One of the Boy’s biggest problem areas at school is playtime. This isn’t surprising as the playground is crowded and noisy – not to mention the unpredictability of unstructured play which autistic children struggle to cope with. He is a sociable child, it’s just that he struggles with the social rules that govern our society especially those which are unwritten.
Last Thursday we learned he’d had a ‘tricky’ afternoon. He’d been throwing stuff and pushing tables over in the classroom. There was no obvious reason for his behaviour, as is often the case. As usual I worried because this kind of behaviour tells me something is wrong. There’s always a reason for challenging behaviour so we tried to talk to The Boy about what had upset him but within seconds he started screeching like an owl so knew we left it. However, the following day we had our answer…
The Boy has been friends with a boy in his class and for the last few months it’s been ALL about this child. However, we were informed last week that the child’s parents had been into school to make a complaint against our son. They said their son had gone home saying that The Boy had hurt him at playtime. What their son didn’t tell them was that he (along with another child) provoked a reaction from The Boy by deliberately and repeatedly poking him. The reason The Boy had a meltdown in the classroom was because he was responding to what had happened on the yard. Unable to verbalize how he felt, he reacted in the only way he knows how and that’s to lash out.
All complaints are taken seriously by the school and an investigation took place. Witnesses said The Boy had been provoked and reacted to it.
I managed a small conversation with The Boy and he simply said his friend had ‘kicked him out of his group’ and told him he didn’t want to be his friend anymore.
My heart sank as all parent’s hearts sink when their child is ostracized in this manner.
Children fall in and out of friendships and there is nothing unusual about that but it’s no secret that The Boy has autism and there’s always a niggle of doubt about parents not wanting their children to have a friendship with him. This isn’t me being neurotic. The ‘niggles’ aren’t unfounded as it’s already happened with a parent who stopped talking to me as soon as I told her The Boy had been diagnosed with autism. The next day she looked straight through me as if I wasn’t there and after a few days of the same treatment it finally dawned on me why she was blanking me. It was the autism.
Is that what’s happened here? I don’t know. I do accept that I am overly sensitive at the best of times but, in my mind, most boys of this age will have scuffles on the playground and several times a week at that. Whatever The Boy did on the yard wasn’t considered serious enough for parents to be informed as is the policy when one child significantly hurts another yet these parents felt it necessary to complain so, yes, I can’t help but wonder why.
My son doesn’t instigate. He’s not vindictive nor a bully but he does react when provoked and I don’t blame him. All I can do is try and encourage him to walk away next time but as any autism parent knows, this is an impossible ask.
The loss of this friendship was a big deal for him but it explains the recent decline in his behaviour at school and at home. Had it not been for the child’s parents going in to complain we may still be wondering what the problem is so, in that respect, they did us a favour though I can’t help but wonder how it felt for them to learn that their son wasn’t the victim at all. That, actually, he was the instigator.
Children of this age normally drift in and out of friendships. Most parents will have experienced the ‘friends one minute and falling out the next’ only to be the best of friends again a few day later but from experience, I know that some autistic children are unable to forgive as easily as a neurotypical child and incidents are rarely forgotten. They remain in their memories for the rest of their lives.
Friendship is a difficult area for autistic people. Some make friends easily but struggle to maintain friendships. Others struggle to make friends in the first place. The Boy makes friends easily enough but there does seem to be difficulty in maintaining those friendships. Some children are unable to deal with his mood swings and steer clear of him. Sometimes he drifts in and out of friendships mostly because a child isn’t willing to play games on his terms, as is common in autism.
Those children who understand his autism (thanks to understanding parents) take it in their stride. They know he has meltdowns and why he has them and they don’t make a massive deal about it. They focus on the part of him that makes them want to be his friend in the first place. Those are the friends he needs.
We’re all social beings – even us misfits – and that’s why you’ll find us lurking on the internet where we can feel that we belong because people speak our language. Even I, Mrs Misfit of Misfitington, have a deep seated need to fit into this world in some meaningful way. It’s primeval instinct, after all.
All I want is for my son to feel that he belongs here because we all belong here. God willing, there will always be a special friend who will watch his back as well as their own.
“Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.
“Pooh!” he whispered.
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”~ A.A Milne
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