Autism and Non-family Socialization

Social awkwardness and me go hand in hand;  which has its share of cons and pros for my kid. It’s been 4 years since my kid has been invited to a birthday party outside of any  for family members. Four short years; they have been agonizingly lonely and sad for me and a bit for her.  I have prayed fervently for a best friend for her. For community for her. For fellowship with her peers. I fought the public realm a bit, but tried to make them accept and facilitate social skills and community.

It didn’t happen. It was not a situation or battle we felt we were meant to fight at the expense of progress, growth, and security for our child.

Prayer and Thanksgiving.

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thess. 5:16-18

It. Changes. Everything.

I am learning about fellowship this year. I’ve fought it. Hated the word even, because if you’re around Christians for any sort of time, it’s been a buzzword for the last decade or so. It’s been commercialized and sold as the part that’s been missing. The part that’s going to make Christianity whole. Make it perfect. (News bulletin: as long as we are on this side of glory and Christ’s return, his church will not be perfect)  Second Corinthians 12:9 says, “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

When my close friend posed hosting a small group of people for fellowship and even called it (the) Fellowship, my stomach tensed and cringed. I have always felt awkward and like I never quite knew what my role was and is supposed to be…I’m broken. I’ve had a very blessed life, don’t misunderstand (I am an only child. My parents love me unconditionally. My parents sacrificed a lot and still do for my happiness…My list of blessings stretches much farther than my hurts.) But I still had some deep cuts…

My list of cuts (I love lists and post it notes to put them on):

being obese most of my life; Poland’s Syndrome; endometriosis; having your relationship with your step children undermined and severed for several years; loss of fertility; dealing with grief of going back to work when you thought you’d finally made it to stay at home and homeschool; a chronically ill husband; fighting his denied disability; breaking my pelvis on the first day back to school for teachers; being out of work for 3 months; receiving a diagnosis of severe osteoporosis at 35 years old; being unable walk/clean and play with my kids; on crutches for 10 months with no end in sight; going into my last doctor’s appointment thinking I would get a report of some healing on the 4 stress fractures, but instead learned I have a fifth; making medical decisions for myself and my spouse who continues to get sicker and lose weight (while I gained).

It doesn’t do much for identity and self-esteem (another bad word in the traditional Christian community that needs a whole other blog to discuss).

So fellowshipping and feeling like I fit in any small group seemed impossible, and how was I supposed to naturally facilitate that for my child? But whatever, I thought, this is us. This was my close friend, a best friend. We’ve been friends for over 20 years. He pretty much knows me as well as anyone. So I felt safe; safe enough to try it on, anyway.

Yeah…God designs us each unique for a specific purpose at exactly the right time in history.

Then I have Allyson who has the gift of hospitality and this crag sized desire to be with people, make others happy, and make sure others know how amazing and joyful living is…but who has autism and sensory needs. Yeah…God designs us each unique for a specific purpose at exactly the right time in history. So the thoughts run in my head, what will she be able to do? Will she need extra supports? It’s a pool party. She’s a good swimmer. But the last time she went to a bday party (that wasn’t for family) she asked to sharpen pencils the whole time. The mom knew her well and knew how to and when to include her.

But today, I wondered, what should I do? Do I get a present for her to take? What does this child need or want? Do you still buy presents in our culture of instant gratification? What is the going rate for a birthday present? What’s the protocol for hanging out when you don’t know the family well these days?

So I did what anyone with social media would do. I stalked…I mean vetted out the guest list by asking my daughter about the kids she was hoping to see and comparing the two lists.

(Hopefully I’m not the only mom out there who’s done this to protect their child who has been bullied and has special needs.)

And then I’ve never been good at knowing the social rules of the upper middle class, so how do I teach her the rules?

In the end, not only was the birthday girl a nice, good friend, but the two children she played with the most at recess where there, too.

The social, unspoken rules didn’t matter.

I believe prayer mattered. It prepared her’s and my hearts.

My lesson:

But what you’ve taught me is following societal norms and/or rules are not true fellowship.

Love is and when you come with love and joy, the rest doesn’t matter.

 

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