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#1 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 08:02 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My son just started a school-like program for the first time two weeks ago. It's four days a week for five hours. It's therapy based for kids on the autism spectrum, but there are "preschool" elements, circle time etc and they work really hard to get the kids to play together, as social skills are definitely something they are all working on. 

 

Anyway, I stayed to observe on Thurs and was really surprised to see my son engaging in gun play with another child. We do not allow toy guns in our house and my son actually thinks they are drills when he sees them at the store. The other child clearly knew what guns were as he held his bionicle up to my son and pointed it at him making gun noises. My son repeated the noises. I don't think he understood that the other child was pretending to shoot, but he really likes playing with this kid (which makes me really happy, I am so glad he's found a friend) but I really  don't like the violent play. 

 

I know that at some point he is going to learn that people hurt and kill one another, I just love that he is so innocent that he does not know guns exist. I would love to keep it that way. 

 

At the same time, I am thrilled to see him interacting with his new friends and trying to learn their games. This is huge for him. 

 

This was in free play, though each child has a therapist shadow within a few feet at all times. They eventually redirected the play, but after several (7-10ish) minutes. 

 

We always planned on homeschooling and plan to bring him home when he ages out of this program, but until then how do I deal with this peer influence? And is this something I should speak with the director about? I would really prefer if violent play was redirected from the get go. I know that other families feel different about that and autistic kids are not always easy to redirect, so it's pretty complicated. I don't want to make waves if I am over reacting, but I also don't want my son to play this way. 

 

To be clear, I don't think the other child or his family are "bad" or anything and I think overall he's actually been a good influence on my son, who seems to think he's the coolest kid ever, I am just trying to figure out how to keep my family's values at the forefront when sending my son out into the world. I am sure this is just the first of many issues like this to come as we're pretty far from normal around here with no violent play, no character clothes etc.

 

Thanks for any advice! 


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#2 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 08:58 AM
 
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Ah, the "gun" thing. You know, it took me having children to really see that certain traits are hardwired. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying boys are built for guns specifically but they do gravitate towards that brand of play, especially when together. I remember dressing my DD in primary colors instead of pink. I was so happy to see her playing with cars and trucks. It took a while for me to realize that she wasn't playing with them like boys do. Boys make tracks and crash them together. My DD had a mommy truck, a daddy truck and a baby truck and they would drive on vacation together lol. She was playing with trucks but they were essentially dolls. DS came along and we were totally anti-TV and guns. At 15 months, he stuck two duplos together and started pointing them at things going "pechew." Ummm, how did that happen? Initially I freaked out but then I talked to our families.

 

My MIL laughed. She had 3 daughters before a DH. They were totally anti-gun and wouldn't have them in the house. What did DH do? He cut the cables off his sisters hair dryers and made "ray-guns." MY DH... total sweetheart, rocked our baby patiently every night through 4 months of severe colic, I think I've only heard him raise his voice twice and it was understandalbe. The final kicker was coming across a picture of my father at 5. There he was, big grin on his face, cowboy hat and a gun in each holster. This is how he played as a child and yet he grew into such a gentle man, a confirmed pacifist, was so moved by a show on slaughter houses he turned us all vegetarian when I was 9. Both are strong men but not violent and very much socially conscience.

 

There are some fantastic articles out there about boys and guns. I'm on the run so can't look them up for you but google is your friend. Basically, gun play is normal. Banning it can actually be negative as you are basically telling your son that even his imagination is dangerous. Being of the Star Wars generation, we gave up on the gun battle. Instead, we layed down our rules. No realistic looking guns. Even finger guns are not to be pointed at people or animals... it's disrespectful. Our DS is 10 and despite the fact he built his first gun at 15 months, he's this great, compassionate kid who is the most devoted to animal rights in the house but still loves his light sabor!


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#3 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 09:05 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Stephenie View Post

It's therapy based for kids on the autism spectrum, but there are "preschool" elements,

 

.....My son repeated the noises. I don't think he understood that the other child was pretending to shoot, but he really likes playing with this kid (which makes me really happy, I am so glad he's found a friend) but I really  don't like the violent play. 

 

....At the same time, I am thrilled to see him interacting with his new friends and trying to learn their games. This is huge for him. 

 

....This was in free play, though each child has a therapist shadow within a few feet at all times. They eventually redirected the play, but after several (7-10ish) minutes. 

 

.....We always planned on homeschooling and plan to bring him home when he ages out of this program, but until then how do I deal with this peer influence?

 


I think you are totally overacting and focusing on the wrong things. Your son has autism and was interacting with another child. Celebrate and pray for more of that. The fact that a peer has an influence on your son means that he is a higher up on the spectrum than if his peers didn't have an influence at all. 

 

Homeschooling groups will expose him to other children too, and some of them will do things you don't like. And if the parents are fine the play, the other child will not be redirected.  There isn't a therapist or teacher or anyone who gets to set rules for all the kids. Ironically, we've find many social issues to be easier to deal with in a school situation because someone other than parents are in charge.

 

I think the therapist handled it well by letting the kids explore and then gently re-directing.

 

(I have a daughter on the spectrum, and we used to homeschool but now my kids are both in school)

 


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#4 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 12:33 PM
 
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I would discuss it with the teacher- not negatively, but in an inquiry format.

 

There are a few scenarios:

 

1. The staff was allowing the peer interaction at *any* level (except physical violence) due to the positive nature of peer interaction of any kind.

 

2. Staff was not paying attention to intervene in  'violent play' in a faster manner

 

3. Staff was waiting to see if the other child would self- redirect in a certain amount of time on their own (many be part of his own goals per IEP)

 

Our school has a NO violence policy. Any violent type play (wrestling, guns, killing, attacking, etc ) is not allowed and upon finding any kids doing so being redirected and reminded of rules. Nothing with a gun/weapon/violent connotation is allowed on clothing or as toys brought for show and share (show n tell). It has been a problem a few times but nothing that seemed excessive when dealing with 52 different family formats/parenting styles. We have fairly good compliance- but even 1/2 way through the year, as soon as a staff is not looking a select few boys fall back onto 'gun play ' quickly regardless of how many reminders. One family I KNOW does not allow 'gun play' but their son will make a 'weapon-like' finger/hand action even after both school and home reminders. He seems to be drawn to it, even though related TV, books, etc exposure is limited at home for that family.

 

 

Ask about they types of play allowed and acceptable, how they handle violent play, and if they can possibly redirect your son to other playtime choices per your request.

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#5 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 06:57 PM
 
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Mothering had a good article on gun play a while back. Here it is http://www.mothering.com/parenting/bang-bang-youre-dead

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#6 of 19 Old 02-19-2011, 07:51 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the replies.

 

I know there are lots of reasons lots of people think gun play is okay. And it's totally their choice. That's not really what this is about. Fill in guns with something that's a priority for your own family and look at it from that perspective. For me, my brother and his friend were shot at and his friend hit in my front yard when we were in elementary school. That has pretty much sealed the deal for me. It's not fun or funny to pretend to hurt or kill people. It happens for real and it hurts people, kills people and changes the course of the affected people's lives. It is not something I want my son to take lightly. The way they were playing was also not really appropriate, even by the standards of most pro-gun play families. They were pointing them at each other's faces and the therapists' faces. That made me really uncomfortable. If I were to allow that kind of play, I would not allow it like that... 

 

It's more about the fact that I am having to learn how to handle him having so many outside influences so young. And a bit about his tendency to obsess and I don't want guns to wind up his next obsession. But more about trying to find out how to make sure that our family values are still being taught to him and that our influence is not being drowned in that of his peers. I know that most families deal with this, but as our plan was to homeschool, I never considered that we would be dealing with 20 hours a week of time where he did not have us to guide him when he was not yet four. So for me, I am trying to find out how to handle that aspect of having my child in a school-like program. He's already come home saying he loves Blue's Clues, which we don't watch (I don't have anything against it per say, it's just not one watch) so I can see the influence already happening. 

 

And if it was not clear before, I am THRILLED at his interactions with the other child. Over the moon. I was teary eyed watching them play the other day. This is so good for him, even if it's hard on the family in many ways. 

 

I do think I will talk to the director and be calm about it. I am not mad at anyone or anything, I just would really rather him not play that way. 


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#7 of 19 Old 02-20-2011, 07:56 AM
 
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To address the influence aspect, I'd relax a bit. The more secure and rational you are in your beliefs, the more your children will have faith in them. Our family is very different from others in our area and attend public schools. Influence has never been an issue and my kids. They know what we believe. They know we expect tolerance towards others. They've been preached to and even threatened for not being religious and yet, they stand firm in our family beliefs. They've been to countless class parties with nothing but chips to eat because no one bothered to order a cheese only pizza or considered the vegetarian kids might want more than a hot dog bun. Still, they can't phathom being meat eaters. They have never been into the fads and trends of their peers even though we've never been against them, just not so into them ourselves. We've made choices like not having video games in the house when they were little, again, no issues. Even when we got one, it was't used all that much.

 

 

It's all about security and open communication. We focus on showing our children through life why we made the decisions we've made. We don't worry about the influence of others.


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#8 of 19 Old 02-20-2011, 08:29 AM
 
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We also haven't had difficulties with peer influences.  My kids are older (elem. and jr. high), but they were pretty sheltered for a lot of years.  When we moved them to ps, many of our friends told us we'd be sorry because of negative peer influences.  It just never happened.  Our family is pretty strong, our connections are strong without being rigid, and I think this was the key.  We didn't hold on to our ideals so tightly that it 1. gave no room for the kids to do some normal exploring, and 2. gave a place for a lot of rebellion or push back, esp. w/our older child.  We're in the thick of it now, but so far we've been fine.  Do we hear about ideas, values, experiences, that we don't necessarily want for our family?  Yes.  Do the kids play around with some of these ideas occasionally?  Yes.  But if we're not over the top in our reaction, it's usually a passing phase.  When we need to be firm about something, we are, and it's taken seriously.  I guess we've learned to be a family that has strong values, but has the flexibility to be open to new ideas, without compromising what's most important to us.

 

Just a thought from our experiencing parenting older kids.  Good luck.

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#9 of 19 Old 02-20-2011, 11:14 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Stephenie View Post

For me, my brother and his friend were shot at and his friend hit in my front yard when we were in elementary school. That has pretty much sealed the deal for me. It's not fun or funny to pretend to hurt or kill people. It happens for real and it hurts people, kills people and changes the course of the affected people's lives. It is not something I want my son to take lightly. T

 

....But more about trying to find out how to make sure that our family values are still being taught to him and that our influence is not being drowned in that of his peers. I know that most families deal with this, but as our plan was to homeschool, I never considered that we would be dealing with 20 hours a week of time where he did not have us to guide him when he was not yet four.


 

I'm very sorry about what happened to your brother and your his friend. At some point your child would have found out that kids play shooting games and you would have to deal it with it. I've seen kids play that way at homeschool groups. I think it is fortunate that it came up for your family in this context where you have neutral adults who can help work through it with your son. I think it's a great idea to talk to the director.

 

The truth is that it is sometimes harder to explain to kids on the spectrum why certain behaviors aren't OK than it is to explain it to a NT child. You'll have help getting him through this.

 

I have a child on the spectrum, too, and I wish that peer influence on her was greater. She doesn't get social clues. She doesn't have friends, she doesn't even understand exactly what friendship is. She doesn't care what shows other kids watch or what music they listen to. She doesn't get invited to birthday parties (unless one of her sister's friends includes her).
She's 14 and has never spent the night with a friend or gone away to camp.  I think you are worried about the wrong things.

 

My NT child is 12, and in spite of now going to school full time, she is really grounded in her own views, which are based on but not dictated by being in our family. Rather than taking the influences that are different from how we do things as a threat, we've used them as chances to talk about WHY we do the things we do,  why we believe what we do, etc. With her, being exposed to other ideas has only made her stronger because she doesn't take anything -- not even from us -- at face value. She questions and thinks. And I think that's a good thing.

 

We as parents aren't drowned out, instead we have jumping off points for conversations. But in the end, ALL children decide for themselves what they think.

 

In the end, do you want your children to never play with guns because they never thought of it, or do you want them to never play with guns because they understand that guns destroy lives?


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#10 of 19 Old 02-20-2011, 08:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm very sorry about what happened to your brother and your his friend. At some point your child would have found out that kids play shooting games and you would have to deal it with it. I've seen kids play that way at homeschool groups. I think it is fortunate that it came up for your family in this context where you have neutral adults who can help work through it with your son. I think it's a great idea to talk to the director.

 

I knew it would happen at some point, I guess I just was not ready to deal with it yet. 

 

 

The truth is that it is sometimes harder to explain to kids on the spectrum why certain behaviors aren't OK than it is to explain it to a NT child. You'll have help getting him through this.

 

 

In the end, do you want your children to never play with guns because they never thought of it, or do you want them to never play with guns because they understand that guns destroy lives?

 

This is where some of the problem is for me. He does not understand what he's doing at this point. But to teach him why we don't play that way, I would have to explain guns to him.... I am just sad that such a conversation may be on the horizon much sooner than I planned. I never thought I could hide guns from him forever, and I did want him to one day understand why we feel how we do and understand it clearly, but at a few months shy of four it seems so sad to have to explain. I also don't know how much I will be able to get though to him on this. At this point it's a repetitive language thing for him. He did it all weekend, but almost like a verbal stim. He often didn't even have a toy in hand when making the "gun noise." He's just repeating the sound his friend made the way he often repeats lines from TV or other sounds over and over. 

 

 

Thanks to everyone for your input. I think a lot of this just stems from the fact that I was not ready to put him in school and that the decision came rather quickly. We went from the doctor's suggestion to having him in the program four days a week within a few weeks. It's just been a lot of change for all of us. I did not envision this level of peer influence or separation from family at this age and we never really eased into it, so I think I am still processing the changes for our family and am sensitive about it. This program is really good for him and I can see how much it is going to help him in the areas he struggles and I really do need to focus on that. 
 


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#11 of 19 Old 02-21-2011, 08:05 AM
 
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When I think of "peer influence," I think of children actually convincing your child to do something meaningful (a repetitive noise isn't meaningful to me). I suppose I don't see what you're seeing as "peer influence" so much as just "introduction to the world at large." FWIW, my son has played guns, though we don't have them. None of our friends have them, and their sons (and daughters) all play guns as well. I'm actually surprised that your child has never encountered another child at the park or anywhere playing "shooting" games (though maybe his not noticing is an autism issue?). I think you're completely overreacting. I wouldn't want - and in fact would be really upset - if my child's teacher was forbidding his play simply because another parent didn't like it. In a normal classroom, that would be bothersome, but it would be especially so if I were sending my SN child to a program to assist him with social skills.

 

As an aside, your son thinking guns are drills is really, really scary to me. I wouldn't let that mistaken belief stand in case he does come into contact with a gun in some context.


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#12 of 19 Old 02-21-2011, 09:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I do not get how having a concern is "completely overreacting." The closest thing I have done to taking any action on it is posting this thread. At this point my "overreaction" is  an uneasy feeling in my stomach. 

As for him not knowing what guns are, he's three. He does not watch violent television. We've not had a lot of social interaction because it goes terribly for him because of his Asperger's and SPD and frankly, we've had a hard time finding kids who want to play with DS. We have had to leave playgroups early so many times because he's hurt someone or some child's teasing is relentless that we gave up on going to them. He has been around kids playing this way before, but at places like the park he is pretty self focused and usually just wants to climb, spin, crash, swing etc. It is rare that he wants to participate in the games of his peers, so this only added to that. He really has not had a chance to pick up on it until now. 

 

I don't see explaining the difference between guns and drills an issue right now. We don't own guns. The only home we ever go to that has guns keeps the guns locked in a cabinet in a room he is not ever in to which the doors are always locked. He is rarely out of my sight (and never is in a home we are not familiar with) because, frankly, almost anything can become dangerous to my son. So explaining guns to him makes no sense at this point. He's been told he's not allowed to play with power tools so any effectiveness that such a discussion would have about guns pretty much is covered there since he thinks they are drills. Not that I expect him to listen to that, little is safe in his hands. 

 

I never said I wanted to to forbid anyone else's child from playing in any way- I said I wanted my own child redirected. There is a difference. With a 1:1 ratio at all times there's no reason my son can't be redirected. I have not even decided if this is what I am going to ask for, but I want to be clear that I am not trying to tell anyone else how their child should play. I know MY child. I know his tendency to obsess. I know his tendency to be aggressive. I am trying to prevent problem behavior in my own child. All I need is for him to decide that guns and violent play are his new "thing."

 

I've said multiple times, this is not as much about the guns as it is about the adjustment to not being present during peer interactions and not being able to be part of the whole process. It's not something I have ever experienced before. He's my first, this is his first away from home experience other than a very small Sunday School class. I know this is the first of many things he will pick up on that we'd like to avoid in our home, my main concern was how to deal with that and how other parents dealt with it- for whatever the issues were in their own homes. It's really no different than a tween girl who comes home wanting to wear too short a skirt or all the moms who are anti- Bratz and don't want their daughters to play with them, kids learning swear words at school, etc. Everyone has something they don't want their kid picking up on. This was just my realization that he was going to start picking up on things I may not want him to and wondering how I should handle it. 


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#13 of 19 Old 02-21-2011, 03:11 PM
 
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At this point my "overreaction" is  an uneasy feeling in my stomach. 

 

...So explaining guns to him makes no sense at this point.

 

...I've said multiple times, this is not as much about the guns as it is about the adjustment to not being present during peer interactions and not being able to be part of the whole process.

 

...my main concern was how to deal with that and how other parents dealt with it- for whatever the issues were in their own homes. It's really no different than a tween girl who comes home wanting to wear too short a skirt or all the moms who are anti- Bratz and don't want their daughters to play with them, kids learning swear words at school, etc.


hug2.gif I think you started the thread wanting some support, and that may be it isn't feeling supportive right now.  I'm sorry.

 

Our stomach is the home of our 3rd chakra, which is our personal power chakra. I think this is really messing with your sense of personal power in your son's life. You want to know how to teach him your values, and you want him to learn those values without being swayed by peers. You really didn't want him in school this young, or may be at all. Things seem a little out of control.

 

You, as his mother, have more impact on him than anyone else. It's just how it is, and 20 hours a week of preschool won't change that. Your voice will always be loudest to him. Even as he gets older and hears other voices, he'll still hear you. Eventually, your values and views will be so ingrained that in any situation, he'll know what would think if you were there.

 

I think that a lot of time when kids come up with new behaviors that tweak their parents, the child really isn't old enough to understand the situation. I was thinking about you and situation in my parenting that has come the closest was swim suit shopping with my DDs when they were about 5 and 7. They thought some suits were cute that I considered way too sexual for them at their ages, but they didn't have a context to understand why I wasn't OK with the suits. We muddled through, and found suits I felt were appropriate. Now that they are older (12 and 14) our conversations about such things are so much easier because they understand more.

 

With a very young child who really doesn't get it, I think all you can do is re-direct, be patient, and trust that ALL phases pass. Every single phase eventually passes.

 

Peace


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#14 of 19 Old 02-21-2011, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Linda.

 

I think a lot of it is just the change and feeling out of control. I mean a month and a half ago this was not on the horizon. He didn't even have this diagnosis... and now we're rearranging our whole lives to try to do what's best for him, but it's meant putting homeschooling aside, rearranging our finances majorly and giving up a lot of family time.  Add to it that my daughter weaned this week and moved into her own bed... it's just an odd time for my family (not to mention the hormone shift from weaning has me all emotional)

 

He really isn't going to understand why this bothers me at this point, and that does add to the frustrations here. The swimsuit story really does compare. He has no clue what he is doing the same way young girls would not know why some swimwear is inappropriate. I am going to have to try to relax about it all, but it is really hard.


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#15 of 19 Old 02-22-2011, 03:14 PM
 
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I think that your concern is a valid one. And, for what it is worth, I would probably not have watched my child interact in such a manner for such a long period of time. I would have approached his teacher. We too have a toddler and he does not know what a gun is. He does not watch TV or the like and this is how we want it until he is more able to understand what guns and their uses/consequences are. To this day (almost 35 years later!), I remember the boy in my kindergarten class who played guns. Someone would have to shoot him and he would fall dead. It is THE memory of Kindergarten for me. So, in my opinion, it is a very powerful image. I would talk to the director and see if you can influence their policy. And, even though these are changing times for you, you are entitled to your concerns. Hugs.

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#16 of 19 Old 02-22-2011, 06:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you, Picard. 

 

I emailed his case manager after watching him at school again this am. He and the other boy went right for the bioinicles and started "shooting" one another. Then, my son proceeded to declare he would kill just about everything in the room, toy or person. That's too far. It went on for quite some time, the entire free play period... about 20 min. 

 

In the email I said "I was wondering if you could ask the therapists working with K to redirect violent play. He's picked up on some things there that we've tried to avoid previously. Gun play, especially when he points his "gun" at people makes me uneasy. He also keeps saying he's going to kill people/things. I'd really rather that be redirected if possible. I don't want to make things complicated, but he obsesses over  things easily and also tends to be aggressive and I think this violent play may lead to more behavioral problems. I am thrilled that he is doing so well with pretend play and playing with his friends, but the level of violence has worried me. If it's too hard to handle there, we'll just have to deal with it at home, but I thought I would ask. I don't want to cause problems or get in the way of  the other kids' play."

 

 When she replied to the email she totally dodged the subject. I mean completely. She answered the other two questions I had asked (simple things about attendance policy and an upcoming home visit) but she did not even address the violent play at all. Which really frustrates me. I will have to try and catch her at the school, but that can be difficult at times. 

 

I am frustrated also because it's not the first time she's just completely ignored portions of emails (which tends to be the preferred method of communication there.)  Previously, I thought that maybe she was just trying to answer quickly, but it seems to be a pattern at this point. 


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#17 of 19 Old 02-23-2011, 05:41 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephenie View Post
I am frustrated also because it's not the first time she's just completely ignored portions of emails (which tends to be the preferred method of communication there.)  Previously, I thought that maybe she was just trying to answer quickly, but it seems to be a pattern at this point. 


Then I'd try sending an e-mail with that as the only topic.


"It should be a rule in all prophylactic work that no harm should ever be unnecessarily inflicted on a healthy person (Sir Graham Wilson, The Hazards of Immunization, 1967)."
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#18 of 19 Old 02-23-2011, 12:49 PM
 
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Quote:
 In the email I said "I was wondering if you could ask the therapists working with K to redirect violent play. He's picked up on some things there that we've tried to avoid previously. Gun play, especially when he points his "gun" at people makes me uneasy. He also keeps saying he's going to kill people/things. I'd really rather that be redirected if possible. I don't want to make things complicated, but he obsesses over  things easily and also tends to be aggressive and I think this violent play may lead to more behavioral problems. I am thrilled that he is doing so well with pretend play and playing with his friends, but the level of violence has worried me. If it's too hard to handle there, we'll just have to deal with it at home, but I thought I would ask. I don't want to cause problems or get in the way of  the other kids' play."

 

 

I totally think this is right on point.  Even from a gun owning family, I feel your argument here should be taken very seriously.  You are trying to create positive experiences.  Can't they run trucks into eachother or play wrestle?  There are still many boy aggresive activities that do not involve killing, while also learning appropriate levels and times for more energetic and aggresive play.

 

 

 

 


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#19 of 19 Old 02-23-2011, 01:52 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I spoke with her today about it and she seemed to agree that redirection should happen if it gets that far... so hopefully it will be implemented soon. 


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