Be careful what you wish for

November 5, 2009 at 5:21 am 7 comments

     C has a friend. A best friend. A boy who shares his fanatical interests in silly noises and Mario. They talk on the phone endlessly, trade houses for playdates, and send each other notes home in their school folders. I’m so happy I could cry. It’s wonderful, really, that C finally has a real friend, and when he talks, it’s all “T” all the time.

     Yet with this grand first friendship unfortunately comes a grand drawback. Before C came along, T was inseparable with “R” for many years. Now R is on the outs. Worse, R has an autism diagnosis. Worst, C has never excluded anyone from anything. Until now.

     C and T are doing the usual when three’s a crowd; they are ganging up against the third. Yes, you heard right, my own sweet special needs boy is participating in the unhappiness of another special needs child. It’s not all the time as there are times at school when the three interact nicely together, but R has clearly been replaced in T’s world. C doesn’t know R has autism, and C doesn’t know he himself has autism. What C knows, I believe, is that for the first time ever, he has a best friend, and it feels good. I can’t begrudge him that.

     I suppose most parents would either ignore the behavior or talk generally with their child about being kind to everyone, and the behavior would continue or it would not. Neither of those options work for me. Given my natural protectiveness of children with special needs, I’m not sure which is more painful to me: that this particular child is being hurt or that it’s my child who is partly responsible for the hurting. I simply can’t just ignore the behavior, no matter how much I’d like to say this behavior is a natural part of growing up. C has been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior far too much to simply let it go when it comes from him. And talking generally with C about being kind is never going to sink in to the point he realizes I’m talking about how he treats R.

     So I had to go for something more dramatic, something C would not confuse or only partially hear. I pretty much read him the riot act, complete with telling C he wouldn’t be allowed to play with T on the weekends anymore if the two of them couldn’t figure out a way to be kind to R. I reminded C that he too had been left out of groups and how upset he was by it.

     What I realized, unfortunately too late, is that this approach didn’t work either. It became painfully obvious, after a particularly unproductive, mostly one-sided conversation, that I had blown it completely. C had no real idea what I was talking about. I figured on some level he knew he was being unkind, but he really didn’t. It simply did not occur to C that R was hurt. And that is what broke my heart most of all.

Entry filed under: autism. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

This writer is blocked To all the girls he’s loved before…

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. goodfountain  |  November 5, 2009 at 6:15 am

    😦 I wish had some suggestions, but I don’t. The only thing I can think of is to somehow get C to understand that R is feeling the way C has felt many times before.

    Or maybe this is one of those things C will have to realize on his own. There were times in my life, as a child, that I was unkind and I’m not sure that anything would have changed save for my own a-ha moment.

  • 2. therocchronicles  |  November 5, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Heartbreaking I know. It’s wonderful that he’s making a friend, terrible that he is leaving someone else out in the process. I think so many of these social things are a learned art for these kids and I know that with the Roc sooo much of what he learns is through repetition. Maybe over time repetition of what you tell him, through stories, and these hurtful situations being pointed out in books, movies, real life, etc it will take hold in his mind.

    Are you friends with the other child’s mother? Could you speak with her to devise a plan to get them all together?

    Probably a situation you didn’t think you would be in right? They sure keep us on our toes!

  • 3. therocchronicles  |  November 5, 2009 at 8:44 am

    Oh, and I wanted to say that while it hurts that he didn’t realize he was being hurtful that is better than him being deliberately, willfully hurtful. He is not a mean spirited child and just needs to be taught the skills of friendship.

  • 4. aspieteach  |  November 5, 2009 at 11:20 am

    I’ve been reading Odd Girl Out, which is about relational aggression in girls but also focuses on how easy it is to go between being on the giving and the receiving end of social aggression.

    C probably has no ill will towards R and is just too busy building his friendship skills with T to see what he’s doing. You could try to teach C how activities can work with more than 2 people, but he probably needs to get over the initial thrill stage of his friendship with T first. 🙂

  • 5. robinaltman  |  November 5, 2009 at 6:57 pm

    This is so painful to read, yet I am filled with admiration for the way you dealt with this with C. I’ve gotta say, I think you did the right thing, even if he didn’t get it. C is a great, sweet, wonderful kid. Even great, sweet, wonderful kids need to be taught how to be “nice” (grown up definition, that is). Eventually, they internalize it. But the first step is parents legislating proper behavior. I applaud you.

  • 6. Angie  |  November 10, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    This was a great post…one of your best. Sorry to hear how tough the situation is though…

  • 7. Sheila  |  January 25, 2010 at 6:57 am

    Maybe C thinks that it’s his turn to have a friend like T, especially since R already had a chance with T.

    He probably rationalizes in his mind that R will get another turn at having a friend someday in the future.

    Meanwhile it’s only natural that C is going to relish all he can for now, even if it means keeping R out of the picture.


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