Living with autism is the most socially isolating and lonely life, that can have serious health consequences. Both physical and mental.
I have tried over the years to be as socially active as possible. It wasn’t possible.
The only social opportunity I had was with other parents from my son’s special school. It was too overwhelming. Too demanding.
Despite many efforts to connect my child with the world, the world kept on rejecting. The clubs I have runned, the groups I created, the parties I organised ... all in the effort for other parents and children to enjoy our company and see that you can be friends with autism. That was a lot of work on my part and a very painful dumping my son had to experience. It was more possible when my son was little, even though not one of the invites were ever reciprocated and the one or two that did, never invited us again.
People from my life before autism have had all the excuses any busy, business person can have - too busy, traveling or, what’s worse, offering to meet only at their convenient times.
Some likeminded parents came and went with some really sick experiences. For example, making friends with a single dad of an autistic child, with the hope that we could meet sometimes and the children could have company, resulted in constant sexual harassment.
I don’t know what I am - the person who never gives up? Or don’t I learn my lessons? Why do I keep on looking? What prompts my faith in people?
I blamed myself and autism; or my family for not wanting anything to do with me and my son, believing there must be something wrong with me. Or if my own flesh and blood brother rejected my son as if he has infectious disease, why would any stranger see him for who he really is?
It was when I let go of people and started to feel phobic around them, avoiding social events, stopped leaving home, not answering calls in fear I may start crying at the PIP cold caller, I realised that there must be other way. A simpler way.
I stumbled across this quote on Facebook:
‘Go where you are celebrated not tolerated’
It made me think about what I already have. The people around me who haven’t disappeared. The ones who still send an occasional message.
‘Look after what you got’ came an idea.
We moved home for a fresh start which offered a bigger kitchen and we finally had a dining table. I started to invite people over for dinner.
Years of not been able to leave the house after 6pm, very expensive special needs childcare that would prevent me from making connections, limited resources, yet I had the very tools required to bond with people in my hands - my ability to make wonderful meals!
I started to invite people over for meals. I was amazed how well my son coped. He was already in safe place, with familiar food. That made it possible for him to only have to learn to cope with the social aspects and expectations.
My son is obsessed with people. Yes!
If you still believe that people with autism don’t want to socialise, refresh your facts. They don’t have the ability to naturally know how to, but is something they can learn. It takes a person like Lucy Holland - a woman on the spectrum with children on the spectrum to explain how well over the years she has masked her inability to do or say the right thing in social engagement to the point that she was only diagnosed later in life.
When my son started to ask for ‘visitors’ every Saturday - I knew I had hit the spot.
The food was better as naturally one makes more effort for others. Friends enjoyed it. Ethan coped and we don’t feel as lonely.
We often think of complicated solutions, where the old school tradition like sharing meals together is so simple!
This didn’t solve the isolation and exclusion we face everyday, but the occasional dinner restored our faith and helps us to carry on.
Now, that we provide work opportunity for people who are otherwise excluded we have created our own future and opportunity to grow a #teamnono friendships and build something wonderful for the community
Aless & team nono