By: Julie Smith of Dance, Sing, and Drink Wine
Before my first child was even old enough to speak, I once told a friend that if people ever said anything about my kids, I wanted them to say how polite they were. It was important to me that my kids be kind and empathetic to those around them.
I was blessed that my oldest and youngest both were naturally kind. From early on, they have been empathetic and always look for the good in others. But, God threw me a curveball with my middle child, Audrey. He gave her Asperger’s Syndrome.
Kids with Asperger’s are socially awkward, but it goes much further than that. They’re scared. They may not always know why, but they know they are different and that others may ignorantly judge and label them.
They often have a hard time fitting in to social situations and find conversations difficult. They rarely make eye contact, and sometimes they have eccentric or repetitive behaviors that others find “weird.” But probably the biggest struggle they face socially is that they cannot read other’s facial expressions or interpret verbal cues. They don’t really know when someone is upset with them or finds their behavior inappropriate.
I remember once when a school official told me that Audrey was rude. Audrey was only six years old and had no idea she was “rude.” I so badly wanted to reply, “My daughter isn’t rude. She has a chemical imbalance in her brain. What’s your excuse?”
That type of reaction from others is what many kids with Asperger’s face daily. People find them rude and weird and think of them as misfits. Sadly, many in society simply dismiss them as bad kids. But the reality is, they need to be treated with kindness too. And, when they are treated with kindness, they can be the best kids ever. They are usually incredibly smart, and they see things the rest of us overlook. There is a lot that can be learned from these kids when they are given a chance.
So, as parents of these kids struggle to teach them socially accepted behaviors, what can other parents do to teach their own children not just to tolerate Asperger’s kids, but to be kind to them?
Truthfully, Audrey struggled through elementary. She had stretches of good times and bad times, but the bad times were bad. Many kids who were her friends during the good times abandoned her during the bad. Worse yet, many became cruel and treated her poorly even during the good times. Some even exploited her weaknesses to make themselves look better. Sad, but true.
It warms my heart though, that she does have a handful of friends who not only stick by her, they treat her like they treat anyone else. They don’t judge. They accept.
Once such friend is Tom. He was the first friend she ever really made. He was her one and only friend in preschool, and his friendship to her has never been questionable. On their very last day of elementary, they found each other on the playground after they exited the building for the last time. Covered in silly string, they gleefully posed for this picture just as naturally as any two long-time friends would.
I hope she always has Tom in her life, and I hope the world can make more kids like him. His parents taught him not just tolerance, but true friendship.
About the Author...
Julie is a busy Mom of three and wife of a soldier who loves her family, wine and living life in spite of herself! You can read more of her stories on her blog Dance, Sing and Drink Wine.
Kinder by the Child Project
This unique series of personal stories will take a look at how we teach our children about kindness and why as parents we see the value in leading a life full of generosity and consideration.
I am mom to three boys (one with several life-threatening food allergies) who will never own too many picture books or create Pinterest-worthy snacks. Simply Chrissy K is a place to find helpful tips on parenting that stem from my work with families and design ideas based on our adventures building a home from the ground up.