How can you tell when your children’s friends are actually being friendly or more foe-like? Parents of all children know how hard the challenges of negotiating cliques, bullying, and manipulation of their kids by other kids can be. Parenting a child on the spectrum or a child who has difficulty making friends makes this situation even trickier. Sharing information with a parent is at a bare minimum. Knowledge of the social scene is even less.
With our younger son (who is not on the spectrum), I find by being available to talk about his friends’ intentions, I can usually prevent some troublesome situations. I can help him prepare words to say or actions take if he has shared anticipated situations with me.
One of our hopes for our other son (with Asperger’s and ADHD) as parents four years ago when he he was in first grade was to have him make a friend or two. Not as easy as one might think. For the child with sensory issues, negative behaviors, or poor social skills, it is almost impossible. Combine that with the child’s lack of another’s perspective and other parents’ ignorance, there are few play dates. (It has taken about four years, some coaching and now he does have one or two nice friends that come over to play occasionally.)
But there are no birthday invites, no sleep overs, and rarely someone to return his calls. He wants to have more friends. He just doesn’t understand how to be a friend. He doesn’t understand his actions often turn people away. As a parent, it is really getting difficult to explain to him why this is so. He can’t grasp the concept of other people’s thoughts.
Thus, I was very surprised to see two young men from his grade show up at our house the other day to ask my son to skateboard with them. They have never had him over or invited him to any parties and according to my son; they do not play with him at recess. So why were they here today, I wondered. In spite of my misgivings, I encouraged my son to go with them to skate. He did and they soon returned with my son generously giving them a new sheet of plywood he had just gotten to build his latest backyard project.
I was disappointed, but it was his choice to give away his stuff. The other boys had promised him they would build him a skateboard. My son believes them. My son thinks they are his friends. Unfortunately, I doubt it.