Friday, March 14, 2014

It's Not Easy Being...Pink.

It's lonely when you have a girl on the autism spectrum. The majority of parents you meet have sons that are diagnosed, and girls can present such different issues. I have met so many great parents online, whose daughters seem very similar to K, but they are never local. Facebook and Twitter are great, but sometimes you just want that "come have a coffee with me" connection. Sometimes your kid just wants a play date (and not with the boys she's been surrounded with at therapy since she was 18 mo old.) I long to sit in my kitchen, talking to another mom about the scary thing that is puberty. About school, friendships, the future. About how sometimes our kids just seem like little girls, and other times seem to struggle so mightily because of their neurology. About how to respect them as they grow into women, and make sure they are supported the right way, not the generic "only boys have autism" way.

I've found that parents of girls on the spectrum are exceedingly protective. They tend to coddle their children more than those with boys. For me, I have a 10 yo daughter, and I treat her like I would any 10 yo. Sure, sometimes things are different, but I don't walk into any given situation assuming K can't handle it because of autism. I just assume she can handle it, and have a Plan B if she can't. I don't find that with many other girls, and so as much as I am left alone, so is K. Other parents are unwilling to lengthen the leash they've (figuratively) attached to their child, because all they see are the struggles, and they are so scared of failure, they don't even let their child try.

Now, for years we were OK hanging with the boys. Like I said, K has been surrounded by boys on the spectrum since she began Early Intervention at 18 months old. She never cared much that there were only boys, until recently. A few months ago she decided she wanted play dates exclusively with girls, which is a difficult order to fill when you don't really know any. I'm thankful for my friends, who have daughters K's age, who are able to help fulfill something like K's birthday sleepover request.  But, those other girls are typical, and sometimes get annoyed with K. What I'd love are other girls on the spectrum who aren't going to eventually push her away because she's just too different. Who might share some of K's interests. Or who might be OK going off in different directions during a play date, because they still know they're friends.

Really, it's just nice to be around your own people. Everyone is like that. We gravitate towards others like us, and I want K to be able to gravitate, not have me put her somewhere. I want her relationships to be natural, not only set up my mom.

But, yeah, hard when K's people live thousands of miles away, or their parents shy away from letting them do much of anything.  

The one bright spot in all this is that a new girl has started in K's class at school. A girl her age, with a lot of the same interests. Who is just as excited about having a new friend as K (although I might be more excited than both of them, combined.) They have their first play date on Sunday, and even though they live an hour away, it doesn't matter. It's rare K finds her people, and an hour is nothing. I'd gladly drive that every week, so she could be with her friend. A friend she's made, not one I've found for her.

Her people.

Hopefully, as time goes on, other parents who have daughters on the spectrum will be more willing to let go. Their children won't be alone. Other girls like K can't wait to meet them, and other parents like me always have an open kitchen, a cup of coffee, and time to talk.

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