An Unusual Play Date Story


Benny craves friendships and has made a few close friends over the past three years. It takes a solid, strong and insightful child to make it past the first few play dates with Benny.

 Benny often ignores his friends at first, preferring to hide out in his bedroom or watch a video when they come to the house for the first time. I shy away these days from first time dates because they are so difficult for us all. I rationalize that Benny has two close friends and that is enough for now. For the past few months though he has been asking to have Jake come and I finally asked his mother and he came for his first visit today.

 Benny waits by the window for hours anticipating the arrival of his friend, but as soon as the doorbell rings, he retreats to his room, and will not come out. In his room he is busy making strange noises- loud raspy attempts to imitate the ignition on a bus. I know this only because I see him holding his eyes to the wheels of a picture he had drawn. To Jake it must sound very scary.

 Jake is a quiet boy with the largest blue eyes I have ever seen. His face has not caught up yet to his large front teeth and I see that he is close to tears.

 Benny is not content to simply be alone in his room, he calls out to me repeatedly that I should tell Jake to leave, that he does not like Jake and he does not want to play with him.

 I can’t figure out who to attend to first, but I choose Benny. My attempts to reason with him and then cajole him to go out and play make him angry and he decides to send me to my room, to my bed, yell at me to stay put and tell me that I am in time out. As he slams the door I felt a momentary relief.

 I decide to stay in my room, curl up in my bed and feel the guilt for having made the move to an inclusive district. Suddenly it seems a cruel trick to have placed him beside the typical. Had he stayed in a self-contained program, there would be no bright eyed boy experiencing rejection in my living room, while I sit in exile behind a door. And Benny would not be failing to connect with a boy he adores, striving to make connections which might be out of reach.

 So I begin to write and as I write I hear them talking. Jake asks where I went and Benny explains that he put me in time out. Jake questions further, does not really get it, and I fear that when he tells his mother, she will lose respect for me as well. It seems however that Jake thinks Benny is quite clever and cool. They discuss my situation for a few minutes and I hear Benny has softened, a kinder gentler child is back and slowly and quietly I open the door. I sneak into the den and continue to write, now on the couch tucked beneath my favorite window.

 They are in the basement now laughing so hard I can’t make out the words. I tip toe to the door, they are playing trains, Benny is the LIRR and Jake is an AMTRACK. They build a track of big soft blocks and they race around, up and down, and then they find the hula hoops to use somehow. They run for a half an hour and I know they must be sweating now. I leave my den to bring them ice cold water and big stick pretzels. They eat them quickly, they ask for more. They are still giggling as they sit and snack, Benny telling Jake our recent trip to the city. I try to hold back my tears until I am safely out of sight.

 How do you deal with the social challenges of raising a child on the spectrum? Does your child crave friendships he is not always ready to handle? Does anyone have an unusual play date story to share?

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0 thoughts on “An Unusual Play Date Story

  • July 9, 2011 at 5:10 pm
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    @lizgreene – Thank you for sharing your story. It is great that your son is showing an interest in friendships and I would try to do everything to encourage this. My son plays well with kids of different ages, older kids are able to draw him out and younger ones enjoy his capacity for silliness. It does not really matter to me how much they have in common as long as they can enjoy each other. It it worth the time to go out of your way to schedule interesting activities that your son may enjoy and to include other kids. In the end the ability to relate to others is more important than anything else. I give you great credit for managing the teen years…I still have so much to learn about that!

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  • July 8, 2011 at 11:22 am
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    My son has PDD-NOS and is 14 now. He was diagnosed when he was 2 1/2 years old, so we’ve watched him struggle to conform to the so called ‘norm’ of society for quite some time. He understands he’s not like others, but I explain to him that none of us are! We are ALL different in our own ways and nobody is better or worse then anybody else, just different. And different is OK. Although I know those are just words when you’re a teen struggling to fit in.

    We have two other children that are younger – his sister is 12 and brother is 10. Both have ADD, so it’s quite a house of activity, but they really do get along for the most part. His younger siblings get invited to birthday parties and sleep overs…he does not. I believe he’s been invited to 2 birthday parties in all his years by other children he was in specialty classes with. He asks often to invite the neighbor kid over who is his age, but yet they have nothing in common. He just wants to connect with another kid.

     His OCD is really pushing through more and more this last year and we are hoping to combat it with medication to hopefully get it under control so he can conduct himself on a more even level. He loves LEGOS and robots…and now has started to notice girls. Strange combination, I know…think how he must feel?! For a ‘regular’ kid it’s a weird time, but for a kid on the spectrum, weird isn’t even in the ballpark! He wants to watch movies that have adult content of a sexual nature. He constantly asks to watch different movies with that R rating that states something of either sexual content or brief nudity. He says he’s ready and can handle it. I don’t think so! It’s only going to get more difficult as time goes on. I tell him maybe when he’s old enough to drive, he’ll be mature enough to watch such movies. This upsets him because he does not ever want to drive.

    We can barely get him to ride on the lawn mower and cut the grass, not because he’s lazy, but because he’s worried he’ll run into a tree or something and crash. We are on 10 acres and there aren’t too many trees. We are trying to get him to understand that someday we will not be here to do everything, so he must learn how to do for himself. This is not a conversation he likes to have, but we try to discuss it gently from time to time so the seed is planted. I know his siblings would watch out for him, but truth be told, if they marry & move away ~ then what? I worry about his future as he approaches 9th grade in the fall. He can hardly read, but they are teaching life skills because that’s what he’ll need. They are trying to find technology to aide him in his reading struggles. What will his future bring? Only time will tell.

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