by Cas Faulds
A few years ago, my son’s former Occupational Therapist recommended a social skills program. My son attended one session of the six week program, where they focused on “making a connection.” That was code for insisting that autistic children make eye contact, so I withdrew him from that program.
But that’s not the focus of this post. This post is about my son making a different type of connection – a much friendlier, more respectful one.
Over the weekend, my son met another autistic child. He has met other autistic children before, but the difference over the weekend is that, for the first time, he was able to connect with a child whose parents truly accept her for exactly who she is.
You could see that shared acceptance in the way that they interacted – there was freedom in their play that you could feel. They chased bubbles that were produced by a busker – small and big bubbles, and they were in their own little bubble together. There was joy and mutual understanding that they were kindred.
I watched them play, and it filled me with happiness. He didn’t want to leave, but the day had to end. He fell contentedly asleep on the way home, only to wake up when we arrived to ask me when he could see his new friend again.
Later that night, a twinge of sadness crept into me, and I couldn’t quite figure out why, but today I realised that I was sad because it had taken this long for my son to meet another autistic child who is genuinely accepted.
It took me a long time to find my community, and I value the connections that I have within it. I didn’t want my son growing up feeling disconnected from his people like I did, but the autistic children that he has met in the past weren’t like him. They weren’t accepted, and they weren’t free to be themselves. There wasn’t the tangible feeling of joy present at those times like there was this past weekend.
I am sad that it took so long for him to meet someone with whom he is so free to be himself, and I am sad that more autistic children aren’t accepted and allowed to simply be themselves. But I am also happy and grateful that he did.