Sitting among the group she silently watched while waiting with anticipation as invitations were distributed. Every girl received the coveted prize but her. In her mind she thought it was just a mistake so the conversation played out like this,
“I didn’t get my invitation.”
“I don’t have on for you.”
“Oh, well it’s ok, my mom can talk to your mom. She will say I can go.”
“Um, no, it’s ok”
“No, really, I don’t need an invitation. My mom will let me come if our moms talk.”
Other girl with great hesitation, “no, it’s okay.”
“Well, if you don’t want to invite me, just tell me. It’s ok. Just tell me.”
Exasperated, “No, I don’t have an invitation because you are not invited.”
Hearing about this situation was devastating for me. But not for my girl. Kids with autism seem to have a resilience to this type of behavior. However, life would be so much easier if people would just be honest and direct.
The above mentioned situation occurred between 5th graders. Exclusivity starts early. Yet, my girl didn’t mind terribly. Sure, it was a moment of sadness but It rolled off her back like it was just another fact she learned that day in school. The true difficulty is knowing how to read people’s faces, tones, and body language. Due to that difficulty, these kids just need direct answers. It is probably exhausting living around groups of people who you cannot understand.
The next year rolled around for the same girl’s birthday party. Over that next year, they became friends. Real friends. So naturally the invitation for the birthday party came to my sweet girl.
Now, confusion occurs again. This is the conversation that takes place.
“Mom, how do I know if she really wanted me at the party or she just invited me because of what happened last year?”
“Well, you have become closer friends this year, right?”
“Yes, but how can I tell?”
“Well, I will go to the party and watch. I will tell you if she truly wanted you there or not by what I see. However, I want you to watch too and think about how a friend should behave. I want you to tell me first if you think you were wanted there.”
This time she was wanted. It was good for me to observe so I could instruct through social situations that occurred. But it still doesn’t make it easier for her when she truly cannot tell.
We are now in the teen years. She has improved in her understanding through teaching but still struggles. Mean girls are sneakier in their attacks. It still occurs but now it is by text, or Instagram or some other form of social media. When I am told of certain things that happen these days, I get so angry. Why cannot people just be kind? My girl is. She desires to please God in all she does. She strives for it. She is constantly asking me if her behavior was kind because she cannot always tell. She desires it. But others out there are not safe.
I can learn a lot from my girl. She is so forgiving and loving. Though anxiety is high because she cannot correctly read peoples expressions, she persists to join in community life anyway. She is a joy. People love her because she is fun and kind but she usually cannot tell.
I do worry about the future and relationships. How will she know who is a true friend and who is a wolf in sheep’s clothes? Then I remember that God made her perfect the way she is so He will guard her. He will always help her navigate this in life. He will never leave or forsake her. He has a perfect plan for her life. He can lead and guide her better than I can. He holds her future in His hands. This helps me rest as I trust. However, while she is at home, I will instruct and teach all I can to help her.
This is just our story. I know each kid with autism is different. How has your experience been regarding social interactions and situations? What successes have occurred? What challenges? How can I pray?