When A Child Can’t Be ‘Normal’

This is an email a friend wrote to her sister. I asked if I could use it, changing the names, because many families are going through similar situations.

Kathy, I would like to ask your help. As you know, Bobby has Asperger’s, which is a form of high-functioning autism. What it basically means is that he doesn’t “get” a lot of social interaction. He doesn’t understand how to fit in with other kids and therefore is different and has always had trouble making friends. I have watched him since first grade trying to bond with kids and being rejected, to the point where he doesn’t even try anymore. His only friends have been your sons, his cousins, who have accepted him and loved him unconditionally.

I know our boys are growing up. The difference is, your sons are typical teenagers – they have other interests, “normal” interests, that Bobby doesn’t have and maybe never will. But I hope they will still take the time to be with him, that they will still be Bobby’s friends. If he feels them pulling away I already know what will happen. He will sit by himself. Inwardly, he will shrug and give up. I don’t want that to happen with the only kids his age that treat him like a normal friend.

Bobby doesn’t get invited to classmates’ parties, he never gets asked to hang at the mall or go to movies. Heck, he doesn’t have friends and he is too shy – and gun shy – to ask to go with them, even though I try to push him. He’s afraid they’ll ignore him or mock him, which they have done in the past.

All our kids are about to leave the nest. But family will always be family. I wonder if you could explain to your sons what it’s like for Bobby. He has learned that kids he tries to get close to pull away; it’s happened every single time. I think now he’s afraid to try. And he also doesn’t want to see himself as weird, or different, so he doesn’t like to explain to people what his challenges are. Rejection is hard.

I’m afraid he’s given up. I kind of don’t blame him but I cannot give up. I’m his Mom.

I guess what I’m asking is for you to ask Isaac and Michael to please, sometimes, to think of Bobby and continue to include him in their lives. Normally I would not intercede like this, but I know Bobby has always looked forward – I mean, really, REALLY, looked forward – to seeing his cousins. I don’t want him to think they are leaving him, too.

Is it right for me to ask this of you guys? I don’t know. If Bobby were normal I’d say this is intrusive of me, that I’m crossing the line and that Bobby should be doing this himself. But the reality

is Bobby DOES need help with this.

I hope you understand.

This mother agreed to share her very personal letter because she hopes that other parents will read it and have a talk with their children. Ask them if they know a kid who is “different,” or “weird.” Do they see the child who is alone at recess or sits and eats alone at lunch? Chances are that child does not know how to make friends, or is afraid to try. If you, the “normal” one, would just make the first move, you could make that lonely boy or girl so happy. You could make a real difference in some-one’s life.