Having friends who support me is wonderful.
But having friends who support my son with autism is invaluable.
I’m not hard to like. I’m not bragging. Honest! What I mean is, I generally don’t like conflict and want everyone to get along. I’m the person in the group who likes to laugh and tends to look on the bright side. I’m the person who makes sure everyone is included. Even as a child, if I saw a quiet kid in the corner, I’d go out of my way to ask them to join our group.
My son? Well, he’s a different sort of beast. I love him endlessly and, being his mother, I get his affection most often. But he can be a lot to handle. Having autism, he struggles to see other’s perspectives and can be singularly focused. He assumes if he is passionate about something, you must be too. He’s fiercely competitive and painstakingly hard on himself and others. As a sensory seeker, he physicalizes his emotions, sometimes pushing and shoving (conversely, also giving the greatest bear hugs).
In short, he can be hard to like. Don’t get me wrong. He has friends. He can be a lot of fun. He has a big presence that many kids are drawn to, but that same big presence can be scary if it’s misdirected and misunderstood.
He needs adults in his corner to help him navigate the social world, adults who support and appreciate him. As his school case coordinator told me recently, “He just needs to know there is always an adult in the building who believes in him.”
She and I are on a hugging basis now.
I realize how blessed I am to have a tribe of adults who genuinely love and support my son. A friend of his is a friend of mine.
Not all the adults in his life are supportive though. Some are naive and downright mean. My son has been shouted at, talked down to, and warned against socializing with to his peers. There are those who still believe it’s okay to be exclusive if a person doesn’t fit their ideal.
But there are so many who don’t prescribe to that “mean girl” mentality. And that’s who this post celebrates.
Case in point: this past Halloween, I received a call from my son’s school informing me that he was feeling sick. He was overwhelmed by the chaos of the day and knew, intuitively, the party and costume parade were going to be too much. He also revealed to me that the face paint on his peers’ faces made him feel nauseous. He literally couldn’t stand to look at them. He has always had an aversion to face paint, but it was pronounced this season.
My stomach dropped. Our neighbor (who is quickly becoming one of my closest friends), her husband, and their two kids traditionally went trick or treating with us.
This year, both of them were wearing face paint.
I had to make a hard choice. Force my son to face his fears, knowing a meltdown would likely occur, or let my friend know we couldn’t trick or treat with them this year, at the risk of hurting her feelings and our friendship.
I chose to tell her the situation, and she couldn’t have been more supportive. She let me know it was okay and that I shouldn’t feel bad at all. In fact, she inquired about him throughout the day to make sure he was feeling alright and still having a fun Halloween.
This might seem like a small moment, but it holds a big place in my heart.
My son had a great night because of a friend who had my back and my son’s back as well.
So thank you. I am fortunate to have quite a handful of people who support and genuinely love my son, and I don’t thank you enough.
And to those of you reading this who have children with special needs, I hope that you have at least one friend who is a champion for your child as well.
If not, I’m available.
Welcome to Voices of Special Needs Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from special needs bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Mommy Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about having a special needs kiddo — from Sensory Processing Disorder to ADHD, from Autism to Dyslexia! Want to join in on next month’s Voices of Special Needs Hop? Click here!