Adults Setting Kids Up For Failure

Things have calmed down about Odin Camus and his mother, Melissa Camus, who live in Peterborough, Ontario (Canada).   It’s been a week now since their story exploded across mainstream, alternative and social media, and it’s a given that lots of people have an opinion about the situation that erupted on March 20th in Peterborough.  Celebrities and politicians along with everyday people came to Odin’s rescue by tweeting messages and sending emails and phoning Odin on his 13th birthday.

However, there are a few things that remain unsaid about the situation, and whether Melissa Camus meant to set her son — and his peers — up for failure is something only Melissa can answer.

Now Odin’s birthday falls on March 20th every year. That means that this year, his birthday fell at the end of March Break.  It comes as no surprise that this when March Break happens, and even if this slipped Melissa’s mind, there was what the school board called a fridge magnet that was sent home with students to help parents plan activities for their children on days off from school.

Regardless of whether Odin has Asperger Syndrome or any other diagnosis or no diagnosis at all, having a birthday that falls anytime along the March Break is tricky at best. Unless the celebration is moved to a date other than one that falls during March Break, chances are that invitees aren’t going to be around to attend. And according to some people commenting to the CBC News story, that was the case.

If the above comment is accurate (which was stated and re-stated on social media as being factual by a number of people living in Peterborough who also know the family), Odin was set up for failure as were his peers.

The invitations to Odin’s party were given out on March 12 knowing that the following day marked the start of March Break at all schools in Peterborough, regardless of whether the school is in the Kawartha Pine Ridge School District (KPRDSB) or the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland Clarington Catholic School District (PVNCCDSB).

That was the first mistake.

Of Odin’s five closest friends who were invited to his party, two of them were on March Break vacations with their own families and three others went to visit their non-custodial parents.

Vacations (especially March Break vacations) generally aren’t spur of the moment, especially when they involve children or teens. Even if there are no special needs minors in the family, family vacations are usually planned in advance.

And visits with non-custodial parents are equally important in that many non-custodial parents plan well in advance what activities and/or family vacation plans will happen while they are enjoying the company of their minor children.

So the second mistake was in failing to realize that other families have plans, not just Melissa and her family.

It’s not bullying for families to keep to their own schedules and not disrupt them to accommodate someone who sends out invitations to a party on the last day before March Break starts. For Melissa to have stated to the media that this was all about bullying was unfair to the other families.

That’s mistake number three as now the families of those children may feel the need to protect themselves from Melissa’s comments and any future comments by distancing their children from Odin now that school is back in session.

Odin received thousands of messages, emails, phone calls, and gifts (including monetary gifts) from complete strangers, celebrities, and politicians. Next year, when he turns 14, there won’t be the same outpouring of attention as there was this year. How will Odin feel next year when, once again, he is just a regular Joe like everybody else? Will his mother put out another social media plea for people to pay undue attention to her son?

Either way, it’s another mistake and will likely negatively impact on Odin’s self-esteem which was artificially inflated this year.

And lastly, Melissa complained in every media interview that no one bothered to RSVP. As the host of the party, if she hadn’t heard back from the invited guests, it was her responsibility to contact those who were invited and ask them if they would be attending. But she didn’t do that.

It needs to be understood that an invitation — even an RSVP invitation — does not obligate the invitee to attend.  If Melissa is going to stand on grounds of etiquette, then she should know that she sent the invitations out late, and she didn’t follow up to confirm if guests would be attending.  In other words, the problem isn’t one of bullying; It’s one of a mother not planning ahead and following up.

So in all, that’s quite a few mistakes, and these mistakes set her own son, and other people’s children, up for failure.  How fair is that?

Those with AS and autism shouldn’t be discriminated against, however, parents of children with AS and autism should invest care and attention to make sure they aren’t setting their child up for failure. And what’s more, they shouldn’t glibly toss about claims of bullying where none exists. It only winds up isolating the child from his peers in the short-term as well as the long-term.

Elyse Bruce


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