If you've yet to meet Kate, in person or via this blog, you'll need to know a few things about her for this to make sense. Kate has autism. Her autism is hers and hers alone. Like all autisms, it's unique to its person and their environment. Kate’s happens to present as a neurodevelopmental disorder resulting in communication deficits, issues with social interaction and play, rigid-thinking, repetitive obsessions and behaviours and a confidence in herself that would put Kimye to shame. Stick that definition in your DSM.
While I've simplified Kate's version of autism with the above paragraph, it will give you the basics of what you need to know to understand our most current issue.
To frame the problem I'll explain an incident that happened over these brutally unscheduled and unpredictable holidays.
We decided to attend a basketball game. Armed with electronics, Pokemon cards and a wrestler or two we figured we could manage at least the first half before her highness decided she was done.
Instead, during half-time she spied some boys horsing around in front of her. She made a dash for the boys because the promise of wrestling and otherwise getting her sensory-seeking on was too much.
I grabbed her and held her back, as this was not my first rodeo. Kate bolts towards anything she finds interesting and I had spotted the boys just as she had.
“Mama! I'm going to play with my friends!”
“Kate, we don't know those boys. We aren't supposed to talk to strangers.”
“Mama, I have to show dem my Pokemon cards!”
She's desperate to go now. She sees them moving away from our section and she is trying to peel my fingers off of her arm so she can join them.
I imagine, for a second because that’s all I'll allow myself, the look on the boys faces when she ploughs into them with her Spider-Man bookbag and a fist full of Pokemon cards. They're older, eleven at least, and they'll stop horsing around long enough to stare at the little blonde girl with the LeBronesque headband that she demanded to wear (because basketball) and her pink t-shirt, and they’ll wonder what to do. She dig out a wrestler and begin her version of play. The boys will back off, looking for a parent to save them. What is she saying? What does she want? They will ultimately decide that the kindest thing to do is to walk away. They’ll move quickly to a new area leaving her behind and continue with their game. Undeterred, she will gather her things and move to follow them. I'd swoop in and carry her away. She would protest and cry wanting to be with her ‘friends’.
We’ve made countless attempts to help Kate intellectualize the social rules of play. So far, it hasn't stuck.
So you see, as endearing as her confidence is to some, to her peers it is frightening and weird.
Right now, she cannot read the fear or disapproval on their faces. She doesn't register those things. Which is a blessing, I suppose. It's painful to watch her keep going back for more and even harder to tear her away but thankfully she is not bothered by much these days. She's a tad frustrated that her mother won't let her play with whoever she wishes; the boys she spotted at the basketball game, the baby at the grocery store (whom she tried lifting from her carriage) and the FED EX guy whom she credits for everything she's ever received in the mail. But, otherwise she doesn't take it personally. She's happy and that's key, isn't it?
For now it's our problem and I guess that’s okay.