My baby stole the cake at someone else’s birthday party

The 14 year old ‘baby’. Thought it would be funny to sneak away the cake and pretend to eat it all by herself. Her 11 year old brother was outraged at her breach of party etiquette. Screamed a sonic boom to stop time; chased her down; pummelled her; cried. That’s how we were discovered by the first arriving wave of pink taffeta-wrapped six year old princess guests. The three of us locked with mutual submission restraints on the front lawn. Two out of three crying; two out of three shouting.

The party before that we were the guests. The same five minutes of utter madness at the start. This time the 14 year old went into the host’s garden and pelted her brother painfully with tennis balls. Her 11 year old brother was outraged at her breach of party etiquette. Screamed a sonic boom to stop time; chased her down; pummelled her; cried.

The party before that she didn’t go. Apparently she ‘always spoils everything anyway’. The thing is though, she doesn’t. Once settled, she’s fine, they’re fine. Help with the younger children, generally stay out of the way, make a fair effort at ‘manners’. The damage is often done, however, in that first 5 minutes. They’re on show to people who don’t know them well, and they show wild and anti-social behaviour.

We need a better script to start parties. My research resources linked below. I’ll report back how we progress.

Websites with party tips appropriate for ASD teenagers

Emily Post


Name-calling and sibling alliances


“Ugly mug “

“Poo poo Troll Face”



I’d been ignoring the rising volume on the back seat while navigating tricky motorway traffic, but it really wasn’t getting better. Time for parenting.

“Don’t call your brother Fatso”

“He called me Troll Face”

“Don’t call your brother Troll Face”

“Trolls are beautiful creatures. What have you got against trolls??”

“That’s not what he meant. Muuuuum. And why is he…”

Not winning really. I turned the music up extremely loud, drove them home in enforced silence and sat them down to write essays.

One was titled: “Calling my brother an Ugly Mug: What did I expect would happen? What did happen. How did he feel? How did you feel?” . It was returned saying “I expected him to stop namecalling. He called me a troll. We are now both angry”.

The other one was titled: “Calling my brother Idiot: What did I expect would happen? What did happen. How did he feel? How did you feel?”. It was returned with two A4 sides of grievances about sibling alliances and lack of appreciation for efforts made for other people.

Wish me luck sorting that out.

Funeral Etiquette

Funeral Etiqutte on What to Do:

1. Go. Attend the funeral in person. Miss weddings and baby showers if you must but attend the funerals. People never forget that you attended a funeral and you will bring them comfort and care even if you stay a little while.
2. Wear strictly black
3. Express your sincere condolences directly to the immediate family.
4. Share a story or a memory with the close family. You will be adding to their treasure “box” of memories.
5. Be on your best behavior. Take along your best manners of greeting and conversing.
6. Contribute to the charity or foundation of their wishes or else take flowers. The amount does not matter. It matters that you do not show up empty-handed.
7. Follow the wishes and traditions of the family. I am not religious but for weddings and funerals of those that I care about, I would gladly spend any necessary time in their house of worship.
8. Perform any favors that is asked of you, be it to sing, to read a poem, to fulfill any other action to fulfill their wishes.

Funeral Etiqutte on What Not to Do:

1. Wear flip-flops.
2. Bring up sensitive issues
3. Laugh unnecessarily loud or God forbid, tell jokes.
4. Discuss your body aches and pains
5. Draw attention to yourself. Change the conversation if you must, especially when you don’t want the attention.
6. Say much if you have nothing useful to say. Words, once outside the mouth, cannot be taken back.
Adapted from Prolific Living

This is the list that I edited for my autistic teenager. I find it works best if I explain behaviour expectations very clearly, particularly given that funerals are formal and don't happen very often.

She seemed to appreciate the list and coped well with the day. In hindsight, I would have maybe built in a break and a recap of the rules half way through the day. Right after the service, the body language became more dramatic, and we sat in the car for half an hour so as to not be a distraction while people grieved.

The instruction that she found the hardest was to share a story about the deceased. She just did not feel confident in being able to judge the correct tone. She chose to just be largely silent for the entire afternoon, which was fine.

Empathy with illness.

Feverish and nauseous? A clumsy idiot.

We backtrack and ask firstborn to apologise; to desist; to understand that this really isn’t the right time to swipe at a sibling. An hour later, and ‘backtracking’ is more like ‘reversing back along the whole bleeding lane’.

We’ve had the attitude, we’ve had the wisecracks and it’s becoming clear that actually she’s finding it very hard to put into words how someone with ‘flu (or any other illness) would be feeling and would like to be spoken to.

My husband took the lead on the chat listing the kids’ ideas for ‘do-s and don’t-s’ on how to speak to an ill person. It got a good conversation going, but firstborn was clearly finding it hard work.

I googled furiously hoping for resources to ‘break it down into bite size chunks’. I didn’t find any resources – so here is a description of how I approached it. (At some point I should learn SEO so that someone else might find this when they are googling furiously trying to think of a plan!).
I asked firstborn (a young teen) to brainstorm three sheets. The first sheet was different illnesses she knew, and how they might make you feel. The second was to answer the question of ‘Why do we treat ill people differently, and what happens if we don’t’. The third sheet was again asking for ‘do and don’t’ ideas, with explanations, that I wanted to make into a palm sized reference flick book for future use.

It was a bit of a struggle – very slow going – she didn’t have a lot of experience to draw on (thankfully being healthy). I’ve asked her to read ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ – and I might try to steer the next discussion into a bit of a book club kind of chat about the feelings of the characters arising from their illness.

I’d love any other ideas in the meantime for how to coach teens on the right things to say around illness. Ironically – she actually is good around seriously ill people – takes time for them, doesn’t flap and is appreciated. But she equally can come out with outrageously rude and insensitive statements that can cause serious offence.

Truthfully, though, I’m not sure any of us empathise with illness. We can be socially conditioned to behave correctly – but that is all it is. Pain is only remembered in reflection and only understood in experience.

My parenting failures #516 – uncompetitive sport 

“If your family are slow to get going in the morning – why not turn things into a fun race?”

<bitter hollow laugh>
Squid’s brother was ( …  is … )  epically, hysterically competitive. In a world where ‘last one out is a rotten egg’ leads to screaming tantrums – a fun kick around at the park just didn’t happen. 

I never did manage to moderate his response. As soon as I got some traction on ‘winning and losing is part of the experience’ – I was facing violent vigilante behaviour at anyone not following the rules of the game.

Now I have marvellous older sons who have missed out on the civilising influence of sport and a little girl who has to win at everything. Any ideas for how to involve that kind of temperament in competitive sport?

Fake it until you make it

One of my big worries with the speech delay was how it would affect Junior’s social interactions. Two year olds are quite forgiving, three year olds less so; by four and five the single arched eyebrow of disdain starts to be observed. Junior’s speech might be coming on leaps and bounds – but farmyard animals and knowing your colours don’t count for so much when you’re trying to make a friend (or not alienate ones you’ve already got). 

This was a project from when she was three and in nursery. At that stage she was linking words towards three/four word sentences. Very weak on verbs, grammar and the little linking words – but a great mimic. We made a crib list of a handful of sentences that we felt would most help her social interactions and drilled her to fix them like incantations. From memory, the key ones were “do you want to play?” and “my turn next” / “your turn”. These supported her main social difficulties at that time: initiating a friendship appropriately and participating in a shared game without inevitably either taking over or withdrawing. 

Junior is 4 now, and I’ve gone back to coaching some ‘magic phrases’ at a higher level. She’s a terrible loser (and not a great winner). I can see this being a social handicap. She’ll win and run around crowing her victory; lose and crumple and stamp around. Now I’m coaching her to squeeze out a ‘good game’ handshake. And actually – when she congratulates her opponent – it takes the energy out of her losers-rage – because she recognises the games as the social dances they are, not as measures of her worth and success.

Think back to when you learned a language. Lots of vocabulary, grammar. Cringingly bad voice acting of teenagers on crackly recordings discussing how they plan to go to ‘le boum’ on the ‘fin de semaine’. Then you grow up, get a job, and get casually told that you’re flying out the following week to a critically important conference abroad. Only thing to do under that kind of pressure is to dump the ‘learning’ and start the ‘cramming’ – cutting away everything other than the most useful phrases. ‘Bonjour’; ‘Ou est TOILET’; ‘Je suis VEGETARIAN. Non poison VEGETARIAN. POISSSSON NON.’; ‘Trop cher. Je-ne-pas MONNAY.’. It’s patent hacked together nonsense – but it gives you enough to demonstrate willing to your hosts. Leverage enough social charm that someone might invite you to ‘le disco cette weekend?’.