stories for young people
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On not trying too hard
(for the first half of this tale, click here ) As I grew up I found out that it isn’t the end of the world if someone doesn’t want to be your friend too. I realised that there were such things as the magic ring that people stand in when they are talking to someone. Basically it’s a sweet area between being in someone's personal space, and being so far away that it is awkward to talk to someone.
Overall, I realised that learning to make friends is like making friends. I know that doesn’t make sense, but hear me out. It takes time. Take John Candy’s character in Planes Trains and Automobiles. All he wants is for Steve Martin to like him, but he tries so hard that he smothers him (sometimes almost literally!) and it costs him a good friendship.
Learn the right to approach people, realise that everyone is different and don’t fret if you don’t please everyone.
Our Aspie daughter – finding a friend ‘on the inside’
In our house there have been torrents of tears , beatings of pillows and howls of anguish as we try to decipher the latest reason why an invitation to the beach/party /sleepover was issued to others but not to my daughter by her friends.
The same friends are nevertheless happy enough to have her in their Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter group so that she can see them all having a fantastic time without her.
It’s painful for all of us, and not just on our ears. BUT IT IS NOT ALWAYS DELIBERATE. Yes it is selfish and thoughtless and it is upsetting but often it is not meant to be personal. So we try to keep it in perspective and concentrate on the friends who are more friendly and thoughtful.
The key to having a social life as a girl with an ASD is to have someone “on the inside”. Finding that one friend who can guide a girl with an ASD through the maze of statuses, comments and tweets can be invaluable.
We realized that, as parents, we needed to nurture and enable fledgling friendships with invitations to sleep over/rides to the cinema and money for the tickets to the concerts and so on.
We try to keep everything as “typical” as possible whilst at the same time doing the groundwork and homework so that the encounters are successful for all parties.
We are really lucky as my daughter finally has a friend who “gets” her and champions her when others are being mean. She is the daughter of a lady who is a support assistant of children with disabilities in the local mainstream high school.
We are lucky to have found her but luck has nothing to do with keeping her as a friend. I have coached my daughter on this, just as if I was helping her with an essay. I have provided opportunities for them to do stuff together, offered lifts etc…not just because she has deigned to be my daughter’s friend but because she is a really cool girl who I really like as well.
I should explain that this girl has come to our town relatively recently and I think this was helpful as she just got to know my girl the same as she got to know others with no preconceptions. It is an equal relationship now.
Three other factors have helped: drama classes, cognitive behavior therapy and some meds (see the mental health parent stories pages for more on that.)
Living in a remote town we weren’t able to access social skills classes , but there were drama classes and my girl took to these like a duck to water.
Doing drama was a wonderful way to learn how to interact, and it was where she put all her natural observations about people into action through imitation. This is where she flourished and it had some carry over into real life.
Read Caroline’s story about taking a bunch of teens to a music festival here.