My son is not a fan of other kids. When we go to the park he likes watching the other kids run around, but he doesn’t want to play with them. And that’s okay. We’re working on helping him have fun in a social settings without getting upset at the chaos, noise, and unpredictability of other children. He usually sticks to playing on the slide and has a wonderful time feeling the breeze rush past his cheeks on each ride down.
On this particular day at the park, there were two little girls who really made an effort to play with him. It was so sweet. They saw a child playing by himself and asked him to play with them. He smiled when they smiled and giggled as they chased each other around the park. He was genuinely having a good time and my heart was melting.
Until the little girl walked over to me and asked why my son keeps repeating everything she says.
Panic rolled in. How do I explain to this little girl that he echoes? Does she know what Autism is? Has she ever heard the word echolalia? Should I give him a label right now? Is she annoyed with his behavior and won’t want to continue to play with him?
I took a breath and explained that talking is hard for him and sometimes he doesn’t know what to say, so he repeats what he hears.
This bright little girl responded, “Oh, so it’s like his way of talking to us?”
“Ok.” And she walked away continuing to play with her sister and my son.
It was such a simple exchange and yet, so incredibly meaningful to me. She accepted my son did something different without any consideration. There was no judgement. No name calling or exclusion. Just acceptance.
I wish I could have found her parents, to tell them what an amazing job they are doing. They are teaching their little girl that kids are just kids.
As a mom of a child on the spectrum, I worry that social encounters will just be too uncomfortable and difficult to understand and he’ll retreat back to his world of numbers and letters and toy cars. I worry that he won’t be able to or want to form meaningful relationships throughout the different stages of his life.
Then little moments like this happen and I feel so very hopeful.
This day will stay with me forever.
Previously posted at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.
*If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*