I sometimes have a difficult time figuring out exactly what it is that makes C stand out for his peers simply because sometimes he is nearly indistinguishable from them. “Quirky” doesn’t quite cover his different-ness, and “weird,” a word I’ve never really thought of as a negative, doesn’t really fit either. I admit to having moments where I’ve wondered if my inability to put my finger on why kids generally don’t seem to get C meant I had my own diagnosis with which to struggle.
Yet I’ve come to conclude there are certain things we just can’t teach. There is only so much social skills work one can do before realizing that some qualities just are and always will be. Whether this is simply my own blossoming acceptance of how things are or becoming better at recognizing what C’s autismness means for him, I’m not sure. When he cried this morning in front of most of his class because another little boy wouldn’t let the bug crawling on his arm crawl over to C’s arm, it was one more lesson for me in the journey that is Understanding C. I’ve seen other kids cry and not get the response C had, but I watched as five other kids standing around him just stared at C like he was from another planet. It was just one more moment of many in which the collective consciousness of his peers continued to fill up.
Too many of these moments can end up working against C in the future, simply because they add up in the present. I don’t want to be pessimistic about my child’s popularity (for lack of a better word) down the road, but there are times when I truly wonder if I’ll look back on these early events and know these were the ones that started it all. Just how many experiences like these does it take before he becomes labeled by the other kids as someone undesirable?
I can’t do much about what happened this morning in terms of C’s behavior – I refuse to tell him not to cry at school, for fear of stifling his emotions altogether. I will encourage him to perhaps enjoy another child’s experience without trying to make it his own, although I’m not sure the message will translate. Most importantly, I will continue to try to help him build his own self-confidence so the potential pain of the future won’t be quite so sharp.