Isolation

Some of what I’ve read about parenting a child with autism references what the parents go through emotionally.  Specifically, stages of grief and feelings of isolation.  As we navigate our way through this process, I’ve definitely felt shock, anger, and sadness.  But G is a delight to me.  I love watching his brain work.  He observes, categorizes, files information away and then will recall something he heard and use it in perfect context – applied in a way that is slightly different than what would be typical but is a refreshing new angle.  I wish I had a good example of this – the next time he does it I’ll try to make note so I can blog about it.

I didn’t think isolation would be a big factor for us.  We have a fantastic family support system with 2 grandma’s that love to have G spend the night, which gives dh and I ample opportunity for date nights and weekend getaway’s.  We have a close circle of friends that originated with the playgroup/mommy group I joined when G was a newborn.  We were all first time parents and our children have literally grown up together.  We’ve since moved to a nearby town that has better educational services for G and are slowly making new friends.  But we spend a pretty substantial amount of time bbq-ing with our original friends in the summer and they visit us several weekends in the winter for skiing.  We manage to see each other at least once a month and until recently, it has always been a positive experience for everyone.

I say recently because the kids socializing together has become a bit of an issue lately.  They’re at an age were social interactions are becoming more important vs the parallel play of toddlerhood.  (Which G was never great at – looking back I can see that G would do his own thing and the other kids would imitate him, which helped me not notice the disparity)  We’re finding that when our 3 families get together, the two oldest in the other families play together and exclude G more.  We’ve actually had 2 explicit incidents where they exclude G to the point where they hurt his feelings and all the parents get involved to soothe/discipline/force the kids to play together.  Two days ago we went to the pool with one family and a more casual friend.  Their daughter was playing with the 3rd friend and G awkwardly tried to play along, with substantial facilitation on my part.  The daughter kept turning away and saying, “no G, that’s not how you do it.”  The girls mother gently corrected her and reminded her that everyone plays together.  At which point, the girl wailed, “But moooooom, I don’t want to play with G, I only want to play with E.”  The mom quickly whisked her daughter away for a talk.  G didn’t notice at all and kept swimming happily, attempting to engage E while the girl was away.  But I was heartbroken.  We stayed at the pool awhile longer and I had to make a serious effort to keep from raging at the girl or crying my eyes out.  She’s only 4 after all, and her mom is doing her best to teach acceptance and inclusion. 

Last night, we went to one family’s house for a bbq as we’ve done often in the past.  But it turned out to be a large party instead of the 3 family deal we were expecting.  There was lots of loud talking and laughter and a huge herd of 4 year olds running and shrieking through the house.  G did not do well.  He played outside in the sprinklers with the kids for a little bit until it got too much for him, and then started shorting out.  He came inside and went to the basement where he could play by himself and dh and I hung out with him.  Then he said he wanted to play with the kids so he went upstairs but quickly retreated to a back bedroom where we read books.  He said he was hungry so we ventured into the party to get some food but the chaos made him fussy and irritable.  First he wanted a particular food, then he didn’t, then he cried because the food wasn’t arranged on his plate properly, then he cried because the food he really wanted wasn’t offered.  (they had his favorites, hamburgers, hotdogs and fruit but he suddenly wanted pasta)  Since the overstimulation was upsetting him and we weren’t socializing with the other adults anyway, we called it a night and went home.

Not long in the past, when the kids were 2 or 3, this wouldn’t have been a big deal.  All parents of kids that age hover over their kids and deal with fussy spells or strong opinions and leave early if the kids are having tantrums.  What I’m noticing is that the other kids and families are moving past that phase while it seems we’re stuck in a loop.  I feel like they’re outgrowing us.  I am feeling a growing isolation from the social support network that means so much to me.  The kicker is that I am choosing that isolation because it feels like the right thing to do for my child. 

These are my dear friends, but if their kids aren’t nice to G at the smaller get-togethers and G isn’t enjoying himself at larger social functions, how can I continue to subject him to these events?  Is this just a phase for the other kids that we need to wait out?  Do I keep pushing the kids together in an effort to teach acceptance for others?  Even if it hurts G’s feelings in the short term?  Is there some conversation I should have with the parents to make this better?  I wish I knew what to do.

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Published in: on June 29, 2008 at 3:55 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. “What I’m noticing is that the other kids and families are moving past that phase while it seems we’re stuck in a loop. I feel like they’re outgrowing us. I am feeling a growing isolation from the social support network that means so much to me. The kicker is that I am choosing that isolation because it feels like the right thing to do for my child. ”

    Ohmigosh, this sounds just like me and my son. It’s so hard because I worry that other parents are judging and probably thinking I need to discipline my kid more, but they don’t see that his SPD has such a huge impact on how well he does at get-togethers. Often lately, I’m choosing to stay home simply because it’s just too hard to get together with other kids…

    It’s so hard, isn’t it?

    Kia (http://goodmum.wordpress.com/)


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