It’s hard to have a daughter with autism. I mean, autism is hard no matter what, and I’m sure boys present their own particular challenges, but I’ll leave the parents of boys to write about those…
One of the problems we face with my daughter is having girlfriends. Socialization isn’t easy for children with autism. And once children start to get older, same gender relationships start to take precedence – girls hang out with girls and boys with boys, especially if it’s just two or three kids hanging out together. I’ve seen it in the life of my “typical” daughter. The problem is that girls with autism are not very common. In preschool she only had ONE other girl in her class. From kindergarten through third grade she also had only one other girl in her class and the two became very close. This was great except that my daughter is in a district-wide special education program so the kids come from far and wide – and this girl lived a 1/2 hour away from us. Playdates, which had to be planned carefully to begin with due to their individual issues, also had to have an hour of travel time built in. In fourth and fifth grade she’s had TWO other girls, which has been WONDERFUL – the girl she’s been friends with since kindergarten, and a new girl that she really enjoys too. We still don’t have playdates with them as much as we’d like because of the travel time (this other girl is also about a 1/2 hour away who has parents who both work full-time), but at least they’re buddies at school.
I recently found out the girl my daughter has been friendly with since kindergarten is being mainstreamed. She deserves it. She’s always been higher functioning than my daughter and for the past two years has spent the majority of the school day outside of the special education class, in inclusion with an aide. But my daughter will miss her terribly. I don’t see them being in each other’s lives from this point on because this girl will be in a different school, (in the town where she lives), learning with her typical peers, while my daughter will still be in the self-contained special education class, nowhere near her grade level in ANY subject. My daughter is sad, and I’m sad for her.
My daughter will still have the second girl with her, and I have to hold onto that. And she gets along well with the boys in her class. But with no one, boy or girl, who lives near us, her “out of school” time will continue to be completely dominated by family – NOT friends to “hang” with or talk on the phone, or face-time or text (she can barely use a keyboard anyway). It’s hard for us to participate in after school programs because finances are tight, and extracurriculars for kids with autism are EXPENSIVE. She needs practice socializing, and I wish she had girlfriends she could hang out with, yet the only people she socializes with outside of school are the family, and on Sundays, the folks at church. In some ways it’s a lonely life for her.
No magic words to say – no simple solution – just the reality of “what is,” and sometimes “what is” just plain stinks.