Thursday, 8 August 2013

Having friends round

Our youngest son had a friend round to play today.  It takes hours of preparation as he has to sort out all the toys he wants them to play with the night before and he will then lay them out in a row on the floor. From the moment he wakes up until they arrive he repeatedly asks 'is so and so coming now?'  Time awareness is not a concept he understands yet - he expects everything to happen NOW.   Although this may be common with many 5 year olds, it is also something seen as a trait in people with autism.  Our 10 year old daughter is forever asking why someone has not arrived at the time they were expected.  Nowadays I tend to be more vague with my descriptions, so that it does not cause any extra stress.

Once our son's friends arrive he will dictate what they play with and if it doesn't go to plan, tears will flow as he will struggle to deviate from the plan he has in his head of what should be happening. If he gets very upset he may sit under the table to hide from everyone or want to snuggle up with me until he calms down.

There is always the inevitable meltdown when the friend goes home and during the evening he will either be shattered and fall asleep early, which means he will wake up in the early hours the next day and be raring to go for the day ahead or he will be hyper until very late.

I would like to say it gets easier as they grow older but so far our 10 year old daughter still follows the same pattern. All activities are put out the night before and when a friend chooses to do something else, our daughter will have a tantrum as she likes to be in control of their play date.  Occasionally, a friend has asked to leave early as they are not used to seeing this behaviour from our daughter and they don't know how to deal with her when she is in this state.

On a positive note both of them will do whatever a friend wants if they are at a friend’s house as they've both very compliant outside of the home environment.  Having a child with ASD is like having a Jekyll and Hyde character in the home as there are two distinct sides to them.

I have tried having friends over for all 3 of our children at the same time in the hope that it will keep them all happy but generally it makes things worse as it then becomes too much for our two ASD children. The best scenario is for one to have a friend over whilst the others are at friends or out doing activities.

It can be stressful having friends over with all the extra work involved in helping to prepare our children for the visit, then riding out the storm during/after the play date.  However, learning how to behave around others is such a vital skill for life, that it is not something to avoid.  Our children need to have the opportunity to grasp a level of social understanding and communication skills, even if it does cause them a degree of anxiety and stress.  I live in hope that in time it will get easier.

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