I read about so many kids on the Autism Spectrum who are upset because they do not have friends or they feel lonely or left out. My son is not that. He is 7 and way behind in his development to actually co-play or even play side by side with another playmate. He does not miss having a friend because he does not care. Loneliness , alone, left-out are feelings that he is probably not even aware of. I’ve never seen him show interest in other kids in a playground, school or social setting or even pay attention to our dog who tends to hover around him all the time. He lives in his own bubble and probably prefers it that way. So, when they talk about autistic kids feeling isolated, they are not talking about my son. His Autism is different.
So many parents talk about how sad their Autistic child was when no one turned up for his birthday party and about how delighted he was when some really kind people decided to make it up to him. My son does not even realize it’s his birthday, or the significance of it. He does not ask for a party, a cake, a gift or new clothes. He just doesn’t know what these mean. For him, birthday is just another alien word in the list of words that he has no understanding of. Period. This Autism is not talked about. This does not make for a good story – a boy who does not even know what a birthday is.
When they organize special events – Autism friendly movie nights, Sensory friendly events at the museum , at the local children’s hospital or the zoo, a walk to raise awareness or an item of clothing to show support, they do so much good to the Autism community but somehow my son misses the point to this whole hoopla because his Autism is not the same. He does not enjoy any movie because he cannot comprehend conversations or focus for long on what’s happening in front of him unless it gives him some form of sensory pleasure. The autism walks make him uncomfortable because of the huge crowd , zoo animals don’t interest him, and his limited motor skills makes paying with a toy more of a chore than fun. His Autism does not fit the picture that people see everyday.
You are so right when you say “… instead of putting blue lights on our front porches, we will go outside with our kids and we will help them play together…typically functioning kids and kids with autism. “ When people encourage us to be more forthcoming and take our son out more often, bring him to a party, let him be around kids, they forget that just bringing him in is not going to do any good. If they really want to help, they need to teach their child the idea of inclusion. Tell them things like “He is still learning to make friends, can you be one “ or “He does not know how to play with everyone, can you take him along with you when you play” instead of “Don’t bother him, he likes to be alone” or “ It’s ok if he gets too close, he does not understand”. If my son has to sit in a corner and stim on an object he could have done that back home. Why bring him to a party full of noisy kids who are busy playing with their friends , completely oblivious that there is that kid in a corner, left out, not knowing what to do and how. Parents need to teach their kids to include an Autistic child in whatever little way they can- teach them that being different does not mean being excluded. We need more awareness about what an autistic child needs and that will come with understanding that there is not just one face to Autism.
Just like you , I’ve flinched when my son ran to me, for fear of what’s he going to do next – hurt or hug. I’ve avoided playgrounds and public places and preferred to go out when I know that it’s either less crowded or when both his dad and I are with him so that we have better control over an unwarranted situation. We’ve kept him out of everyone’s hair because it’s best for the rest, not because it’s best for him. So, yes, I hear you . My son’s story is not as romantic as a lot of the rest. His Autism is not that talked about. I hear you.