I was asked by a young girl if she was bad for not wanting to be friends with a boy who had Autism. His quirky behavior was as she put it, “driving her bonkers”. He’d get in her face, follow her around, and spin in circles on the floor.
I was coming at this question from two perspectives. One is I am on the spectrum myself and empathize with the boy. On the other hand, I was a substitute teacher’s assistant and although I love the students, some do test my patience and so I could empathize with where she was coming from.
I answered with first stating I didn’t think she was a bad person. Just the fact that she was asking the question suggests to me she’s nicer than she thinks. I advised her not to abandon him completely. She didn’t have to be his best buddy but I advised her not to ignore him completely. I know all too well what it is to be ignored and it hurts like heck.
I gave her a few examples of those, (how shall I put this nicely), put my patience to task.
One was a boy on the Spectrum who does not give his voice a break. I often wonder what keeps him from getting laryngitis. My best coping mechanism is a sense of humor about it. I don’t mean laughing at him; just keeping my sense of humor to ease the chatter on my nerves.
Another example was an autistic boy whose behavior for whatever reason changed for the worse when he changed schools. He had been such a gentle soul but the change in schools took a toll on him. He was physically disruptive and the other kids were a bit frightened of him. I did my best to remain calm around him. I knew he couldn’t help it. He even knew that. His teacher told me that one day he had given her a hard time. He came over, gave her a hug, and said, “I don’t know why I do it.”
Then, I told her about the gentle giant who loves to give hugs and kisses. She has the autism trait of being repetitive in saying or asking things over and over again. That can get annoying! But I try to be patient because I know her story. You see she’s the new kid on the block in her class as well as neighborhood. Her world was rocked when her Mom died in another state and she now lives with Grandma. She talks about her Mom being in Heaven as if her Mom just moved away to some far-away location. She freely talks about joining her someday as if death is an everyday topic. Her teacher gently tries to change the subject, but rest assured, the gentle giant will bring it up again.
Last example, but not least, is a 7 years old who is the youngest in his autism unit. He’s also the only one who has yet to utter his first word. He does understand some of what he hears for he will do what he is told for maybe 2 minutes at most. He’ll flap with one arm, stop, hit his teeth with one hand, stop, give the top of his head two slaps, and start over again. The teacher will tell him to put his arms down and that works for maybe 10 seconds. He was climbing over me and I gave him a hug. While trying to put him back in his chair, what did he have in his hand? My billfold! I got pickpocketed! I showed his teacher and she wasn’t the least bit surprised. I wasn’t his first victim and I surely won’t be the last.
The girl with the question was amused at my stories and I told her that I laugh at my own quirky behavior all the time. It beats crying about it. I think I gave her some food for thought. I hope she decided not to abandon the boy. After all, Autism can be a lonely road.