We know that our eldest child, the one who has autism, really doesn’t have any friends. Honestly he has just one. A boy, very similar to himself whose family we know. It’s very unfortunate that they do not go to the same school and only see each other some weekends.
But knowing he has issues with social interactions and seeing for myself are two completely different things.
The other night I watched him for a few minutes in his hip hop class. He has come a long way, following along and not getting overwhelmed by the music and moving mass of kids. He impressed me with his dance moves. Watching that part of the class, and you would never know… yet it was impossible for me not to notice him in the downtime, the moments of instruction or waiting his turn.
He stood to the side. Looking at anything but the other people. Staring into space. Not as relaxed as he tried to appear. Apart from the others.
It was a small moment, but it pierced me. I began to question the wisdom of putting him in the class. He enjoys it but does not love it. We want him to have these opportunities but I wonder, at what cost to him? How much does he understand? We know that the older he grows, the more he “gets” it, but I honestly don’t know how he feels about it.
Some days he talks about wishing he had more friends, more people to hang out with on the weekends. But most of the time, he operates without seeming to need that social connection.
It breaks my heart every time we do something as a family and he hangs back, chilling in his room or the basement. I know that to a point that is stereoptypical teenage behaviour but still… I want to connect more with him.
And seeing him in a group of age-peers like that, standing to one side, not connected with any of them, drives it home. That he does not connect on a level that we understand. No matter how much we can wish it away, or try to change it, that is who he is. It will never diminish our love for him.