Wednesday, 4 May 2016

What Do You Mean, Kids With Autism Don't Have Friends?

This week a parent passed on a message which really surprised me.  She'd been speaking to different groups about treatment options for her child with autism and one of them told her not to get her expectations up too much, that even if her child received treatment, he would always be different and wouldn't have friends.

Excuse me?

Immediate launch of the defensive mom on my part.  I explained that while, yes, kids with autism are usually still different, that doesn't preclude them having friends.  It takes more effort and they will likely require some specialized coaching (as well as prompting the friends to understand) but that doesn't mean friendship is impossible.

Alex has a number of friends, despite being relatively severe on the autism spectrum.  Granted, those friendships may not be what I would look for, but he has a classmate who shares his love of OC Transpo and they spend hours reciting bus schedules at each other.  They're having fun and I see it as the equivalent of two kids discussing Skylanders or Pokemon.  It's a mutual interest.

Nathan has a harder time with friendships, as most of his friends are neurotypical.  I have to prompt him about what is appropriate behaviour with a friend (curling up to read a book while a friend is on a playdate, not appropriate, building Lego together, appropriate).  But he is learning and enjoys spending time with his friends.

I do know a few kids on the spectrum who are completely uninterested in social interaction, but they are also incredibly happy being on their own.  There's a huge range and while it may take time to see where any particular child is, there are options.

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