This weekend I have been having a little wobble, that doesn’t happen too much these days. My son and I have got into our little groove with home education and relating well together, the pattern of the week and understanding for each other, everything is good or so I thought. Then one sentence from my son in the car on the way to his Dad’s house saddened and unsettle me.
“Mum did you realise I have no friends now, not even one?”
That one sentence was like a spear to the heart. It’s not that he seemed upset or sorry for himself it was just a statement and somehow that made it feel worse. Probably the fact I lost a long term friend to cancer a few months ago made it sting more too, I felt his lacking of someone reflecting mine.
It would be easy for me (or others) to blame the fact he no longer goes to school but in truth school became so stressful for him that although he was in the presence of other children he couldn’t interact with them at all for the last 6 months there And then he couldn’t attend at all. He then moved on to an forest school interventions service was unable to even let a single child near him for the few months he was there. No if anything school broke him socially at least for a while.
When he first stopped going he still had contact with some of his friends from two of the schools he had previously attended as unlike many autistic children, he found it pretty easy to get friends, mostly because he was always lucky enough to be taken under the wing of a more outgoing child which brought him an ‘in.’ He did however once tell me he had no idea how to actively make friends and that he just waited around until someone approached him. There were also problems at times, especially as he got older, he found it hard when others wanted to play their game of choice in the playground and like to take control. He also went through a stage of being bullied and has never felt comfortable having other children in his space but he was generally liked over all. As he got older however I did notice that it was harder for him to maintain friendships.
When he had to come out of school 3 years ago, he did keep these couple of friends, though after diagnoses he had lost a couple of others because parents just seem to back off, all I can put it down to, as nothing else had changed, was that they didn’t like the fact he was now known to be autistic. It was sad but he had other friends with less judgemental parents. For a while I organised trips out with these kids but as they got moulded by secondary school and made new friends my son seemed to have less and less in common with them. He also found it hard to see them regularly, there is only so much socialising he can take at a time. A couple of months ago after repeated invites it became obvious the last of these friends had dropped away despite huge efforts on my part to keep it going.
I have suggested home ed groups or hobby groups to my son, but he doesn’t cope well in groups, I have received invites from parents of other autistic kids to try a meet up one to one but my son says he wants to choose his own friends. I do find it painful to see him without a friend and hard not to push him but then I am a highly social person and human relationships are what makes me tick. My son makes a good a loyal friend but he appreciates his space more than I do and seemly needs less social interaction (or perhaps can only cope with a small amount ) but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want or need friends.
I have been practicing trusting my son to step forward at his own pace and do what he needs to do when he is ready in all areas. I am simply there to facilitate it as soon as he does in any way I can. Really I am sure he will do the same here, one day it will either bother him enough not having friends to step out of his comfort zone to meet some or his pursuit of an interest will put friends in his path eventually however I hate to think of him currently friendless. All humans need other humans to a greater or lesser extent. I remind myself he has me, he has his Dad and uncle and he regularly texts one of his cousins and occasionally sees other family members close to his age, he isn’t completely alone and things will change, that’s the only certainty in life.