Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Doing his part

When Oliver started school this year I worried a lot. Would he be safe? Would he be understood? Would he be accepted? Would he be able to communicate when he needed to? And please God, if in this new adventure someone could just befriend my boy? Would that be asking too much? Because it's a big, scary world out there and knowing that you've got the support of your friends really matters! Not surprisingly, perhaps, the need for friendship and connection has very rarely come up in the many discussions with his educational team. But it's always on my mind and, although building connections is embedded in his IEP goals, I think all of us tend to focus on the how of communication so much more than the why of it.

And then came the day last week when Oliver shifted my thinking once again -- what would I do without this boy??   He reminded me and everyone around him that we must always, always believe he is capable of being an agent in his own life.

It was a cold and blustery Thursday when his teacher met me just outside the school as I picked Oliver up following his last class. As she braved the weather I could feel myself bracing for the inevitable, thinking: "Oh no, what has happened now!" But I certainly wasn't expecting what I got. Emotionally, she recounted the story of my boy's day. Another student was having some difficult moments and so she decided to put some space between the two of them. Oliver is very attuned to the emotional state of those around him and I guess they didn't want two kids in emotional high gear at once. After the other boy went to another room, Oliver started a conversation with the teacher, asking what had happened and if there was something he could do. Then he asked if he could see the other boy. With a fair bit of trepidation, it was agreed that Oliver could sit with the other boy. When the two boys were in the same space again, a kind of calm settled between the two of them, much to everyone's surprise. Oliver then typed with the other boy, letting him know that he understood how hard school can be sometimes.

Later his mother sent me a note saying how much she appreciated what Oliver had done for her son and how happy he was to have a friend like Oliver who understood him.

Folks? I had it all wrong: No one needed to 'befriend' Oliver.  Why? Because he is fully capable of being a friend. Of course he is. Of course he is! When he has the right supports and opportunities he will forge his own connections. Just like the rest of us, he wants to write his own story.

And this is why I will fight for him to be included in the great big scary world around him every day. Because we all need friendships and connections and Oliver should be out there doing his part.


  1. I just came across your blog--this post is why I want to read more. My daughter has autism, and in the fall we will leave the day care she's been in since she was an infant, where she is known and understood, and enter the world of public school kindergarten. Thank you for this post--I know I want to read more.

    1. TragicSandwich: First: Thank you for commenting!! I know how scary these kinds of changes can be. Things are going well, you feel safe, you feel like your daughter is safe. And now there is a whole world of unknown knocking at your door. But the thing about the unknown is that it is full of possibilities!!! I wish you and your daughter so much luck!!