Friendships can be so difficult for a child with Autism.
Often we’re caught struggling to balance his need for social interaction and his ability to handle it. We accept invitations for birthdays and gatherings, understanding that he will probably tune out the other kids a short while into the party and start to do his own thing.
At 14 he still does what child development specialists call “parallel play”, usually seen in toddlers and preschoolers.
He may start out kicking a ball around the yard with a group of kids, but end up kicking crabapples while the kids kick the ball. He still talks to them and plays as if he’s playing WITH them.
When it’s time to go home he’ll say they “Had so much fun playing ball!” For D1, the interaction often happens indirectly, or he will shift to indirect play midway through. With understanding friends (who have understanding parents), this is not a problem.
Every invitation to join in an activity creates a balancing of decisions to be weighed, one against another.
Does he really want to go, or does he only want to go because he feels like he can’t say ‘No’? Are they friends, or do they simply tolerate him? Some decisions are much easier than others, but even now most invitations still make it necessary for me to come along, if only just to monitor the situation so I can pull him out for a break if he needs one.
You see, my son isn’t always gentle.
He can be pretty demanding, especially if the other kids are playing a game that he knows the rules to. Because my boy is all ABOUT the RULES. My presence is as much for my son’s protection as it is to keep him from being overbearing and trying to boss everyone around. Thankfully, most of the time I can fade into the background or even just visit with the other moms and not need to be involved.
Autism is considered a communication disorder. Since many Autistic kids struggle with friendships, making eye contact, and interacting, these things are often mistaken for them not wanting to have friends. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Every child wants friends. They just need friends who can understand that they operate differently than typical kids do.
For more help with social skills as you enter the teen years, The Asperkid’s Secret Book of Social Rules is really helpful! Not JUST for kids with Asperger’s, this book addresses body language, innuendo and sarcasm and other subtle things that Spectrum kids don’t always pick up on.
Have you found ways or places where your child has been able to forge good friendships? Please share some tips!