One of the hallmarks of autism is a deficit in social skills. Children with autism have difficulty making conversation, understanding social cues, and establishing friendships with their peers. They tend to prefer the company of adults rather than children their own age, perhaps because adult’s behavior is more predictable than a child’s, and adults are more likely to be understanding and accommodating of their disability.
As Jill noted in her post, parents of autistic children can sometimes push their children into social situations or into working on these skills in therapy settings. Sometimes, as in the case of Jill’s son, we are able to get to a place of acceptance where we just don’t want to push the square peg in the round hole anymore. But my daughter seems to love being around other children. She just lacks the tools to communicate age-appropriately, and has difficulty following the play schemes of typical children. So we continue to work on it. I’ve enlisted the help of some typical peers, or “rent-a-friends” as I call them, to have play dates that are supervised by a therapist. Audrey loves it and it has helped her immeasurably, both by having a therapist present to prompt her through appropriate interaction and by having a typical child’s play skills to model.
Outside of these somewhat pre-fab social situations, Audrey has shown some improvement in her social interaction. But if we are in a situation where there are both typical and special needs kids, she seems to gravitate to her own tribe. Which is sort of surprising. If predictability and a small sensory footprint is the goal, then her fellow autism peeps would seem to be a bad choice. But she must recognize something of herself that attracts her to them. We parents like to talk about our own version of gay-dar, ASDar, in recognizing our fellow spectrum moms and kiddos when we are out in the community, and Audrey seems to share that ability.
In the future, Audrey can make her own way and decide for herself who to forge friendships with. Or not. In some ways I think who better to have as friends than others with autism? They certainly should be forgiving of each other’s idiosyncrasies. I’ve proposed establishing a group home for our kids and have several takers already: the Alpha Sigma Delta fraternity/sorority house. Who’s in?
Lynn Hudoba is the mother of a beautiful and amazing 6 year old girl who happens to have autism. She loves to write letters, emails, texts, tweets, memoirs, and blog posts at My Life As An Ungraceful, Unhinged, and Unwilling Draftee Into the Autism Army.
What does your child do? Gravitate towards adults? Gravitate towards their own tribe or something else?/em>