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Arranging Playdates | The Essential Guide To Autism

Arranging Playdates

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I came across the following article and thought it highlighted the difficulty that some children and parents can experience through the ignorance of others.

If your child is having similar problems in making and retaining friends because their potential friend’s parent isn’t too keen on the idea, it may be a good idea to point them in the direction of this article.

Op-ed: You can’t ‘catch’ autism from a play date

BY LISA DOWLER | Lisa Dowler lives in Dix Hills.
September 8, 2007

My son is a sweet 10-year-old who plays baseball, loves to go bowling, and is a happy child.

He is also autistic.

Autism affects a child’s social abilities, making it difficult - and sometimes impossible - to form friendships. The primary socialization that Jeffrey receives is from his 8-year-old brother. Other play dates are hard to come by. This is something that every parent of a child on the autism spectrum must deal with every day.

I recently attempted to help Jeffrey pursue a friendship with another boy his age. This boy seemed to be very kind to my son and always acknowledged him, even around his peers. At camp, he went out of his way to say “hi” to my son, and he even stopped to tell me that he knew Jeffrey from school.

I gathered up my courage to call the mother, whom I didn’t know. I introduced myself and explained that my son has special needs and is in a self-contained class. I also told her that he is mainstreamed for music, art and gym, where our sons know each other. I let her know that her son seemed to have an interest in befriending Jeffrey.

The mother sounded as if I was taking up too much of her time. And she was certainly not receptive to the idea of getting our boys together.

It’s hurtful to realize that people like her are out there. It seemed as if she didn’t want her son socializing with mine because she feared that her child might “catch” Jeffrey’s disability. Autism is not contagious, nor are the other conditions that land children into special-needs classes.

My son would have enjoyed the 90 minutes or so it would have taken to go bowling with this other child. He would have gained so much from it. And so, I think, would her son.

The positive role model of a typical child is important for a child with autism. And in my experience, typical children are more than willing to play with a child with a disability - it’s their parents who are resistant. They don’t realize what their children stand to gain from developing a friendship with a child who is autistic or different in some other way. They can develop a sense of caring and understanding that leads them to become more compassionate adults.

The mother I spoke with didn’t want to continue our conversation and wouldn’t even take my phone number. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the first time I’ve had that kind of response.

Jeffrey has come a long way with the help of his younger brother. Because my typical son has a brother with autism, he has become a kinder, more sensitive and caring child. He understands that he has helped his brother, and he feels good about that. He understands that a child’s disability doesn’t define him or her.

These are the valuable lessons that Jeffrey has to offer his potential friends. If only their mothers would let him.,0,2133905.story?coll=ny_news_specials_util_2


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