A child with autism is often alone in their own world. That certainly describes my son’s world for the past 15 years. It has always struck me as odd that he didn't know how to play. I had to sit down with him and show him how to play with toy figurines or fire trucks. The other different thing was that he never really had much interest in playing with other kids. As a mother, this would break my heart. But honestly over the years, we have had so many issues with his health problems that building friendships wasn't high on my priority list.
The past 2 years my son would come home and occasionally talk about kids at school, but most of the time his interest has been with his teachers. This year he started high school, and I truly wasn't expecting any big change on this situation. That was until my son went to his monthly Friday night respite program. He came home, and while getting ready for a bath says out of the blue, “I have a girlfriend - Sangerina."
I turned around, my jaw dropping. This child who seldom talks about children his own age, was enthralled with Sangerina. He got in his bubble bath and kept repeating, " I had a good time with Sangerina. Sangerina and I played together. I like Sangerina." Big tears welled up in my eyes as it was apparent this girl made quite an impression on my son.
As with everything autism, I thought, okay, this will either be forgotten in the morning or we will be hearing more about this new girl in my son's life. And sure enough, when my husband asked Jac about his respite night, Jac repeated, "I like Sangerina."
Of course, I wasn't too sure on his pronunciation of this girl's name, but I had to go with the flow. The next day, I took Jac to school and this sweet girl said hello when we walked into the classroom, and mentioned that she saw Jac at respite. Immediately a light bulb went off in my head.
"Sweetheart, tell me your name,” I said.
"I'm Serena. Jac and I watched movies and sat by each other,” she replied.
My heart almost jumped out of my chest. This precious girl was THE GIRL that Jac was so fond of. Jac picked a lovely girl to be friends with and all I could think about was how this was another one of those special moments that I just never thought we would see. Everyone needs a friend to talk to, laugh with, or even just sit by to watch Toy Story!
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.