hit the nail on the head - if children mix with SEN kids from an early age, it becomes normal to them. Which is why I am quite a fan of mainstream inclusion (if it's right for the kid of course). In my DS's class, there are 30 kids who will grow up thinking autism is totally normal, as they will remember his funny little ways in class. I think it is no longer acceptable to throw racist abuse about, likewise it should no longer be ok to take the piss out of disabilities (well actually it is against the law, but it has to become socially unacceptable too).

LaurieFairyCake Wed 16-Sep-09 15:46:13

I think it's worse telling children in particular not to stare. Fine for adults with social sensibilities not to stare out of politeness.

With children it would feel like you were saying there was something 'wrong' that you couldn't look at them as if it was embarassing. In children it's just natural curiousity. I might try and distract my own child so they weren't staring but I would never say 'don't stare'.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 15:48:18

I agree that it is natural for children to stare; I totally expect that and it is not them I am talking about, it's grown adults. But if your child had stared at a disabled/fat/"different" person in town, would you not later on talk to your child about not staring at someone who is different?. Because I think parents should still teach that lesson. Walk a mile in the shoes of a parent of a child with SEN, and you would think that too.

girlsyearapart Wed 16-Sep-09 15:52:04

not the same but my dd2 has had horrific excema from a tiny baby. It mainly affected her face, looking like severe burns and people would just stare and stare at her as they looked into the pram expecting to see a peachy skinned tiny baby.
Also had lots of comments along the lines of 'what have you done to her face?'
Spent many a night crying over that.
Thankfully it's improving and not affecting her face as much but extremely hard at the time.
People just can't help themselves..

famishedass Wed 16-Sep-09 15:58:44

Of course it's rude to stare - you don't live in a city do you grin.

After 30 years of living in London where you've got a good chance of being stabbed to death if you maintain eye contact with someone for more than 5 seconds, I found it a terrible culture shock moving out of London.

The people round here stare. It's horrible, rude and ignorant. They actually turn their heads to look if a foreign looking person or person wearing unconvential attire walks past them in the small market town where I live. Coming out of Tesco one day, I actually saw a local woman with her mouth open because 2 romanian type women walked pass her angry

It does make you wonder why they're not told it's rude to stare. I know children staring is natural, but you do need to make some attempts to gently dissuade them from doing so.

sickofsocalledexperts Wed 16-Sep-09 16:15:27

famished, you made me laugh as I had not made the connection that in London you don't dare stare as you'll get the old favourite "what are you looking at!" I am in the suburbs, and suburban attitudes prevail here. Early stone age men would kill if someone didn't look like them/belong to same tribe - in some areas of this country, I'm not sure we've gone much beyond that!

famishedass Wed 16-Sep-09 16:17:02

Amen to that grin

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