Mr. L is getting to a point in his cognitive development where I’m learning when and how to step back. Yep, you read that right, he’s reached a point where I am learning when to let him figure some things out for himself.
I’m sure many of you are thinking, yeah that sounds like a normal teenage mile stone. But I’m not talking about how to handle friendships or jobs. I’m talking about what noises are ok to make around people, and how to keep up with other kids. I mean he’s 8, not 16.
Last summer he was on the cusp of this milestone. Last summer there was a lot of him running up to other kids at parks and playgrounds, saying hi and then looking around confused and deflated when his peers would run off to play. These kids usually were not running away from him. But in general kids don’t stay put, they wander towards jungle gyms and run to play tag. Well, following along was another step he has caught onto recently and is slowly stepping into seeing how it works.
Mr. L doesn’t necessarily have the skills to follow along with a game of tag without adult help, but he is learning how to run along when kids run off to keep their play going. And that is where my grey line of being a helicopter parent is starting to blur less but hasn’t quite become black and white yet. I’m kind of in this spot of telling him, “Go play” and “Say hi” but I’m watching him and thinking to myself, “Keep up. I don’t think you should make that loud noise. I hope the other kids at best wait for him to keep up and at worst just run off. Please don’t be cruel”.
I’m trying to act casual like the other parents of kids around the same physical age, by not following along like he’s 3. But at the same time I want to stay within listening distance to keep him from doing something inappropriate, or to get after anyone who might verbally attack him. Usually kids do just run off when he starts making loud train noises or talks about Lightning McQueen just a little bit too much. In the past it’s been loser adults who think they can bully him because they are bigger, and that has never been ok. I have a pretty clear record of chewing out loser adults and “educating” them about children like mine with disabilities.
But he isn’t 3 or 5 or even 7 anymore, in fact he’s a tall 8 year old that looks like he could be 10 or 11. He’s my oldest so this is new territory, how will kids this age treat him when he makes a loud ambulance noise? Will they blatantly laugh at him and point? Because blessed or cursed he is picking up on that being mean behavior. Or will they think it’s just an odd idiosyncrasy, find it funny, and carry on playing? I know kids are both ways, so I act like I’m mostly watching my other 2 younger kids, but continue to try to keep an ear in Mr. L’s direction.
I mean, regardless he’s still 8, this is 2020 and I need to keep an eye on him to keep him safe. But I’m trying to stand back and let him figure out social cues, and the un-written, complex, rules of social interactions of the people around him. Thankfully there are enough adults who are often kind and patient with him, even when he often surprises them by starting out his interaction with them, by pointing his hand at them and asking, “Who are you?” Which isn’t really socially acceptable. I still usually jump in with a quick prompt when he tries to talk to these types of strangers, reminding him to introduce himself first, but most adults are patient enough for a short interaction with him.
And if others are blatantly rude to him, I will calmly call them out on it, because really, who has time for people who are rude to kids with special needs? Oh yeah, that’s me. I usually have that extra second and don’t mind reminding adults what their mother probably wanted them to remember 😉
I just hope these communication skills are carrying over to his peer interactions. He has time to learn how to talk with adults, but it’s those kids his age where he can learn social cues, make friends, and just hopefully have some of those fun kid memories everyone wants to be able to look back on. I don’t want his childhood to be miserable or lonely. You know, one of the many worries I have as a special needs parents. One of the many thoughts I have on my endless list of concerns that I catapult into and try to wade out of every night before sleep 🙃
Social skills and social rules are tricky aren’t they?