You know this child.
He pushes his way to the front of the line, to the front of the class, to the front row of the photo. His hand is the first one up, his answer shouted out before he’s actually called on. He sings the loudest, dances the most exuberantly, appears the most confident.
That’s my child.
I love him to pieces.
His desire (and demand) to be noticed is commendable. How many of us would rather shirk in the sidelines? He makes me proud on a daily basis for his passion and confidence.
He also worries me.
We all know this child is – let’s be honest – kind of annoying. He’s the one the teacher initially appreciates, but eventually gets frustrated with. He’s the one the other kids start to dislike because he comes off as a know-it-all and interrupts them constantly.
My worry is that my child won’t pick up on these social cues. He won’t realize when he should keep his hand down so others have a chance. He won’t realize he’s actually blocking someone else when he rushes to be in the front row of the picture. He won’t realize that when he’s shouting out answers, he’s actually disrespecting the teacher.
My son has autism.
The social world doesn’t make a lot of sense to him. He wants to be a part of the world – oh, yes – but he struggles with how to do this in a way that respects others. He misreads cues. He sometimes scowls when others smile. He sometimes makes a fist when someone leans in for a hug. His natural instinct is to become defensive and assume the worst.
As an example, he told me a few weeks back that “Johnny doesn’t like me.” When I asked him why, he said, “He doesn’t want to play with me.”
Yet, the very next day as I was dropping him off at daycare, Johnny walked right up to my son and said hello.
My son didn’t acknowledge him. I tried to ask my son why he didn’t say hello, but I couldn’t get him to look at me or respond. He had already moved on to the next task. My theory is that, in my son’s mind, he had said hello. He assumed that Johnny knew he was happy to see him. What was the point in saying anything?
But what happens when kids stop saying hello because they don’t get a response or even the acknowledgement of eye contact?
What happens when my son becomes more than just a boisterous little boy whom we can forgive because he’s four and simply becomes that awkward kid who’s always making a scene?
These are the thoughts that race through the mind of a mother whose child has struggles, but is brave and outgoing, nonetheless.
While nerve-wracking, I recognize there are far worse issues he could be facing.
But I’m a mother. Forgive me if I continue to worry.
What worries do you have for your child?
This post originally appeared on Contemplative Chaos.