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The Relief, and Heartbreak, of Watching My Autistic Son Becoming More Socially Aware

motherson193My 6-year-old son spends many mornings singing and dancing around the house, mostly songs from the movie “Moana,” but also a little from “Coco,” a random spiritual (“I’ve Got Peace Like a River”) and Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.”

He also loves ballet, although I have a hunch that he’s mostly drawn to the tutus and the way the dancers twirl. One of his favorite videos features ballerinas wearing LED lights. My son, who is autistic, loves what makes him happy, and swishy tutus and dancing lights make him happy.

So I was a little surprised one morning recently, before summer dance camp, when he stopped me: “Will my friends make fun of me?” I turned to look at him. “No,” I assured him, my voice confident. “They won’t make fun of you.”

My son is at an age when many typically developing 6-year-olds are become intensely interested in their peers, often preferring same-sex friends as they forge bonds over similar interests. For typically developing children, belonging and fitting in is important at my son’s age.

But my son doesn’t really have any friends except for his much-adored 4-year-old brother. He sometimes watches the neighborhood kids with curiosity. But I’ve never really heard or observed any yearning from him about being included or excluded. Until now.

Excerpted from “The relief, and heartbreak, of watching my autistic son becoming more socially aware” in On Parenting, a twice weekly newsletter on modern parenting published by The Washington Post.  Author Jackie Spinner is an associate professor of journalism at Columbia College Chicago and the parent of an autistic son.

Source: The Washington Post | The relief, and heartbreak, of watching my autistic son becoming more socially aware, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting/wp/2018/08/23/mommy-will-my-friends-make-fun-of-me | © 2018 The Washington Post

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