Autism Watch: 2007

Mom, I Want My Friends Back!

Posted on: September 4, 2008

On the heels of my rant about how rude people can be, my son came home after experiencing it from a different perspective…again.

It’s no surprise that my son has a hard time with friends. Social skills are a huge part of any autism spectrum disorder. It’s a misnomer that all autistic kids don’t want friends — many do, they just don’t know how to go about it, and my son is one of them. He wants friends, desperately, though he does want them on his terms, something we’re trying to work on. (Honey, sometimes you have to play what your friends want. You can’t always talk about Pokemon. You aren’t always in charge. And so on.) He’s learning slowly how to fit in and join an activity, but it’s a vicious circle. I teach him on the assumption that other kids are going to be nice, when one yesterday told him he wasn’t as cool as another kid, so they left with the ‘cool’ kid, and another one held up his fist in a threat if ds played with them. Maybe this behavior’s allowed at their house, or maybe the parents don’t know, but it’s so hard to teach a kid social skills when their role models aren’t so hot.

So while he’s laying around wrapped in his blankie, home sick today with a lot of congestion, I’m wondering how to help him and what tomorrow will be like. He’s got what he calls “The Master Plan.” He’s going to be ‘cool,’ and kids will like him and leave the kids from yesterday to play with him. For his sake, I really hope it works. (I was just glad we moved on from the point where he wanted to hold his fist up in return, but he does realize that it’s an aggressive response that could get him in trouble so I think we’ll be okay. He’s SO afraid of having to pull a card, especially if he has to go to the bathroom outside of recess/lunch, so I had to let him know that his IEP, or “the meeting Mommy and Daddy have with the principal” says that he can go potty if he needs to, though he’s still supposed to try to use other accepted times as much as is possible. I think that’s preferred for everyone over him having an accident and needing to be walked to the nurse and miss class time for a clothing change, along with the teasing that he’d be at risk for.)

When school first started, social issues were at the top of my List of Worries. (Is it just me, or do we not all have one when our kids are in school?) I worried that he’d not find friends to play with him, and that, like last year, there’d be numerous birthday parties but few invitations. (I’ll save you my rant on how often he’s left out…for now, at least. I’ll probably rant on it at a later date.) I just hoped we’d not have the copious amounts of tears. It breaks my heart, and like we sat last night with him on my lap, I want to protect him every single day. The fact that this is something that’s not tangible and is harder to ‘fix,’ I’m concerned. I think he’s anxious about it all, and I know stress makes his behaviors worse. And the tantrums, anger and yelling have been much worse these last two weeks.

Until the IEP, I’m going to be working on my goals and needs for school, things I want written in the IEP, and possibly have a pre-IEP meeting just for a “this is my son and this is what he does” introduction. (Personally, I think those should be mandatory when a special needs child is placed in inclusion, but who am I.) I hate to be “that mom,” you know, the mom that the teacher sees, wonders if she’s been noticed, and if she hasn’t, wants to turn and hide. But, I can’t send my son off every day wondering if he’s going to be a mess that evening from school-induced stress or social issues that have him convinced he’s entirely unhappy.

In the end, it keeps rolling through my mind that it shouldn’t be this hard to be a kid. What comes more natural than just wanting to play and having friends. Autism is just wrong, and it’s a rare thing that I get mad at it, but right now, I am. Autism steals away some of the normal childhood fun. Sometimes I have to remind myself that just because I think he should do something doesn’t mean he should; if he’s happy not doing it, great. But when he wants to do something, and can’t because nasty autistm-related issues get in the way, it’s just wrong. It really shouldn’t be hard to be a kid.

2 Responses to "Mom, I Want My Friends Back!"

Wow, again you have hit on so many very REAL issues. My son has been called a “freak” by more kids than I care to count. My proudest moment was when my daughter told boys at the playground that anyone who won’t play with her brother won’t be playing with her. In 10 seconds they were doing whatever it took to get David into the game. But more than once I have cried as I watched failed attempts made by my son to earn a friend. I have also sat in many playgrounds and gave infomercials on Autism to all the kids that weren’t overtly mean, but I could tell the thought was there. Then there’s the kids with the mom that tells her son, “If he touches you again, hit him.” And from the get-go it was her older but same sized child who really started any issue. I agree, Autism steals some of the fun of childhood.

trust me, I know how you feel. It never gets easier and we just worry more and more each day.

I was lucky today to witness kidness from other children, actually older children, to my son. They treated him like their “Little Brother” and I was so content in seeing him smile.

We pray for days like these while at the same time we fear that these days come too far apart and we wonder how long they will last.

Autism has taken so much from my kids but I, like I bet you do, try and make the best of a life for them and allow them to do whatever makes them content. In the end, their happiness is all that matters.

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