In some ways, we have been fortunate as some neighbors invited Gracie to their kids Birthday Parties. We’ve had a few play dates with some of our neighbors. And while we are really glad for these things, they ultimately only served to give Gracie the illusion of “friends.”
My heart breaks in 10,000 pieces for this little girl who’s extremely extroverted and the only things she’s wanted since she was turning 2, was friends, friends, and more friends.
Over the last few years, despite having a neighborhood full of kids who’s parents shun Gracie for being different (because she’s Autistic), we’ve tried everything to develop some friends for Gracie. We’ve gone to play places, and made play dates, we’ve even tried to form an ongoing playgroup.
Thankfully, a friend formed an Autistic Playgroup, which we are so happy Gracie’s made a couple friends, for which we are eternally grateful. But why did it take Autistic’s to be “kind”?
Gracie makes fast friends, she’s super social…and so there’s nothing about Gracie’s abilities for friendships that’s in her way.
But wherever we go, whatever we do…there’s always that “difference,” that others use to shun sweet little Gracie. Whether it’s because she spins or flaps on occasion, or her cute literal-isms, who knows.
We’ve had doctors refuse to treat her Scarlet Fever (resulting in knee pain and increased struggles to walk as well as PANDAS) chalking up her medical symptoms to her Autism.
Gracie was kicked out of Community Education Ballet Class (for 2-3 year olds), this year early in class, in front of everyone….despite being one of the better behaved children, and being one of the only ones who could follow instructions, and then asked not to come back solely because she’s autistic.
And our neighborhood full of kids, girls, her age have been shunning her all along…because she’s different, aka, because she’s Autistic.
She faces it at school, and in services, and literally in EVERY aspect of her life.
Many parents struggle with how to deal with this, however, we’ve chosen to be honest and upfront about it. Oddly enough, it actually helps her to understand it. Never did I expect or anticipate that I’d have to tell a 2 year old that so and so wouldn’t let their kid play with you because you’re autistic, or when she clearly understood that she had behaved perfectly and the inherent unfairness of it all, a 3 year old, that the ballet teacher singled her out because she was Autistic…or how the world expects MORE from Autistics, and that Autistics just have to DO and BE way better than everyone else in order to have a chance at being included. But I really never expected that I’ve have to tell a 4 year old that her friends (the ones who had previously included her), weren’t coming to her party because their parents didn’t want their kids to hang out with her…because she’s Autistic. Especially after we’ve put off a birthday party for her for 2 years, and when we finally felt she had enough friends to invite agreed to let her have one….when Gracie planned who to invite, painted their invitations, put them in envelopes, took them to the post office and bought her stamps, put them on, gave them to the postal worker and asked her to please mail them; and the umpteen days since then that she’s been talking about it nonstop….and working daily to help make things for their take home bags. She’s DEVASTATED.
How do you tell your child that people suck…that they don’t mind destroying sweet little kids like her, JUST because she’s different???
Do they really think that if they ignore she exists, and that a child in their neighborhood is suffering, that she will just go away????
Do they think that their kids don’t SEE Gracie and desire to play with Gracie…or won’t ultimately find out how disgustingly discriminatory their parents are??? Kids get what adults don’t, their kids will get it…and that’s something you don’t live down easily. Like the next door neighbor’s grandkids who bang on the window for over half an hour begging to play with Gracie…to the point that their grandma got a puppy and named it Gracie hoping to get the kids to quit asking to play with the Autistic Child next door. The kids get the cold emptiness in their adults hearts.
Ultimately, we want to teach Gracie the 70’s value of inclusion….we want her to understand why we include all the children on the playground. It’s just unfortunate that she has to feel the pain of not-being included, to really get that. To me, it’s not an option…you include everyone, and you find a way to make it work. Those are the skills you need to develop (and hopefully develop as children) that you need to create a world that works for everyone.
Sometimes people mistakenly assume our lives are so easy, just because we don’t wear our pain on the outside and tend to focus on the positive. But it just crushes my soul that people, that grown adults, are so petty as to hurt a child by excluding them.