Author’s Note: I wrote this presentation with my mother at the age of eleven, in the summer of 2000. My beliefs on autism and my outlook on life were much different back then. I also was suffering from a chronic digestive illness that lasted until April 2001.
I wrote this presentation despite being
severely ill in 2000, and presented it at the 2000 MAAP Conference, which was held in
On this page, you will see this presentation as it was originally written. While I still believe that the negative feelings toward neurotypical people mentioned in this speech are still felt by many autistic individuals today, as I have grown older, I have seen that there are many people who are not autistic who are trying their best to help themselves understand what people with autism are going through. I have also learned that autism is a highly variable condition. It is likely that some autistic individuals have never gone through the issues mentioned in this speech. The issues mentioned here are the issues I dealt with as a young child.
At the same time, although the people in these skits are based on people in my family, these skits are still stories of fiction used to make general points of autism, and should not be used to judge people in my family. Likewise, as I have grown older, the relationships between me and my family members have changed, thus, these stories from the past should not be used to judge the relationships I have with my family today.
I gave this presentation again upon
request in the spring of 2006, at the Autism Society of
Throughout my life, I've always tried to do the right thing. Many parents think of their autistic kids as having behavior problems. You think, "Why does he always have to do the wrong thing? Why can't he just behave?" Well, the truth is, your child is trying to behave. He is trying to do the right thing, but he usually does what he thinks is right based on his understanding of what he thinks you've said. Unfortunately what he thinks you said and what you really said are often very different.
To illustrate the problem of your world vs. his world, we will present six different topics. Each topic will be introduced with an overview, then Mom and I will act out examples of our points, taken from real events. We have selected six volunteers from the audience to play the part of my dad, my sister, and miscellaneous other people. Would you please stand and introduce yourselves by name and number?
By the way, we're going to use several abbreviations that come from our book, "The Self-Help Guide For Special Kids and their Parents." The abbreviation "NP" stands for normal person, or anyone who doesn't understand autistic people. The term "SP" stands for special person, and is anyone who suffers from a neurological disorder such as autism and hence is misunderstood and abused by most NPs.
Point 1 - Why Autistic Individuals Fight
Our first point is about why SPs fight. A lot of the fights and resistance you experience with your child have to do with fear and confusion. He's afraid to do something because it hurts or is unpleasant, but you push him. He resists, and you push him some more. He is angry and confused that disregard his feelings and that your response to him is inappropriate. For example, he is expressing terror, but you laugh and say there is nothing to be afraid of; the fear will just go away. He doesn't understand why you want to hurt him, but he decides that you are simply rigid and unreasonable. However, in your mind, he is rigid and unreasonable, and you punish him for it. He tries to reason with you, but you won't listen to him.
Finally, when he realizes that words or reasoning won't work, he resorts to nonverbal messages. You force him to go to a store where there are too many things to look at that hurt his eyes, and he expresses his anger by knocking cans off a shelf. You punish him for his misbehavior, not picking up that he has just given you a nonverbal message because his verbal protest didn't work. All day long, in fact, his noncompliance is sending you nonverbal messages that you don't perceive. Yet when you go to the latest therapist, she tells you that it is your child who has the nonverbal learning disability.
For example, I hate having my hair cut. The feeling of the barber's sadistic comb grabbing my hair and pulling on it is like nails scraping on my scalp and ripping the individual hairs from their bloody roots. The razor and scissors are torture machines, and my hair hurts as it is being cut. I feel as if I am about to be executed every time I walk into the place.
We're going to do our first skit now about what often happens when you go to get your autistic child a haircut.
Beginning of skit.
“Characters” – Mother, John (Mother’s son), Russian barber, Customer.
Mom: You're going to get your haircut, and that's that. It's been four months, and you look like the Jungle Boy.
John: It hurts to have my haircut!!
Mom: No, it doesn't. Hair doesn't hurt.
John: Mine does.
John sits down in the barber chair and starts crying. As soon as the barber makes the first cut, John starts squirming.
Barber: NO MOVE!
John: But it hurts!
Barber: NO MOVE! I CUT YOU IF YOU MOVE. HAIR NO HURT!
John: MINE HURTS!
Customer: Hair doesn't hurt, young man.
Mother: You see, John, his hair doesn't hurt when it's cut. If it hurt, he'd be screaming, too.
John: You mean it doesn't hurt him? It really doesn't hurt?
John: Gee, I didn't know that. I thought everybody's hair hurt.
Mother: Of course not. That proves you're inventing the whole thing. So be quiet, and don't make a fuss.
John realizes that it is impossible to reason with these rigid people so he keeps quiet. However, the pain becomes unbearable, so he rips the smock off his neck and throws it at the barber. It is his nonverbal message that he wants the haircut to end.
Barber: WHY YOU DO DAT?? IN
Mother: I don't know what to do with him. He's so unreasonable. His behavior makes no sense sometimes.
John (thinking): Why is she so dense? Why can't she understand the meaning of what I just did? I have to try again.
John jumps up from the chair and runs out the door.
Mother: Stop it right now! That boy is impossible. How do I get through to him?
Barber: HE BAD BOY. IN
Customer: He's spoiled, ma'am. He's trying to manipulate you.
John runs to the grocery store.
John: Mom is just impossible! Words don't work. Nonverbal messages don't work. How do I get through to her? I guess it's hopeless. She'll never learn.
The mom finds John in the store.
Mother: Why did you run away?
John: I hate haircuts! They hurt!
Mother: Didn't you just hear that man say they don't hurt?
John: THEY HURT!
The mom grabs John's hand and takes him home. She wonders why he never listens to her. John lets his body go limp in passive resistance. All the way home, he wonders why she never listens to him.
End of skit.
The next time you have a fight with your child, try to analyze what he is communicating to you, both with his words and his behavior. Chances are you are missing the nonverbal message, which is what you accuse him of doing.
Another thing about fighting that drives SPs crazy is when you change your mind in the middle of an argument. This is very, very confusing to an SP. First, you insist that he does something that's scary or annoying to him, and he screams and resists. But eventually he realizes it is hopeless and he agrees to do it. However, you don't give him a chance to calm down and deal with his fear. Instead, you wait until he takes a breath, then you blast him back and say, "Okay! That's enough! Forget it. I'll do it myself." You don't him a chance to accept the idea before you're changing the whole situation on him.
To show you what I mean, we'll act out a typical fight.
Beginning of skit.
“Characters” – Lauren, James, Mom, mother of Lauren and James.
One day, James is watching TV, Lauren is playing on the computer, and Mom is working.
Lauren [whining]: James, I need help. I can't finish this puzzle.
James doesn't want to help because he's afraid to miss his show.
James [thinking]: Why is she playing the game if she can't play it by herself?
Lauren: Get in here, James!
Mom: You need to help her, James.
James: I DON'T WANT TO HELP HER! I'M WATCHING MY SHOW AND I DON'T WANT TO MISS IT!
James is terrified that if he misses a part, he won't understand the story.
Mom: You have to help her, James. You'll just have to miss your show. If you don't help her, I'm turning off the TV.
James is in a rage.
James: WHOSE BOSS ARE YOU! YOU CAN'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO! I DON'T WANT TO HELP MY SISTER! I AM WATCHING MY SHOW AND THAT'S THAT!
Lauren: James, I really need your help. I'm going to lose the game.
Mom: YOU HELP HER OR ELSE!
James: I AM NOT HELPING HER! IF SHE NEEDS HELP, WHY IS SHE PLAYING THAT STUPID GAME!
Mom: JAMES MATTHEW WILLIAMS, I'M TURNING OFF THE TV. YOU WILL HAVE TO MISS YOUR SHOW ANYWAY BECAUSE YOU YELLED AT ME. NOW GO HELP LAUREN.
Mom turns off the TV. James plays frozen.
Mom: You help Lauren this minute.
Lauren: No. I don't want your help, James. You're a creep. Mom, I want you to help me.
Mom: Okay, Lauren. Since James won't cooperate, I'll help you.
James: I SAID I WOULD HELP YOU!
Mom: She doesn't want your help. Let me help her. You are so selfish, James. You don't care about our feelings when you yell at us.
James: LET ME HELP LAUREN! YOU SAID I COULD HELP HER!
Mom: Be quiet. Let me help her. Lauren doesn't want your help anymore.
James [thinking]: Why did Lauren ask me to help her if she really wanted Mom? They are just too weird to figure out.
You may think that the mom is making sense in the skit, but to the SP, she is being hopelessly inconsistent. Why did she make the SP suffer and yell if she was only going to change her mind? Why did she ask him to help his sister if she didn't mean it?
Point 2 – Teachers in School
Our next topic is school and teachers. School is the place where an autistic person suffers from the most misery of his life. No matter how many meetings you have with the teacher, no matter how much special education experience the teacher has, chances are she doesn't know the first thing about an autistic person, at least one who talks and does well on spelling tests. In fact, when she sees that the autistic person is doing well on tests and assignments, she may decide that the label of autistic was invented by the student's crazy mother, and it is the teacher's duty to disobey everything the mother says in order to save the student.
We’re now going to do a skit involving a similar scenario.
Beginning of skit.
Characters: Mom, James (Mom’s son),
Mom: Now remember,
An hour later, during music class . . .
Mr. Back: James and Brian, you have my permission to leave class.
James: I'm not going!
Mr. Back: Now James, I know this is a change for you, and you don't like changes in your structure.
James [angrily]: That's not it! I don't like--
Brian: Yeah, let's go and get this over with. What a weirdo.
In the classroom--
James: I won't have my picture taken!
James: THAT'S NOT IT!! I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN--
Brian [interrupting]: Can we get this thing over with?
James bursts into tears, but
Mom: What's wrong?
Mom [thinking]: This has nothing to do
with schedules and structure. [To
Mom: But that wasn't the problem. It was his eyes. He doesn't like--
Mom [sarcastically]: I couldn't agree more.
End of skit.
As you can see from the skit, the teacher misunderstood the SP's real feelings, but used information that she'd learned from books to come to the wrong conclusion. Like most teachers, she thought the mom's advice was dumb because moms are stupid and don't have special education experience, so the teacher felt she should disobey the mom as soon as possible. Then when the student reacted in a logical way to avoid hurting his eyes and became upset, the teacher didn't understand what he was really feeling. This made the student very angry, and little by little, these kinds of misunderstandings can lead to a huge amount of rage against the teacher and eventually about school itself.
Point 3 – Unsupervised Groups In School
Our third point is about small, unsupervised groups in school. Any autistic person who goes to school will tell you that working in a small group of kids without an adult present can be the worst disaster of all. The kids take it as their golden opportunity to tease and dehumanize the autistic child, but of course, when the SP tries to complain, all the kids deny they did anything wrong, and the teacher always sides with the normal kids.
We will now perform another skit which shows you what happens in an unsupervised group.
Beginning of skit.
“Characters” – John,
Sally, Truman, May, Violet, Mr.
John, the autistic child, is assigned to work with May, Violet, Truman, and Sally by Mr. Belvidere. Their assignment is to write a play about an event in World War II. John knows that they're all bullies.
Sally: Okay, so now our assignment is to write a play about an event in World War II. I think we should do the Battle of El-Qatar.
Truman: I think we should do
Sally: OK, Truman. Now, let's take a vote. Which people vote for El-Qatar?
Violet: I vote for El-Qatar.
May: So do I.
Sally: I vote for it too. So three people vote for El-Qatar. Which people vote for
Truman: I do.
John: So do I.
Truman sees that he's on John the SP's side, so he quickly changes his mind.
Truman: You know, Sally, I think you're right. El-Qatar is better.
Sally: Okay, since the majority won, we're gonna do the Battle of El-Qatar.
John: Sally, can't we do something more
important? The Bombing of Pearl Harbor is important because it is the event
that got the
Truman: Remember, in all groups, majority rules! And the majority says the Battle of El-Qatar.
John: But it was your idea to do the
Sally: John, your underwear's on backwards.
May: John, your shirt's on backwards.
Violet: John, your head's on backwards.
John: They're not on backwards! And how can you see my underwear anyway?
Sally: I'm psychic. I can see right through your clothes. And besides, you have a hole in the back of your shirt, so you can't participate today.
Because John is an SP and can't always tell whether something is true or not, he gets scared that Sally can see his private parts. So he is now under a huge amount of stress.
John: Yesterday you said I couldn't participate because I was wearing red.
Sally: The rules changed. Today it's holes in your shirt.
John [relieved]: Wait, Mr. Belvidere is coming!
Mr. Belvidere: So you've decided what you're going to do, right?
Sally: Yes. We're doing the Battle of El-Qatar.
Mr. Belvidere: Okay. Now start writing your script.
Violet: Yes, Mr.
Mr. Belvidere: And is John being allowed to participate?
Sally: Yes, Mr.
Mr. Belvidere: John, are they letting you participate?
John panics. If he tells the truth, the kids will tease him when they line up for music.
John: Yes, Mr.
Mr. Belvidere: Okay. Now start working. Remember, John, don't let them do all the work and ignore them. Give some input too.
May: We should start the script like this. "You Germans are so mean that we will beat you!"
Violet: Then I could go like this.
"You're the ones that are mean,
Truman: Then I'll bang on the wall to make it sound like gunshots.
John: Then I could be the German soldier
that tries to go against
Everyone looks at him like he's crazy.
Sally: John, that's stupid. We don't have enough people to put in a dopey part like that.
John: It isn't dopey. Well, maybe I could be a German soldier that says, "Have mercy on us! Please let us surrender!" After all, a lot of the Germans didn't agree with Hitler but were afraid to stand up against him. My soldier thinks for himself.
May: That's awful, John. I hate that line. You should say, "I'm weird and a traitor, and I deserve to die." Then I'll kill you, and you fall down and stay dead the rest of the performance.
Sally: Yeah. Then we can do the play by ourselves without you.
Violet: That's a good idea.
Sally: Let's start where the Americans see the German soldiers coming.
May: All right. Then Truman can bang on the wall to sound like gunshots.
John: Then maybe I could be a German soldier who says, "We're only following orders!"
Sally: John, stop it. That's a bad idea. We'll decide for you, because you're obviously too stupid to decide for yourself. I have an idea. You can be the first German soldier to die from a gunshot. You die before you say anything. And remember, you're socks are on backwards.
Truman and Violet: Yes, and your underwear is on backwards!
John: IT IS NOT! STOP IT ABOUT MY CLOTHES! You aren't letting me participate. You lied to Mr. Belvidere, and he's coming now!
Mr. Belvidere: You're doing the Battle of El-Qatar, right?
John: They aren't letting me participate!
Mr. Belvidere: Is that true, Violet?
Violet: Oh, no. We're just working on the dialogue for the script. We're letting John write his own lines.
Mr. Belvidere: Okay. You see, John? They're letting you participate. It was just your misperception.
Narrator: He leaves.
John: Okay, you said so yourself. I get to write my own lines.
Violet: No you don't. You get killed at the beginning of the play, and you don't have any lines.
John: You can't tell me what to do!
Sally and May: Oh, yes, we can, since we're smarter than you.
Truman: Why don't you be the first American to get killed in the battle. I'll bang on the wall to make it sound like gunshots, and you fall over.
John: I thought I was going to be a German.
Sally, Violet, May, and Truman: We changed our minds! And majority rules!
John: But you still aren't letting me participate. You're lying to Mr. Belvidere...
Sally: No, we're not. It's just your misperception.
End of skit.
As you can see from the skit, there is no way an SP can win against a gang of bullies in an unsupervised situation. There is no way he can learn anything, and everyone is punished because they can't learn anything either. Often the SP is the only one who really wants to learn something, though he is accused of wrecking the group for the others. When he tries to participate and get his ideas across, the kids reject everything he says. This makes him angry and in a rage all the time, so that he withdraws from other kids as much as he can. He is accused of not interacting appropriately with his peers, although it is his peers who do not interact appropriately with him.
Point 4 – Consistency and Context
The fourth topic we want to discuss is consistency and context. Perhaps this is an area where you and your child have a lot of fights and misunderstandings. Perhaps this is where your child has the most trouble with social interactions. As your SP struggles to make sense of your world, he will search for consistent patterns--it was appropriate to do something a certain way yesterday, and therefore, he assumes that it will also be appropriate today. But as you all know, the way he was expected to behave yesterday had a different context. It might not be appropriate today. This is very, very confusing to an autistic person, who has a hard enough time understanding behavior, but the context of the behavior is almost impossible for him to figure out.
We’re now going to perform a skit in which instructions for one rule are followed for another rule and causes problems.
Beginning of skit.
Mom: I'm going to the store. Don't answer the phone when I'm not here.
James: OK. [Thinking:] She said not to answer the phone if she's not here.
The mom goes to the store, then returns.
Mom: I'm home. I need to take a shower before I go to my business meeting.
The mom leaves the room. While she is showering, the phone rings.
James [thinking]: She said not to answer the phone if she's not here. She's not in the room. That means she's not here.
Phone message: Joan, are you there? It's urgent. Will you please pick up the phone? If you're there, please answer.
James [thinking]: She's not here. Otherwise, she'd be picking up the phone. I'm following her orders.
Phone message: This is an emergency. I need to talk to you right away, but I'm at a pay phone and you can't call me back. This is going to mess everything up.
James [thinking]: I have to follow orders. I can't pick up the phone.
A few minutes later, the mom comes into the room and notices the message light blinking.
Mom: What's this?
James [proudly]: You had a phone call, but I didn't answer it.
Mom [blowing up]: WHY DIDN'T YOU ANSWER THE PHONE! I WAS EXPECTING AN IMPORTANT CALL.
She listens to the message.
Phone message: "Joan, are you there? It's urgent . . ."
Mom [having a meltdown]: WHY DIDN'T YOU ANSWER THE PHONE?
James: You told me not to answer the phone when you're not here.
Mom: But I was here! How could you have been so stupid??
James: I was just doing what you said. Why are you yelling? I didn't answer the phone because you told me not to when you're not HERE. You're not being consistent.
Mom: But that was DIFFERENT!! You weren't supposed to answer the phone when I was not here, meaning away from the house, not "not here," meaning in the other room. The context is completely different.
James: It's your fault. You didn't tell me the difference.
Mom: Do I have to tell you everything?
End of skit.
If you want to teach your child how to behave in different contexts, you have to explain everything you do, think up every possible misunderstanding and explain it to him in advance. He's eager to learn--despite the fact that he always seems to be screwing up.
And also, because he is always trying to follow your orders, he may lack experience in using his own common sense. Autistic kids are always accused of lacking common sense, and so their parents hesitate to give them the opportunity to make their own decisions. This is one of those vicious circles--you insist that he follow your orders because he lacks common sense, then he is never able to develop common sense. When faced with a situation that requires a decision, he will simply follow the last rule you gave him, rather than reasoning it out for himself. But how many times has he done what he thought was right, only to have you yell at him and scream, "How could you have been so stupid??"
Point 5 – Cooperation and Reciprocity
Next we'd like to discuss one of the hardest things of all for an SP to understand. And that is cooperation and reciprocity. An SP we know once defined cooperation as "doing something that you don't want to do for someone else so that person will do something that he doesn't want to do for you."
When my mom first heard that, she was surprised that someone would have such a negative feeling about helping and sharing, but I didn't see what was wrong with it. I've always resented having to do things for people since they are usually rude and mean to me. That's also why the concept of reciprocity is so difficult for me, too. It's not that I don't want to share or listen to someone else or make someone feel good by being nice and polite to him. I know about all those things. It's just that people are impatient and intolerant and impolite to me all the time, and they force me to do things that I'm not interested in just to fit in, but when it's my turn to talk about things like road maps and train schedules, I'm told that I'm boring them and that it's inappropriate and that I don't know how to interact with my peers. No one seems to make the effort to learn to interact with me, but I'm always expected to make the effort to interact with them.
Therefore, one of the nicest gifts you can give an SP is no gift at all. You never pick the right thing, then when he's honest about his feelings and says he doesn't like it, you yell at him for being inappropriate, even though you always tell him he should express his feelings. Then he's forced to write a thank-you note for something he didn't want, and what's worse, now he's obligated to give you something in return.
We’re now going to do our final skit, and thus, it is one of the longest in this entire speech. It’s about social skills in our society, and how, if viewed in a certain light, are shown to be hypocritical.
Beginning of skit.
Father: I'm taking Lauren and her friend to the new mall. It's time to go, James. We'll leave the mall by four so you won't miss your TV program.
James is busily studying his maps and doesn't want to be disturbed. However, he forces himself to change his focus so he can fit in. He studies how to get to the new mall then prints out a map.
James: I printed out a map to get to the mall.
He hands it to his dad, and James is proud that he can contribute to the situation.
Lauren: Oh no, there he goes again. That's my weird brother.
Father: Thanks, James. Now get in the car.
The dad leaves the map on the table, forgotten. This hurts James's feelings, but no one notices. At the mall, they go to a movie, where the father buy treats that James is allergic to. Then they stop at a Barbie doll store, where James is bored to death. Finally it's four o'clock--time to go home.
James: It's time to go home!
Jacqueline [the friend]: I don't want to go home! Can't we go to the arcade store?
James: It's time to go home. We were supposed to leave at four.
Lauren: There he goes again. Obsessed with time.
Father: James, you have to be more cooperative. You'll just have to miss your show.
James: But YOU said--
Father: We do tons of things for you. The whole house revolves around you. You think the sun rises and sets around you. Think of someone else for a change.
James: But I'm hungry. I didn't get to eat any of the stuff you bought in the movie because it had wheat in it.
Lauren: There he goes again.
Father: Now you know, James, you don't really have a wheat allergy. You mother made that all up just to bother you. Why don't you eat one of these nice cookies?
James: No! I'll get a headache.
Jacqueline: Can we go, please? I really want to see the arcade store.
Father: We'll go in a minute. I'm just teaching James a lesson in cooperation.
Jacqueline tries to be nice.
Jacqueline: Do you like Britney Spears, James?
James is tired and hungry and not in the mood to be nice.
Jacqueline [stepping back]: Gee, I was just trying to be nice. [To Lauren]: Your brother really IS weird.
Lauren: I know. He's an SP.
Jacqueline: What's that?
Lauren: It's when you're weird.
Father: Come on, girls.
They walk past a map store that says MAP SALE.
James: Hey, look at that! I need a new map
Lauren: Oh no, not this again.
James: I'll just take a minute.
Father [sternly]: No, you can't go in. Why are you always so greedy and selfish? We have a guest, and what she wants comes first.
Jacqueline: Yeah, what I want comes first.
Lauren: Yeah, what she wants comes first.
James [thinking]: Why are they entitled to be selfish and rude and think only of themselves, but I'm not? The world is just too weird to figure out.
Later they go to the mini-playground in the mall. James is still hungry because his father refused to find him a wheat-free treat.
Lauren: Want to play with us? We need a bad guy.
Jacqueline: Come on. We need another person.
Father [lecturing James]: How are you going to learn to interact with other kids if you don't play with them?
James: I don't want to play with them. I'm hungry, and I want to go home.
Father: You HAVE to play with them.
James: Okay. THEN can we go?
James goes up to Lauren and says . . .
James: I'm the evil monster, and I'm so hungry, I'm going to eat you on the spot.
Lauren: That's dumb.
Jacqueline: Yeah, that's dumb. Say something else.
James: That's how I want to play it.
Lauren: James, you're always so selfish. Can't you think of anybody but yourself?
Father: James, play nicely.
James [angrily]: BUT I'M THE MONSTER! HOW CAN I BE NICE?
Other people stare at him.
Father: Oh, no. Now you're making a scene. It's hopeless. Why can't you learn to fit in?
James: I want to go home!
Father: Okay, girls. We have to take the prince home.
Lauren: You spoiled my playdate! I had no fun! You're a creep.
James: But I didn't get to do anything that I wanted to do.
Lauren: What you want to do is always weird.
Father: Stop being selfish, James.
End of skit.
Imagine living like that day after day, where you are constantly accused of being weird and selfish when you ask to do something you want, whereas everyone else seems selfish to the core but no once reprimands them. When I was younger, I used to think that the world was inhabited by witches and demons and monsters, and I certainly didn't think the world revolved around me. I felt as if nothing ever went my way. Everyone else's needs were attended to, but mine were seen as inappropriate and strange, and nothing I did seemed to be right. It was the worst when I was in school being accused of all kinds of things I didn't even know happened. How was I supposed to learn how to cooperate with a world that refused to cooperate with me? How was I supposed to engage in social and reciprocal interactions with a world that always accused me of being selfish?
As I grew older, I met a few nice kids who did treat me with respect. Then I was able to treat them with respect, and we became friends. But if you want to teach your child cooperation and reciprocal behavior, pay attention to how you treat him. See how many times you criticize him just for being himself. I think you'll be surprised that you are a large part of his problem.
In summing up, I hope you have a better idea of our world, and how we struggle to understand your world. In all of our skits, which were based on real events, the SP was trying to do his best, he was trying to behave, and he was trying to do the right thing. In every case, his language or perceptual problems caused him to do the wrong thing. The next time that happens to your child, try to analyze why he did what he did. Ask him his reasons. Chances are his behavior was based on misunderstanding you, not a conscious effort to defy you. Ask your child's teacher to do the same thing rather than just punishing him for misbehavior. Think of your child as a modern-day Pinocchio, who doesn't have enough life experience to do the right thing. But believe me when I say that he's really trying to please you.