“Get your head off the table! Stop being lazy!”
The EA’s (educational assistant) back was turned to me as I walked down the hall toward a select group of third grade speech students who were working on their “s” sounds. As I got closer, I realized that it was my child that was being labeled lazy. When I reached the group, the EA turned and saw me. Thinking I may not have heard her the first time, she repeated those words, “Alex is lazy”. There it was: the “L” word. Lazy. I was floored. Speechless. I said nothing. My thoughts were screaming: How could she?
I have known for a long time that Alex faces unique challenges because of his toxic in-utero experience and his intelligence. He has frustrated people because on one hand he is very intelligent and determined but on the other hand he cannot focus even if his life depends on it. I have been getting pieces to the Alex-puzzle, but it took years to get a diagnosis where I could finally say, “That’s it!” After Alex left this particular school, he was diagnosed with autism and ADHD including unilateral hearing loss—big pieces to the Alex-puzzle “LAZY”? This word angered me to my core and beneath the anger was an immense sadness and a deep ache for my son. Imagine if someone just shamed your socially struggling child in front of the whole group; maybe you don’t have to imagine because you have seen it happen. It was the aide’s ignorance and lack of professionalism that labelled Alex “lazy”. Our lack of understanding and our own frustration allows us to think and maybe even to use the “L” word with our kids what is really going on? That is the real question that needs to be asked and answered. Our kids depend on us to figure it out for them. They are kids incapable of figuring it out for themselves; they are depending on us. I do not believe that a child comes into this world aspiring to be “lazy” when they grow up. They want to be firefighters or lawyers or doctors…not lazy. So…why are kids engaging in this undesired behaviour?
Here is what could really be happening:
Overwhelmed and frustrated: In this situation the child is overwhelmed and totally does not understand so they are working at or beyond their frustration level. Think of something that you really aren’t good at and don’t really enjoy; now imagine doing that every day, all day. This is exhausting. Initially the child may be eager, but once the frustration level is reached, the child shuts down, no longer willing or able to put out any effort. The child tells themselves that they are a failure.
Learned helplessness: In this situation the child gives up for a different reason. The child knows that you will swoop in and do the task for them allowing them to avoid responsibility.
Attention: In this situation the child is keeping themselves as the center of attention. Because all of the concern surrounds how the child is doing, the limelight continues to shine on them.
I know now what was going on for my son. With support and guidance he is moving past the behaviours that made him appear lazy to the casual observer. It has taken time, but it has been worth the time and struggle to see him grow, mature, and become successful. (An aside: my son still has a squishy ‘s’ sound.)
Does any of this resonate for your child?