Why is Hayley’s friend upset with her?

Hayley’s having a tough time understanding why one of her friends is upset with her, and Tiger Mother’s desperately trying to help resolve the situation.

“I’m not going to school! If you try and make me I’ll…”

The next few words are lost on me as Hayley’s voice is muffled by the duvet which she’s yanked up over her head.

Things have gone wrong again. I feel the old familiar heart-sink as I cast around my brain for problem solving ideas and encouraging words.

“Hayley has struggled socially ever since the start of junior school”

Hayley has struggled socially ever since the start of junior school, the age when children become razor sharp when it comes to noticing if someone is not exactly in tune with the rest of them.

For a long time, she had a very dysfunctional and often spiteful group of girls she called her friends. So many days she’d come home in tears, beating herself up over how yet again she’d somehow managed to upset one of them. It was honestly like watching someone you love trapped in a bad marriage with no idea of how to get out of it because there seemed no alternative. ‘I know they think I’m bottom of the group but it’s better than not having anyone,’ Hayley sobbed in one insightful outburst at home.

Thankfully she finally managed to wean herself away from them and in Year 10 settled in with a small group of friendly girls. Since then she’s been a different girl; it’s been such joy to see her happy.

Until now. The first I heard of it was a text from Hayley yesterday saying something happened at school and urging me to text back quickly to tell her what to do.

She explained that her friend keeps walking away while Hayley’s talking to her, which finally got Hayley so frustrated that she told her not to keep doing it.

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Now her friend is refusing to talk to her and has deleted Hayley from her social media networks. I can’t get to the bottom of it, despite Hayley going over and over it.

“Hayley does struggle to get her words out”

Hayley does struggle to get her words out, often. We have to try to find the patience of at least 10 saints to wait while she struggles for the right words, forgets her train of thought, supplies endless unnecessary detail and goes around the houses to get her point across.

It’s very frustrating all round, not least of course for Hayley. None of it helps her self-esteem or her social standing.

It’s long been a problem, something to do with processing skills, word retrieval issues, and her undiagnosed deafness early on when all the neural pathways are being forged by sounds and when the linguistic filing system of the brain is being formed.

Gradually though, Hayley has improved, learning to be aware of the listener’s needs rather than just desperately focusing on making herself understood. I think maturity is the answer; things will continue to improve.

But in the meantime, there’s this current mess to sort out.

I coax her out from under the duvet with the promise of scrambled eggs and a reminder that her beloved faithful hound is waiting downstairs.

“Explain you don’t know why you’ve upset her and you didn’t mean to”

It gives me a few minutes to try to form a strategy. ‘Go up to her and apologise, explain you don’t know why you’ve upset her and you didn’t mean to,’ I say.

‘Done that, she walked away,’ says Hayley, miserable. This had been on the advice of her younger brother Harry, whose counsel she’d actually sought at break time.

‘Okay, well give her some space,’ I tell her, ‘and meanwhile, arrange to do something nice at the weekend with one of the others.’

Hopefully by Monday, things will have blown over. If not, then at least she’ll have had a nice weekend, and strengthening up alternative friendships is no bad thing.

I find myself crossing my fingers and desperately wishing I had a magic wand…

Cleaning hearing aids

Tiger Mother wonders why fiercely independent moderately deaf 14-year-old Hayley cleans her own hearing aids so reluctantly.

Hayley and I have just had an argument about her hearing aids – trying to establish whether she’s cleaned them or, as I suspect, not. A year ago it occurred to me it was time she took responsibility for them. After all, she’s 14 – she should know how to look after them.

She’s fiercely independent, has long fought to do things herself. She irons her clothes, cooks three course meals to competition standards, manages train journeys alone – why would I still clean her hearing aids?

She grudgingly agreed, but has proved sloppy at doing it daily, as recommended.

“It’s like cleaning your teeth,” I tell her regularly. “Make it part of your daily routine. And no, I’m not suggesting you use toothpaste on them!”

I don’t understand why she won’t take them more seriously. They’re a lifeline for her – at least her right one is, she had a mild loss in her left ear and feels that one has only borderline benefit, so she leaves it out sometimes.

One day she’ll have to do it herself. Why not start now?

It’s like most things with teenagers, if it suits them they’ll do it (“Mum I’m not a kid!”), otherwise they’re happy for you to do it (“You’re the mum, you should do that for your kid!”).

Hormones being what they are at her age, raging and ricocheting around the house, we row about everything from getting up for school to how often is acceptable to borrow my mascara ( taking it away with her on a Guides holiday without asking is at the unacceptable end).,

So it’s one more thing to erm, discuss, loudly and with feeling. I try to gently remind her about cleaning them, which can result in either a disinterested tut and rolling of the eyes, or a full scale, bellowing tantrum complete with stamping off and door slamming finale.

It did result in a run in with her Teacher of the Deaf (ToD). I received a report stating that Hayley’s aids had wax in the tubes and that Hayley said she hadn’t worn her left aid since we’d last visited the audiologist (two months earlier), because it wasn’t working properly.

The ToD stressed the importance of daily cleaning, recommending that “a named member of staff liaise with Hayley about the cleanliness of her ear moulds and monitor the usage of her left hearing aid”.

The conclusion drawn was that Hayley hadn’t worn the aid for two months because it wasn’t working, as she hadn’t cleaned it. But neither of these things were true!

At the audiology appointment, Hayley mentioned it wasn’t working properly so the audiologist re-tubed it and tested it. Hayley still wasn’t happy and the audiologist suggested it was Hayley’s ear or perception that’d changed.

Hayley continued wearing it until week before the ToD visit. Yes the aids were waxy, but Hayley always has wax build-up in her ears; you could put the aids in clean and they’d instantly come out waxy.

“It made me seem like an unfit mother who needed checking up on”

So now it’s on some official file that Hayley didn’t wear her aid for two months because we hadn’t bothered to clean it.  It made me seem like an unfit mother who needed checking up on. In fact I’m doing all I can for her – it’s usually me chasing everyone else to meet her needs!

Why didn’t they ask me? I could’ve explained things more accurately than a 14-year-old with ASD, little grip on timescale, a poor memory and not the best communication skills.

Anyway, I know the ToD was only doing her job and it’s probably done us a favour – Hayley was embarrassed into cleaning them more often, hopefully cutting down our rowing time!

Deaf teens and friendships

Tiger Mother hopes 14-year-old moderately deaf Hayley has found a new friendship group, as her ‘so-called friends’ ostracise her again.

The boot polish brush goes flying through the air, describing a perfect arc before clattering to the tiled floor and skittering across to come to rest at my feet. A boot follows.

I catch sight of Hayley’s face, like thunder. She opens her mouth to remonstrate with me – it’s like looking at a cartoon of someone roaring where all you can see is the gaping cavern of their mouth with a woggly thing woggling at the back.

After screaming at me for what feels like a full lifetime, without pausing for breath, Hayley’s fury crumples into tear sodden sobs and she runs off to fling herself on the sofa.

Oh dear. All I did was point out that the kitchen table isn’t the place to polish her big air cadets marching boots. Clearly something else is fuelling this disproportionate explosion.

After calming her down, we establish what it is. It’s the so called friends. Except now they’ve passed into the realm of former friends.

“With her deafness and mild ASD, relationships aren’t easy for Hayley”

With her deafness and mild ASD, relationships aren’t easy for Hayley. Like everyone she has her faults, but she’s a very sociable girl – kind, sharing and eager to please – and tries hard to fit in with people.

During her three years at secondary school, she’s remained with the friendship group she’s known since infants, but it’s been an increasingly hurtful struggle.

As they’ve become older, grown more sophisticated in their communication and social rules, with all the subtle nuances, they’ve become more demanding and discerning. And other girls have joined the group, battling for dominance, bringing about a shift in the dynamics.

The result has been an ongoing nightmare. Three years riven with stress, grievances and upsets – Hayley came home sobbing almost every day of year 7, begging me to find her another school – and, at times, out and out bullying.

Still, they were the only group she’s known and she’s stuck it out – better than not having friends, she’s reasoned.

But it’s been like watching someone stuck in a bad marriage, cruelly destructive, shrinking her already shaky self-esteem, the way they constantly undermine her, making her feel miserable and left out.

Even when the going’s good they just about tolerate her. ‘I’m the bottom of the chain in our group, no one listens to me,’ she’s said to me before in an impressive and unbearably honest moment of self-awareness.

Half the time they act like a lynch mob, berate her over whatever little thing displeases them, or tell her off when she doesn’t understand something, laugh at her when she doesn’t get the joke, irony and sarcasm especially being lost on a child with ASD.

They accuse her of random misdemeanours, even of using her deafness as an excuse, such as for not being good at French. They tell her she could easily turn up her hearing aids or get new ones to magic problems away.

The reality is that Hayley pretty much tackles everything head on, studying languages even though it’s not compulsory for pupils with deafness, and often brushes aside offers of help from teaching assistants, wanting to fit in with everyone else.

Her friends have ostracised her many times before but this time it looks permanent.

But to Hayley’s credit, she’s handled this latest and final fallout stoically. She refused to let me intervene or report any of it – even when it became bullying.

And – hallelujah – she seems to have fallen in with another group, kinder girls, more inclusive, less needy than this group who thrive by picking on vulnerable people to boost themselves.

It’s early days, but here’s desperately hoping.

“No one wants to be surrounded by a hostile bunch making snide remarks

Tonight was just a blip. She’s had a bellyful of her ex-buddies ignoring or insulting her when she’s tried to be civil. She’s made up her mind to try not to let it get to her, but of course it does. No one wants to be surrounded by a hostile bunch making snide remarks, slipping sly swearing gestures.

They may be more sophisticated in some ways, but Hayley has grown up too and in many ways become more mature, with a wider perspective.

A lot of it’s down to the activities she does outside school, such as air cadets and Guides, as well as events with NDCS – finding solidarity in pulling together in a common cause with like-minded people has helped her to believe in herself, have self-respect whereas the others tore it down.

I think Hayley’s outgrown her former friendship group and knows she’ll be better off without them, can finally move on. Fingers crossed.