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The Harsh Reality of Autism and Friendship

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About a year ago, my daughter was invited to her first school birthday party since the pandemic. 

It was a relief but my heart also skipped a beat. I had feared not being invited for so long and kept hoping if it did happen she wouldn’t notice. 

I was nervous but she wanted to go. She was in second grade and still in a general education class at the time. This was going to be a party filled with typical kids and their parents. 

I was on edge the entire car ride and stayed at the party to make sure I could quickly intervene if needed. 

When we arrived, kids were happy to see her and they ran over shouting her name. One little girl ran up to her and gave her the biggest hug. The girl told me this was her bestie. 

My heart fluttered with joy for her to have a friend. They did everything together at school. Her parent even came to me and asked to set up a playdate the following weekend. 

My anxiety eased a bit because these kids seemed to genuinely like her. She was accepted and was wanted here. 

My daughter participated in the activities, she was nice, and she even sang happy birthday to the kid. She always struggled with celebrating others. The noise, lights, and candles all have upset her from a young age. 

It felt nice to go to a party where I didn’t have to explain her autism to anyone because she didn’t do anything unexpected. I bragged about it to my husband, to our families, and to my friends. 

It was a win and I felt like the most amazing parent proud over something as menial as enjoying a birthday party. 

The next morning before 10 a.m. I saw the school calling my cell phone.

My heart always skips a beat and I lose my breath when I see the number. 

It had been so long since I received a call but the anxiety never goes away. When they don’t call, you wait for it. You count the days, months, weeks. 

She had a rough morning. She hit a teacher, she threw things, she couldn’t calm down. 

It was bad. 

I had to get there ASAP. And just like that—yesterday was erased like it never happened. 

None of my questions to determine the “why” could be answered. 

I didn’t argue because I was devastated. It all hit me so hard because she was perfectly fine one day and suspended from school the next. 

What I thought was a manifestation determination meeting turned out to be a change of placement meeting. 

Ten bad minutes of one rough day can change our entire life in the way kids, teachers, parents, and staff see our kids. And we never get to the root of how the situation escalated or how it could have been de-escalated. 

They kept saying she doesn’t belong there. But I saw her belong. 

It’s a year later and many of the children from the birthday party and her old class don’t talk to her. Her playdate was canceled and I never heard from the parent again.

My daughter is the kid that hit a teacher at seven-years-old and somehow that negates everything else she has ever done in her entire life.

Anonymous Writer

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village….all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to our journey. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and join our supporter page, Coop’s Troops, for an amazing community full of support and understanding.

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2 Comments

  1. Wendy Wyler on November 9, 2022 at 12:35 pm

    I love this post because it perfectly describes the unpredictable of Autism, the lack of understanding/empathy from the school and the fact that these huge wins are not recognized enough. We see it–we recognize it. Then there is the blow of having that taken from us overnight. It is one tough thing being an autism mama. Be proud of your daughter for how well she did at that party and be proud of the children who were so kind with her. Also, be prepared that the next time may or may not go as well again at a birthday party–Autism is so unpredictable. Never give up on the fight for her and keep celebrating her wins. My daughter is the same age and I’ve had the same experiences. Hang in there !

  2. Susan Kilgore on November 13, 2022 at 2:52 pm

    I struggle with being in the midst of the chaos known as Parent vs Grandparent vs School. It’s unlikely that I can step back, ‘see the forest’ and know the most diplomatic approach in these types of situations as they unfold (such as when a re-placement was proposed). Thank you for this post – it helps me to see that I will try to thank everyone involved and ask for a 24-hr reprieve in a decision that may make a huge difference in my grandchild’s life (Yes, I’m the Grandmother !) I’ve been researching ‘Inclusion in our schools’ videos and am getting a better understanding on how school environments can facilitate attention focus and anxiety relief for our little people who require it.

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