Play dates, birthday parties, sports and days in the park are supercharged with emotion for me. Emotions like; fear, embarrassment, frustration, loss and sadness, because these are the places where I can’t hide from autism and we are among strangers. These are the places where, as he stands next to other children, it is so apparent that he is not the same. These are the places where I feel like a GIANT MAGNIFYING GLASS is hovering over his head, following him and making his challenges stand out larger than life. These are the places where his differences and not his wonders seem to stand out so much. These are the places where I can’t hide from what he is not, and these are the places where I most feel his loss. These are the places where I know he doesn’t really have any friends and I am reminded that he will probably never marry or enjoy intimate relationships with people. This is where I most feel the loss of a so called “
The kids are not sure what to do, and the parents, even the ones who are trying really hard to be nice, are afraid. Some kids try to play with Nicky, some just stare and others even ask me what is wrong or why he does what he does. For the most part the kids are curious and cautious. So often I find that if I talk to the children and explain "Nicky" they say "Okay" and they try and play with him. Occasionally there are kids who don't want to play and they also don't want their friends to play, but I usually take the approach that those kids simply did not want to play with Nicky and that had little to do with autism.
At one point it was failed play dates that could have driven me into isolation with Nicky. I was so tired of feeling other peoples fear, frustration and my embarrassment that I just wanted to be around people who understood. It felt so good to be around people who were non judgmental and forgiving – but deep inside I knew that was not what was best for Nicky.
Playdates in the clinic – Oh how I longed for the safety of a therapy room. The security of only having my child play with other developmentally disabled children, because the parents were more forgiving…because we all had more to forgive. In this safe environment, all the moms and dad’s smile and say it’s okay when they hear that your child did “whatever” that injected havoc in the group. We all smile and console one anther because every parent knows that any day it could be their child that created “the issue”. We are very gracious to one another on the days that it’s someone else’s child who is at the center of the day’s challenges. For me, I am just so relieved and happy not to be the parent getting the update on how my child hit, kicked, bit, pinched, or freaked out, it’s easy to take the high ground. So, in this safe haven, it’s true that our children are still in a clinical environment, they don’t have much in the way of typical peers to model, but they are safe and it was a trade I was willing to make – for both of us – for a long time.
- Learn how to manage my own frustration around Nicky’s behavior
- Get help with outings from local agencies if necessary
- Take family members along for moral support when needed