I noticed this article on Facebook as I scrolled down my feed tonight, which highlights one of a special needs parent’s greatest concerns. Will my child have friends? In this case, a father went to his eleven year old son’s “Back to School Night.” You can read it for yourself, but the gist is that all the children in the class filled out a questionaire. His son (on the Autism Spectrum) said on the questionaire that he had no friends (but in a much more heartbreaking way).
This, my friends, is sad. As a parent of two kids on the Autism spectrum, I often wonder how they’ll relate to the world. Will they have friends? Will anyone give them a chance? As I roll them through Target, I know I get plenty of stares that I try to meet with a smile and a shrug.
I’m sure all parents have fears about their child’s friends or lack thereof at some point. Every child has quirks and personalities that could either clash with their classmates’ or help them blossom as an individual (I know I had a horrible gradeschool experience with very few friends…sometimes that’s how it goes).
But how is someone like Tristan going to show kids that he wants to play with them? Yes, he is learning social and emotional skills. But when Tristan gets overstimulated or overwhelmed, he begins flapping his hands and reciting the same phrases over and over again. A-typical kids do not understand these behaviors, among others, because they think and emote differently.
Tristan loves school. He loves it so much that when we’re bored on the weekends, he wants me to put his backpack on so he can wait for the bus (I take that as my cue to get off my butt and plan an outing).
But he doesn’t see what I see. Or does he? When I visited his class for a Holiday Craft Day last year, did he notice that he was the only one in the play area instead of doing crafts? Did Tristan see that all the parents avoided eye contact with his mom? Did he see the parents who chose to have their kids sit on the floor to do crafts instead of at our table with empty spots? What were those kids thinking? Did they see what happened too?
One parent even came over to our table because her child had chosen to play near Tristan. She didn’t say one word to me or sit down while he was playing near Tristan. Her child had given her an opening to start an important conversation and she chose to ignore someone in pain right in front of her instead.
I’m not trying to rip your heart to shreds with guilt or ask for pity. I’m asking you to be different. By helping your child to see that different isn’t bad, then the eleven year old boy in the news story WILL have friends or at least be given the chance. And hopefully Tristan will get that chance as well. Special needs kids will be given this wonderful chance to be included—if you help your kids move past the differences.
Stories like this (and the story that spurred this blog entry) make me wonder whether I would be different than those parents that ignored me if my kid was a-typical. If Tristan was “normal,” would I have been kind enough to give a hurting mom a smile and sit at her table? I’d like to think so, but I can’t know for sure. Having special needs kids has changed me. Shaped me. And I know I am a more understanding person because of these life-changing moments I’ve been granted. (And I’m not saying I am better than anyone else. I’m not. I have just been given a more in-depth orientation to kids like Tristan)
Because Tristan is a light. He (and his brother Graham) love things and relate to things in a way I never would have seen. They are sweet and funny and although some of their quirks drive me up the wall some days (like Tristan NOT going to sleep right now and making me turn his moon night light on for the 10th time…seriously, GO TO SLEEP, KID), I wouldn’t change them for the world. If more people can see past the differences, they too will see the light.
Be the light, everyone. Happy Friday. <3
Follow me on Instagram! I post photos of Tristan’s drawings (#TristanDraws) and other fun stuff!