I think I’ve mentioned this before. I have very little experience with other children. This rare interaction with others leaves me insulated, without a comparison meter for my own son. I’m okay with that. I can live a fairly happy life without the inevitable comparisons that would occur were I to see neurotypical (NT) kids his age day in and day out. I’m pretty sure now, that I would be extremely depressed if I was regularly exposed to these little NT kids on any type of regular basis.
My group of friends with kids is rather limited. Truthfully, I only see two other mothers regularly, one of which is the mother of another child on the spectrum. She has given me immeasurable guidance from the time we first received the diagnosis and is one of the smartest and nicest people I know.
The other is my son’s friend “B”’s mom. B is a quiet boy and, like my son, pretty happy whenever I see him. He is also exceedingly patient with my little boy whenever they are together. B’s mom is equally kind and thoughtful.
I do have other friends most either have no children or their own children are grown and gone. One of those friends, Lisa, has a two year old grandchild. She helped me tremendously when my mother was ill. Lisa has known my son all his life and accepted his diagnosis of autism without so much as the blink of the eye. She’s actually watched the little guy at his preschool before ABA started and after the bad nanny left.
Lisa has a grandson. A little boy she adores. We’ll call him Sammy. Sammy lives very far away. She speaks often about how she gets to Skype with Sammy and how much she loves and dotes on him. I’ve seen the pictures and, in real life, truly, the boy is adorable.
Well, Sammy came to visit Lisa. He is just two years old and tiny by comparison with my son. She promised to bring Sammy by so I could meet him. True to her word, on Friday afternoon, she dropped by with her husband (equally as sweet) and Sammy.
I had been feeling pretty good about my son’s progress. He is about to start play dates in preparation for kindergarten. He’s been working on play skills. He’s talking more in social skills class and speech and at preschool.
So. In walks Sammy. All less than 3 feet and maybe 25 pounds of him. He’s carrying a blue balloon. Without hesitation, he walks directly up to me and hands me his balloon, trying to give it to me. Precious.
Okay – I think a lot of you know where I’m going with this one. Sammy makes eye contact with me. This freaks me out a little. I mean, come on! He’s barely two. I think my own kid was Sammy’s size straight out of the womb. I felt almost like I was in one of those Look Who’s Talking movies.
Next, Sammy says hi to my son. Really? What the hell? Uh, Tootles, say hi to Sammy. “Hi Tootles,” my son says. No, no. Say hi to Sammy. “Hi Tootles!” he says again. Sammy heads straight for the toys that were out. Tootles was in his ABA session and the tutor simply turned the session into a little mini playdate. She was prompting language. Not between both of them – for my son…
Sammy started playing with a battery-operated garbage truck called Stinky. My son played too. They seemed quite happy together for about 10 seconds. Then, my son backed off. Sammy expressed an interest in a plastic raceway set on the floor in a plastic container. Sammy opened it. My son took out a section. Sammy asked the therapist to build it. Lisa encouraged him to ask properly so he added the “please”.
Sammy eagerly watched the therapist attempt to build it. My son held his piece of the track and looked at it. My son did not make eye contact with anyone. He did not really speak.
While they “played”, Lisa attempted to talk to me about Sammy’s itinerary. He is such a sweet boy and so articulate that I thought it would be nice if the boys could play again (i.e. if my son could learn from this kid half his age). It looks as though they might be able to return.
Lisa was in a hurry because they were meeting someone for lunch. They left. My son had to be prompted repeatedly to say goodbye. A few times he said goodbye to himself, much the same way he’d said hello.
This was a hard blow to me. It kills me to see a child half my son’s size, weight and age, with constant eye contact, communication, articulation and relevance. It hurt. Bad.
It was five minutes or less. It showed me too much. Too many differences. It was like a strong light shined on something I did not want to see.
Yes, that’s the real world. A world that passes my son by at a lightening rate of speed. One in which he tunes out to observer in place of participant. A world where he goes quiet. A world that I had successfully avoided for the most part, until yesterday.
My tutor understood. She encouraged me that my son will get there and that we are well on our way. I wished I could muster up that kind of positive spin on it. We’re on our way to social skills of a two year old. Instead, I feel helpless to help my son play like others, to speak up at appropriate times, to express his feelings. I can only watch him retreat and cry inside as his mama.
Please Lord, let him master this skill. He needs this. He needs to catch up. Even if it is not time now for the answer to this prayer, please give me the strength to support and nurture him as I should to help him through the days that will come.