A Social Boy

Oh, I'm just all pensive this week...

Lately Leelo had really started to want to be with other children. He will tell us "I want to go play with the kids!" and then take off to the play area--where he stops, instead of running out to the parking lot or street. If we (or Babysitter A) try to join him, he will push us away and say "sit in the chair!" In other words, he needs to be with his own people, and we are not they.

This is great news, especially as Supervisor M says it is atypical of kids like Leo. She says that autistic children usually find other kids complicated and bewildering, and so are interested in them as specimens at best.

It is unfortunate that, just as his social soul is blooming, the kids in his class are starting to edge away. (Not all of them, but enough for me to notice.) They stare at him openly and with furrowed brows when he starts vocalizing, or when he just can't sit still. Some of the girls decline to sit next to him during circle or snack time. They find him complicated and bewildering, too.

As do their parents. As inclusive and wonderful as they all have been, I still feel tangential to rather than part of the classroom community. Leelo has never been invited on a play date to another child's house, and I am the only driver for tomorrow's field trip who hasn't had any classmates sign up to ride with us. I am not angry, I don't think anyone is being exclusionary, and I expected all this, but it still stings.

Supervisor M said that the way in which other children react to Leelo will probably get more intense over time. I think that's just the way kids are--part of the wolf pack. Many of us were wolves, once.

In a way, Leelo and Iz's being pushed so far apart, grade-wise, and Mali's being so much younger than him may be a good thing. It will allow both girls to have more of their own social lives, ones that intersect with his less. From what I've been told, a special needs brother can use more than the usual allotment of his siblings' air, especially if they are at the same school and close in age. I would hope that our girls would not be embarrassed by Leelo, but part of me is relieved that their opportunities to have to explain or defend him will be limited. The girls will be able to love him for who he is, not despite how their schoolmates treat him.

For now, Leelo is oblivious to how the other kids are starting to view him, which is a blessing in its own way. But if he develops the ability to take the next steps on the social stairway, he may start to realize that he is different. And while I will be grateful if he develops any social radar at all, I wish there was a way to simultaneously swaddle his heart, to protect his generous, sweet little spirit.

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