Anyone with a child on the spectrum will tell you that one of the most difficult parts for a parent is watching your child struggle socially.
And if your child is severely challenged with respect to language, then the social issues are multiplied by a factor of, like, a gazillion.
How do you make friends when you don't have any language?
The plain and simple truth is that you don't.
So, what must it be like to live in a world without friends?
I can't bear to think about it.
What a joy, then, it is to watch my daughter among her peers.
An absolute joy.
We frequently roll in to her preschool a good 30 minutes or more after most of her classmates. She really likes to dawdle in the morning. I let her. Soon enough she will be living in the world of tardy bells, so why should I rush her out the door now when we can snuggle under the covers and watch one of her favorite shows. What is the rush? It is a luxury--one that will not last forever, for multiple reasons.
Usually, when we arrive at our late hour, her classmates are in the middle of circle time, all of them sitting on their colorful rug in the corner of the room. She walks into her class and puts all of her stuff away like a pro. She joins her classmates without direction; she is as comfortable and confident in her learning environment as any four-year-old could be.
What a blessing.
Yesterday, we got to school earlier than usual, and her peers were still at the table nearest the cubbies instead of off in the corner for story time.
It was as if royalty had walked into the room.
Her best bud Cassie immediately started hollering her name. She had something so very important that Olivia just had to know--right then, no time to wait.
The boy with the megawatt smile, her little bud Adrian, rushed over to yank the birthday party invitation out of her cubby.
"Olivia, this is yours. It is for my party. A Buzz Lightyear party. This is yours. This is yours."
He looked at me when he felt he wasn't getting the desired reaction.
"This is Olivia's. It is for my party. I want her to come."
Oh, we will be there, Adrian. You can count on it.
Then the future ladies' man, Dominique, came bounding over. "Olivia, Olivia, Olivia!"
It was if her name had been recorded in song.
Dominique looks at me. "Olivia told me she wanted me and Cassie and Adrian to come over to her house to spend the night."
Really? Wouldn't that be something.
If I didn't have my son, my beautiful and challenged son, I wouldn't come close to appreciating what a gorgeous scene was right then before my eyes.
Teachers were trying to get the little boys back in their seats. They were supposed to be in their chairs working, not running to greet my daughter.
Everyone was cheerfully screaming at her at once. Teachers were trying to get children to use their inside voices.
Oh, what magnificent chaos!
And all because my daughter entered the room.
I watch her at parks and places like McDonald's. She is an incredibly sensitive soul and sometimes guarded, but, when she sees a girl about her age, she can make a new friend in a minute.
I can get lost in it -- watching her talk to one of these peers she has just met. I watch and listen. There she is with this child she probably will never see again. Giggling, whispering, planning some elaborate fantasy world of play.
I could climb Everest (OK, definitely not Everest but some small mountain perhaps). I could walk in rain forests or swim in the world's most beautiful oceans.
And I would not see anything as wonderfully magnificent as my daughter playing so naturally with her friends.
What a treasure.