It’s heartbreaking really. The sad truth of life for many special needs children. I read this article today, and my heart ached. Not only for the boy in the story, but also for my own children.
Dad Shares Autistic Son’s Heartbreaking Response to School Assignment
Bob Cornelius’ youngest son, Christopher, is on the autistic spectrum and has a difficult time making friends. Last week, he went to Christopher’s back-to-school night and snapped a photo of one of his son’s assignments hanging on the wall.
But after taking a second look, he realized something heartbreaking. Christopher answered who some of his friends are rather plainly: “No one.”
I know this story all to well. Having raised a child on the spectrum, having watched him grow up so lonely. He’s an adult now. The loneliness and lack of friends continues. He doesn’t know how to make any. He never understood social cues. He never understood how to make friends.
Not just a spectrum problem
Our daughter isn’t on the spectrum, though admittedly she may have picked up some of her brother’s awkward mannerisms. He is her hero, after all. But she has a different type of disorder. She has generalized anxiety disorder.
When her anxieties are high, she doesn’t know how to handle them. She may become loud and obnoxious. Her random thoughts are blurted out, and nobody finds them amusing. She is mainstreamed. Though her current classroom is designed for those who need a little extra help, there is no one like her there.
Bullying is a real problem
Bullies like to pick on those who are different. In my kids’ experiences, the bullies can be fellow students, parents, and even teachers or other school staff. They’ve been physically abused, they’ve been shunned, and often times excluded from everything that they should be experiencing. (often times my kids are forced to stay home on field trip days, their invitations revoked).
The problem with bullying is that it can create a child who retreats so deep inside themselves they become difficult to reach. This is how it played out for my son. Or, they become so frustrated and sick of everyone picking on them that they lash out to “share the pain” with others. Those are not even always the ones who have been bullying them. This is the behavior we are starting to see with our daughter.
They are excluded from so very much. Worse, it is often the parents who seem to cause this. Parents telling stories about a child that they don’t know. Parents passing judgement about a child they’ve yet to meet. These parents often times vocalize these complaints to the schools. Pushing these children further out.
I have stories coming back to me. I’m told my daughter was throwing chairs at the teacher. This is parent to parent gossip. It is not true. Of course, I’m only assuming that if my daughter had that kind of a meltdown in class, someone would have told me. But it doesn’t matter if it is true or not. The story is out there. And yet another bunch of kids will be told not to play with her, not to include her, to just ignore her. And her loneliness grows.
It’s so lonely being different
Some of us are not meant to fit in. We are different or unique or we look at the world a different way. But different as I’ve always been, I had a handful of friends who I could trust to accept me and all my weirdness. This hasn’t been the case for my children.
I’ve watched my son make a handful of friends. Each and every one used him up until he had nothing more to give. Then, poof gone. Just like that. My daughter was a little luckier. Or so we thought. Around the time she was born, other friends started having children. It’s kind of like having cousins, right? There is always someone to play with.
Lack of understanding
That didn’t prove to be the case. Parents don’t like the weirdness that is my daughter. They don’t know how to handle the constant questions because she needs to feel a full understanding of her environment in order to relax. They don’t understand that the random obnoxious sounds are her way of handling a high stress environment. They don’t understand that she’s not doing these things on purpose.
Instead of understanding, they pass judgement. They judge us for our parenting skills. They don’t even try to understand how exhausting and strenuous it is to raise special needs children. They judge our children for their odd mannerisms. They don’t want to take the time to get to know the kind and caring people they are inside. They don’t delve that deep.
My heart is breaking
I’m sorry if this post seems a little down. I’m sorry if I sound a little negative. We’ve moved to a new town. My daughter’s anxiety is so high. She’s lost so much. She’s going through so much change. And I watch how everyone interacts with her. She’s treated like she is a really bad kid. She’s not.
It’s not that she is misbehaving more or less than the rest. It’s that she is misbehaving different than the rest. Because she is different, the consensus seems to be that she should be punished or shunned until she learns to be just like everybody else. Or at least that is the message I’ve been picking up.