Friendship is something that most of us want in our lives. Some of us have a lot of friends. Others can count their buddies on one hand. And while family is important, we can feel very lonely without friends whom we care about and who care about us.
I have always instilled in my son the importance of friendship. But like so many people with disabilities, Ryan doesn’t make friends easily. I’ve tried hard through the years to introduce him to kids who share his interests. He was never into sports or movies, so that ruled out playing on teams or inviting a friend to see a show. Video games and restaurants are his hobbies, so we try to connect with others who enjoy those things.
I know it’s not unusual for people with autism spectrum disorder to have few, if any, friends. It’s very hard for some to truly connect with others. I am grateful that Ryan has one friend that he has known since elementary school.
They are now in their early 20s and still get together from time to time. It’s not the typical friendship where they call each other on the phone or drive over to each other’s house just to hang out. His mom and I make the plans, and because neither of our young men drives, we take them where they want to go. It’s worth it to us to make sure the guys see each other.
Ryan’s friend is much more sociable than he is. I accept Ryan for who he is, but I would love for him to be more engaging when he is around his peers. I’ve tried so many social skills groups to improve his communication skills and have signed him up for several social groups with his peers. Nothing has appeared to click and no new friends have resulted in all of these years.
I’ll keep trying. Because I believe that Ryan, in his own way, would like to have another friend or two with whom he can play video games or enjoy a meal at a favorite restaurant. He doesn’t tell me this, but when I suggest a new group to meet, he is eager to go. He is very vocal and would tell me “no” if he didn’t want to go.
He will start with a new social group in a few weeks and it is my hope that at least one friendship will come out of this. If not, I’ll keep on searching. I have to believe there is more than just one friend that he is meant to have in this world.
See Texas Project FIRST’s disability resources for Social & Relationship Skills, Families & Friends, and Inclusion and search the Services/Groups/Events section of this web site to find social groups in your area.
Living with a child who has mental health issues can come with a lot of unknowns just like having a child with physical health issues. But society can treat both children very differently.
I have two boys. One is 10 and the other is 8. Both of my kids have disability labels. One has a physical disability and the other has emotional and behavioral issues. One disability you can see, the other you don’t – but it is there.