So, for those of you who may not know, my twelve (soon to be thirteen) year old daughter with autism started at a new school in September. All her educational life from age three to twelve was spent in the same program specifically designed for autistic children. It was a WONDERFUL program, but she was doing so well and progressed so far that she didn’t need their intense services anymore. We were scared to make the change, to leave the nest, but we knew it was time because she was really starting to be held back from blossoming where she was.
She has transitioned marvelously in her new school. It’s a regular school, but she is in a self-contained special education classroom, with inclusion for art, music and gym. She goes to homeroom with other “typical” children in her grade and has her inclusion classes with those same kids, so she’s finally making a few casual friends outside her special ed group. She has girls to chat and giggle and have lunch with which has been really nice for her. She is very happy.
In this new school, just because she is in a self-contained special education classroom no longer means that her classmates all have autism. I don’t know what the problems are for any of the other kids in her class. I don’t mind that BUT…
Two of her new girlfriends (in her class) are MUCH more tech savvy than she is. They want to go on Oovoo and video chat, which is okay with me, but I had to help my daughter get their usernames and add them as friends, and even how to use it (which I have to repeat with her every time). She really doesn’t “get” that stuff. They want to call and talk on the phone, which, again is okay with me, but last week one of the girls called at 10:30PM – on a school night! I had to explain to this girl that my daughter had gone to bed, then the next day tell my daughter that she had to tell her friend NO calling after 9pm. Then my daughter asks if she can go with these girls to “hang out” at the local plaza after school. (Um… NO WAY. My daughter barely knows her address and wouldn’t have the vaguest worry if a stranger came up to her and offered her a ride. Me, let her go unsupervised with these girls to a plaza? NOT ON THIS GOD’S EARTH.) But she says they go there to hang out or shop, and at a local park too. And they all have cell phones, which I confirmed with the teacher (she may not be able to share personal/educational information about these girls with me for privacy reasons, but she did confirm the cell phone thing). We haven’t gotten my daughter a cell phone yet because:
- she BARELY knows how to use a regular landline phone and
- she has never been without direct adult supervision so has never needed one
It seems to me these girls are much more “normal” or “advanced” (for lack of better terms) than my daughter (although I wasn’t letting my twelve year old “typical” daughter go hang out at the local shopping plaza either). Clearly they are more independent. I wonder if their problems are simply academic and not mainly developmental (which I can’t know for privacy reasons). This has left me a little scared and confused and worried. I WANT her to have friends. I WANT her to integrate as best as she can with other kids her age. But her ability to be independent is limited. Her ability to understand the clever deception of a stranger trying to take advantage of her is NON-EXISTENT. Her ability to perceive danger is limited to only the very obvious. She is extremely trusting. She has very little understanding of money and so shopping with the girls would be a disaster.
I did offer to go to this plaza WITH her and “hang back” and watch out for her while she’s there with her friends one day, and she seemed okay with that, but then it rained and they didn’t go, and they haven’t set up a new time. We have also talked about getting her a cell phone for Christmas (she is actually BEGGING for one). Nothing fancy, just enough that she can make calls, texts and have an app or two.
I thought it would get easier as she progressed in her development, but the truth is, right now, that it’s feeling much harder and much scarier. Autism, once again, is keeping us on our toes…