Anyone who has had little children has heard their child say “Are you mad at me?” It’s completely understandable for a 2-year-old to ask that question because they are still trying to figure out voice inflections and facial expressions.
In fact, even adults find themselves asking this question when a friend’s voice and face doesn’t match. How many times have we asked someone if they are okay because they are crying and their answer is “I’m doing fine.” Or maybe we ask if we’ve done something wrong because they are glaring at us, only to have them say “no…I’m fine.” They are obviously not fine, but they’ve made it clear that they don’t wish to continue in a discussion with you.
This is what children with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) deal with daily. Since they can’t always tell by your voice if you’re happy or mad, they rely on facial expressions. So if you’re mad at them but have a grimace on your face that resembles a fake grin, they are totally missing that you’re mad. If you’re talking loudly to your child because you’re in a loud environment but have a smile on your face, you’re going to get the question: “Are you mad at me, mommy?”
It took me a while to realize why my son was asking me this a lot. He’s not an overly dramatic child, so it went against his personality. After talking with the audiologist (read more about our visit), I began to realize why he asked me this question.
There are certainly times when we have to talk louder so that we are louder than the crowd if we are in a group setting, like a theme park or a loud restaurant. Since we aren’t mad, but may be asking him a question, a smile is usually on our face. That sends him confusing signals as he is trying to decipher how we are feeling towards him. He knows talking loudly and smiling don’t usually go together, so we get that question: “Are you mad at me, mommy?”
You can see right away how this could be a problem in social settings among peers. Children with APD have an extremely hard time in social settings because of this. Anyone who’s honest will admit they get annoyed by someone asking them over and over “Are you mad at me?”
It honestly seems like a hopeless cause. It’s one I’ve pondered over a lot. My child has to learn to adapt in social settings, but it breaks my mommy heart as I watch him struggle in this area. So what do I do? I have chosen to talk to the parents of my son’s friends. I hope they discuss with their child how they can best interact with my son. I do this kind of prep work with my children when I know one of his friends needs to have adaptations made. I don’t want my children to shy away from other people who are in wheelchairs or hospital beds or who have autism or down syndrome or the many other things. I want them to look past the difficulty a child has, be creative in interacting with them, and then love them with the best of their ability. This is what I hope people do with my son.
So what can you do? Teach your child to look past the difficulty, be creative and love them instead of laughing at them. Don’t be afraid to dive into those hard conversations with them. Life is difficult. Invest in nurturing that compassionate heart that so many children have.