I remember the days when I would drive out of my way to avoid Sydney seeing a park. The sight of a park would spark screeching, screams, and a tantrum. This was before she had the language to express that she wanted to go to the park.
If we went to the park. It would be at 7:00 am when it was empty. It really wasn’t fun for Harrison. As much as he loved exploring the park. He really was bored.
The moment that I saw another car drive up. I would feel a knot in my stomach. Please don’t let them come to the swings. Please let them go on the walking trail. Please don’t let them have a dog. Please don’t let them ask me what is wrong with Sydney. Please don’t.
When the other normal families joined us at the park. I never sat down. Harrison would run off and play with the other children. He would look back at me for the okay nod and smile. I wanted him to interact with other children. It was my job to chase after Sydney. At least she wasn’t throwing rocks at the other children like this kid was doing at the park. You call that normal. Then I guess we will be just fine.
A few weeks ago Sydney asked me to stop at the park in our development. It was nice out and I thought why not. When we pulled into the parking lot. I noticed a few families. I set the timer for 30 minutes and we were off.
I did my best to back off and give Syd her space. She was having fun. She would look at me and say, “This is awesome.” There were three girls about her age that joined us at the park. Sydney kept watching them. I could tell that she wanted to go over to them.
I heard her say “Hello”, “Hi,”, “YooHoo”. But still no answer from the girls. My ghetto switch flipped for thirty seconds. What kind of parents do these kids have? Don’t they know how to speak when someone says hello? I was digging my shoes in the dirt. But I probably looked like a bull getting ready to charge. The way my foot was swinging back and forth.
Sydney tried her best to get the girls attention. I head her say Sydney and they didn’t acknowledge her at all. My heart sank. I fought back tears and I felt so bad for Sydney.
She wasn’t yelling, grunting or having a tantrum. She was trying to join the group to play. She wanted to be included and not play in isolation.
What did I learn from this encounter? I learned that Sydney might be alone and not included in social situations. I realized that I won’t always be there to help Sydney. If I wasn’t there, would she have kept trying to talk to the girls? I will never know.
I am not sure if I could have handled the situation differently. I know that I am proud of Sydney for trying to make a friend. Not a friend for life. Just a friend to play with for 30 minutes.
The social part of autism is hard. As Sydney gets older I can only imagine what it will be like for her. I worry about high school. I worry about her 8th grade formal. I worry. I worry. I worry. She might not always be able to make a new friend. Sydney knows that her family and our friends love her. I guess that is all that really matters.