Last year my son started primary school and up till then hadn’t been to a friend’s house for tea (or dinner as most of you call your evening meal!)
The day arrived when a parent asked if he would like to round for tea…. to say I went cold with panic would be an understatement! I had dreaded being asked but knew / hoped it would happen at some point. By this point I had lost count of how many times he had been in trouble at school and was pulling my hair out with his behaviour. I didn’t know which way was up, and the ball had just been set rolling to start an assessment to see if he had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Now please don’t get me wrong I want my son to experience everything and more that all other kids his age do. The problem I had was if he was to “kick off” would this parent be OK dealing with it? Was she aware of how it could go? I didn’t want to give her a meltdown! I also had to think about my son… he isn’t good with change and new situations, he’s very fussy about food and can flip over something that seems so trivial to us yet to him its a major thing.
Luckily this parent was one I spoke to quite a bit and was fully aware of how he could be, and I had full confidence in her being able to deal with him. When the day arrived he was so excited yet very anxious and was asking lots of questions about who would be picking him up and where the house was. Later on I received a picture on my phone of them playing happily and my son’s face was a picture he looked to be having a ball! When he arrived home he was still on a high, and wanted to know when we could return the gesture and have his friend at our house.
A couple of weeks later his friend visited us after school and for the first 30 mins everything was fine. My son was showing him his room and all his toys and then all of a sudden he appeared downstairs and plonked himself in front of the TV… with his friend just left upstairs! My son struggles with social situations and couldn’t understand why he couldn’t just leave his friend and that he actually had to play with him. His poor friend kept shouting him to come back up and play saying “shall I just play on my own then?” I don’t think for one second my son realised what he had done and why it was rude to just leave him. They ate their tea and I dropped his friend back at home.
There were a couple of other occasions where he had a friend round for a little play, and again he did the same thing after about 30 mins he took himself off preferring his own company. It was awful to watch as I felt sorry for the friend who was just left but also my son who just didn’t seem to understand the social etiquette of having friends round.
A few months later when he started in year one, there was a film he was desperate to see and him and a boy in his class were talking about it. I asked him if he would like to go and if he would like to ask his friend. That Friday rolled round and we picked his friend up and set off to the local cinema. Him and his friend talked excitedly all the way there about things they had done at school that day and things they had planned for the weekend. Once in our seats my son put on his ear defenders, He wears these as he has always struggled with certain (not all) loud noises. We have been to many films and shows where he has just sat with his hands over his ears for an entire 2 hours. Anyway he pops them on and his friend doesn’t bat an eyelid, they settle down and the film begins.
….Now I suddenly realised that this is a bit of a get out of jail free card for my son, and had we been at home this is around the time he would have wandered off and left his friend …. suddenly in these circumstances its accepted and expected that you don’t speak to one another.
When the film ended his social levels were recharged and they had something fresh to talk about. They spoke about the film all the way home and then said goodbye when we dropped his friend off. There were no awkward silences, nobody felt left out or ignored. He was happy, his friend was happy and I was relieved!
So, for my son – who does have clear social and communicational difficulties – the cinema is the best play date ever!