With helmet on, Declan looked to the ground, hands clutching the handlebars of his scooter. I walked next to him as he gently coaxed his scooter forward.
As we maneuvered down the street, a group of children passed us. One held a radio in her hand with music blaring. The children were running and laughing together. When they got to another child’s lawn a few houses ahead, they stopped and began to dance.
Seeing the children around him, Declan smiled and began to scooter a little faster. As the children stopped, Declan stopped in realization and frowned.
He dropped his scooter to the ground and turned to me. His face fell and tears began to form
“I am so mad at myself,” he said as he began to take his helmet off. “Because I want to play with them, but I can’t. It never goes well, and we fight. They don’t like to play with me.”
My heart broke. I didn’t want him to feel that way.
I had seen him try to play with the kids before and he was right. It never went well. Declan confused a social situation and easily frustrated. There would be little understanding or flexibility on either end. I would always end up bringing Declan home, in tears.
I have always wanted Declan to find success in social situations. I know how bad he wants to have friends and to play. For him to be understood and for everyone to be flexible.
Then, one afternoon Declan’s eager face appeared before me, practically falling out of his school bus.
“Timmy’s mom wants me to come over to play with Timmy,” he rushed, “I have a note!”
As I unpacked his book bag, I found it. A perfect note asking if Declan was free to play at Timmy’s house with an email address to arrange a meeting.
I had met Timmy when I volunteered in Declan’s classroom. A happy child, completely in love with Star Wars. No doubt driving Declan’s new-found love for Star Wars as well.
I smiled, Declan and I hugged. Declan was going to have his first play date!
As I arranged the get together, I wondered if Timmy or his mom knew Declan was on the autism spectrum. My husband and I know Declan can have problems in social situations and sometimes needs a little coaching so, we decided to tell her and ask to have the boys get together at our house.
If, when, what, how – these are all questions that come to my mind when I am thinking about telling someone Declan is on the autism spectrum.
I have no shame in saying Declan is on the spectrum. I am very proud of him. It’s just, how much do I need to explain? Does the person know about the autism spectrum? How much? And does that really explain all of Declan?
Saying Declan is on the autism spectrum and sometimes has a hard time in social situations requiring a little guidance doesn’t cover all of Declan. He is also a very kind boy. Very honest, loyal and smart. Declan craves sensory input. Declan likes to repeat things he hears, or scripts. He jumps a lot and shakes his head to stim. He has trouble sleeping and needs some sleep aids. Declan can be easily frustrated. He wants to play with other kids but sometimes has a hard time being flexible.
Declan wants a friend and to be a friend.
The best part of all of this? Timmy knows these things about Declan and can’t wait to come over and play with his friend, Declan. Declan is beside himself in excitement – and I am so happy for him!
You can learn more about Robyn on her blog ‘Autism in my Nest’.