Way back, when I had my perfect world in my head with all the ideas of what it would be like to have a child and all the things he would do and achieve, I never even considered I would be worrying about whether he would be invited to parties, included on school trips or asked around for tea. Why would I? It didn't figure in my non-autistic world.
I have read many stories around children with autism who have been devastated that they have not had any of their class friends turn up to their party and this week I was talking to a group of parents who had said their own children don't receive invites to other's parties.
I'm sure it would entice more people to read the post had I titled it 'To The People Who Don't Include My Son - FUCK YOU' as it seems that everyone wants to read the hard luck story, but I am going to try and counterbalance some of those heartbreaking accounts you have heard of.
The first thing Joseph will have going against him is that he will not actively try and make friends. He is still at the stage where he will happily play alongside other children but is making a little more effort in trying to involve people in his play and indeed his world; always on his terms though. Maybe a little like his Mum.
I often feel that as he lacks maturity and still has interests that are generally for children three years younger than him, it does provide a source of entertainment for other children and that makes me extremely protective over him. In contrast, the school he attends is a relatively small school and on the whole, I believe children accept Joseph for who he is and see what joy he derives from a certain type of play and share that enjoyment with him.
If I was running with the FUCK YOU title it would be here I wrote that he had received only one party invite in all the time at his school. The truth is, I've lost count but I would say he has had at least half a dozen for each year he has been there. I've never known whether that invite has been instigated by the child or the parent and I know that some have been because it has been a whole class invite. Whatever the reason, these people have chosen to include him when the simplest option would be to not bother.
I know there are parties he doesn't get invited to and I accept that he isn't the only one who has been singled out and it is probably because that particular child doesn't play with Joseph or it would be something he wouldn't get involved in, for example football. And if I was still on with the FUCK YOU story then I would be telling you that when Joseph doesn't get an invite, it breaks his and my heart. The reality is, it doesn't because as it stands he is unaware of it and I simply accept that people have a right to make that choice. I don't believe his autism is a passport to every single social gathering known to man and I think that would piss me off more, worrying that he was getting invites as people feel sorry for him!
A few years ago, when a different guard was in town, I found out from a grandparent in the playground that there had been a trip to Yorkshire Wildlife Park the week before. He had asked me whether Joseph had enjoyed it. The bile within my stomach began to rise and I went fucking apeshit. I'll not go much further with that particular story at this time as the school one is the topic still on the back burner. It was at a time when the only way Joseph would be considered for school trips was if I could accompany him. Amazing really considering he has paid teaching support for basically the full day every day.
We're on a completely different page now with a new Sheriff in town, flanked by some Deputies who don't give a second thought to Joseph going on the excursions. I recall asking on separate occasions as to whether Joseph will be participating in something and I was almost gawped at and asked why wouldn't he be? Joseph is a part of this class and it goes without saying he would be there.
This week they are all going on a trip to the zoo. I've filled my paperwork in, paid the fee and not even asked the question as to whether he can go. I've made that assumption that he will be going and that plans will be put in place to ensure he is safe and he enjoys his trip just as much as his classmates who will be going.
There may be a time in the future that this all changes again but for now I am not going to write something purely because it will receive more views. I feel every bit of pain when I read those sad stories but that doesn't mean I should hide what we have.
So to those that continue to include us in your activities and indeed your lives, thank you. I have appreciation and gratitude of each small gesture no matter how insignificant it may seem to you.
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