I just read an article this morning about a mother who was very distressed, angry, and saddened by the fact that her 7 year old child on the Autism Spectrum was not invited to a birthday party. He was the only child in the whole neighborhood that was not invited, even though they all played together in the same neighborhood playgroup.
As I read it, my heart bled. I am sure that we can all feel this pain. The social/emotional gap between typical children and those on the autism spectrum is wide indeed. A doctor once told me that children are the best diagnosticians in the world, and when you watch a group of them, the odd child will always stand out alone.
So we cry, feel sorry for ourselves and for our child, and become indignant with a “soap box” reaction, feeling that we must go on a mission to educate those ignorant of social disabilities. These are all normal reactions of course, however, after all these negative feelings have passed, what can we do in the here and now for our child in a practical sense?
I was very impressed by the helpful answer to this predicament. The answer was to be proactive in this situation by being prepared with other plans. For instance: The suggestion was made to have plans ready BEFORE the party, simply inviting the child that is having the party to a private celebration, such as going to a favorite restaurant that both would have fun at and having plenty of parental supervision. A “one on one” type playgroup instead of a large group where our child will surely stand out. This great idea not only protects the child’s dignity and self esteem but it also gives an opportunity for education by assimilation, giving the other child and parent an occasion to broaden a greater understanding of Autism Spectrum and the social/emotional challenges that are a huge part of this disorder.
We may feel that we should not have to go to these lengths and that people should be more open minded, educated, and considerate. The fact is, yes, they should be and this would be wonderful if these attitudes were prevalent. However, this is not the case and we are our child’s parent. We accepted that parental role with the true honor of “protector” of our child. In order to be accomplished in our honorary title, we must make extraordinary efforts to protect the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of our child. This is not a simple task either, especially protecting our child’s emotional wellbeing. Keep in mind though, if we do not protect their self esteem and dignity…No one else will!
Let’s arm ourselves my fellow parents with a positive and defensive wall of protection for our kids. Thus, by so doing, we rise above the negative and dwell on a positive direction of promoting awareness. Just remember the old saying, “More flies are gathered by honey than with vinegar” and no one wants to listen to us if our words are sour. It may take more work and effort on our part, but our children are definitely worth it!