I hold my breath as my five-year old son zooms around the playground. There are children laughing and squealing all around us. Games of tag and the sound of ring-around-the-rosey sung in unison fill the evening air.
My son continues to run in circles as if he is the only child on the playground. Another child approaches him and catches his attention. He stops. My heart starts pounding and I convince myself to wait and watch before jumping in to help him navigate this brief social encounter. It’s over as quickly as it began and he is back to zooming around the playground.
Some of the moms and other children begin to stare. Most smile politely and continue on with what they were doing and I sink back into my seat, wondering what the future will hold for my son. This is a typical day in the life of my five-year old son who is diagnosed with autism and cognitive delay. While my other typically developing five-year old son is eager to play with friends on the playground, my son with special needs is satisfied to stay within his comfort zone of isolation.
Could you imagine a world without friendship? I certainly could not.
So one day I asked myself if my son is truly happy playing alone with only brief and superficial social encounters. Doesn’t he really crave friendship like his brother? Although my son is limited verbally, a single conversation was enough to clarify that he did indeed want to make friends. As his mother, I was determined to help him do it. (more…)