April 6, 2007

If Your Child Doesn't Have Autism

or any other developmental delay or other disability -- I have a thought for the day. It doesn't involve donating money, buying stamps, etc. One of the most heartbreaking things about children who are different is that some of them have few, if any, friends. Many of these kids go through school without ever being invited to a birthday party, a bar mitzvah, a sleepover, etc. Or they make a friend, only to have the child drop him or her shortly thereafter. You can't force friendships on kids. But, the next time your child is having a little get together or is a little bored, consider reaching out to the child who may seem remote or too wound up -- the child who no one knows. You have no idea how thrilled both the child and his family will be!


  1. What a lovely thought and kind sentiment! This is just the sort of awareness that the autism community most needs.
    Best wishes

  2. Joan, you just made me cry! Luke, my 7 year old, has Apraxia and ADHD and he gets dropped by other children so often for the "cooler kids" and it breaks my heart.
    But I am so proud of my son, he is a far nicer human being than these cool kids and that is all I care about! But it does hurt to see him hurt, so I thank you for your kind words!

  3. Joan, I'm sitting here crying too! My son has a bunch of developmental issues and very rarely gets invited anywhere, nor do the other kids want to come here. My older son always had a slew of kids in and out all the time, and it just breaks my heart that Ryan is not experiencing the same. His best friend has Aspergers (Ryan has traits as well)which is a form of Autism so we are all too familiar with this, but are grateful he has "a" close friend. Sheesh....I wish we lived closer, I could really use a good Special Ed Attorney to fight our school district. Thanks so much for your beautiful post. It would really make a childs day to be invited somewhere. We know firsthand the great disapoinments and hurt feelings in being excluded.

  4. Joan, you have zeroed in on a part of autism that just breaks a parent's heart. My son is 16 and has Aspergers. He desperately wants friends but can be clueless about how to make these connections. It breaks my heart to see him ignored when he goes out of his way to be nice to others. It would be a much better world if we all would reach out to those who are a bit different or odd. One of the characteristics of people with Asperger's is they are honest and loyal almost to a fault. They don't have the capacity to be two-faced or deceitful and are wonderfully TRUE friends. I hope that Autism Awareness month opens the eyes of those who are blessed to be Neuro-typical -- thanks for opening this window --


  5. Struck a chord with me too. I work with a grade 8 student who has aspergers. In a discussion the other day, he considers his classmates friends, but doesn't ever do anything with anyone outside of school. That part broke my heart to hear. On the flip side, I nanny for 2 kids, one has Down syndrome. Just this past week (Spring break) a parent phoned to have a playdate with the little girl. When I spoke to her mom to see if it was okay (as I don't know the other family), she was thrilled, as was the daughter. I hope that when we have kids, we will be able to encourage this with our children, especially teenaged years as that's where it gets less frequent, yet the most needed. Thanks for being such an advocate on your blog.

  6. Joan - this hit so close to home. Last night, Drew (7 yo) had 2 friends, brothers, over for a sleepover. It was stressful for me - I kept thinking that if only the younger, call him C, wasn't there, it would be so much easier. However, C has some issues - he is definitely ADHD. He is a year younger than his brother, who is 6 months younger than Drew - and, as far as I know, C has no friends of his own. You've opened my eyes......thank you!!

  7. You know we live in a small town and until recently there weren't that many children that had any kind of developmental delay or something of that nature. But my 4yo had a boy with autism in his preschool, and while he talked about his friend Alex, he also said that he was mean b/c he didn't share. Something that Alex just didn't know how to do. So it was an eye opener for me to have to just explain to RC about it.

    Thanks for all your work on this!! I am not directly affected by autism but it's still something close to my heart just as a mom.

  8. What an important message, Joan! Thank you for reminding everyone that compassion is not only free but, unbeknownst to many, also an incredible power for helping to ease many of the wounds caused by isolation and being 'different.'

    Ten years ago when my Mom was first diagnosed with COPD we had an encounter that I think sheds light here. It was about fear and ignorance and, yes, isolation. COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) required Mom to receive oxygen almost all the time. So when we'd go out, she had to carry her tank with the long tubing and wear the nose canula that told everyone she was sick. Our first time out with the new set up we were in the supermarket when a little boy, maybe 5 years old, pointed at Mom and called out, "Look, Mommy!" Well, the child's mother was mortified. She grabbed him, looked away, and rushed in another direction. My Mom, of course, felt like a freak. My heart ached for everyone.

    And here's the point I'm getting to. I wish circumstances would have allowed me to approach that innocent child [and his Mom] and very casually, comfortably explain that the lady was my Mom and the tube and tank were helping her breathe so she could do all things we always do.

    The same thing holds true with special needs children. It's up to us adults to understand and explain as naturally as can be that these children are children like all other children. They just also have ways of being that are different from other kids. In other words, we need to demystify the differences and place them in a normal life context that expects and accepts differences - even when we don't understand them. And the very best way I've ever found to do that is by modeling acceptance in our own actions, words, and attitudes.

    Forgive me for going on so long. I just have a very soft place in my heart and my life for those whose paths run right beside our own but have terrains we can neither see nor truly appreciate.

    Thanks again, Joan, for reminding us that when all is said and done, a child is a child is a child. ~ pk

  9. WHAT A SENSATIONAL THOUGHT!!! I think many parents will do this if they are aware. It would be great to see a public service announcement or tv/radio commercial regarding this particular issue. Thanks for contributing to my awareness.

  10. Joan:

    A beautiful thought! My son, Luke, stood on the outside looking in for many years due to his CAPD. We moved to a new city, he started high school, and now he's the social butterfly that he always dreamed he could be. He tends to have a lot of friends with AD/HD...go figure! ha ha He's such a joy to have for a son, and I'm glad the world now knows what a cool kid he is, too. I think I'll invite all his AD/HD friends to come over again soon...thanks!
    mary rose

  11. Thank you for posting this. As a parent of a "quirky" 6 yr. old son, it breaks my heart that he does not make friends easily. My son is such a sweetie and so kind to others I just wish they would give him a chance. If more parents would teach their children that everyone is different and to be a little more accepting of differences then the world would be a better place.