Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Generation Of Lonely Children

The start of the new school year has opened my eyes to a whole new level of parenting. Dana and I are part of a local group of amazing autism mothers called The Badgers (yes, Honey Badgers). They are one hell of a fun group of strong women. They make me laugh til I almost pee every time I meet up with them. One of these ladies, Chelsea, had a pretty awful moment today at school. Another mother, I guess with good intentions, walked up and told her how bad she felt for Chelsea's son, C, because none of the other kids wanted to play with him. And if only he were good at sports, maybe then he would have friends. Imagine someone saying that to you about your child. I give Chelsea so much respect for her response. She stood up strong and informed her that C has autism and perhaps maybe this mother's kids should make a positive example to other kids and try friending him. She told her how C prays every night asking for friends and to make his autism go away. Blank stare from other mom.

This broke my heart this morning. It stayed with me all day and as I was sitting in the parking lot at my kids' school, I watched afternoon recess for the older kids and noticed more heartbreak. Most of the kids were playing in pairs or groups. But there were a few random boys walking around by themselves. One was running beside another group of kids, alone but imitating the others. Another boy was standing in the field by himself, flapping his arms and randomly running in circles. He looked as if he were playing. Just. Alone. They were so alone and not a single other child seemed to care enough to make an effort to include them. As I witnessed these kids trying to make the best of their loneliness by entertaining themselves, my thoughts travelled back to Chelsea and C. And then I wondered if this is what the future holds for my own son. Will he be the kid walking around the field playing "superhero" completely alone? The thought makes my entire body ache. He has been through so much. He deserves friends as much as any one else.

By the time my son reaches grade school, the statistics of autism will be near 1 in 30. This is just autism. What about the other socially shunned disorders? ADHD, asthma, severe food allergies, obesity, etc?  How many kids will be part of the Lonely Generation? Even when they are in the majority, will it matter if so many of them can't even talk or make the initial steps to building relationships? How many kids are going to be scattered around the play yard, completely alone? This is why integrated programs are so crucial right now. We have to start teaching typical developing children now how to befriend and understand our upcoming sick children. Prevention is coming and we are working so hard to spread the word about vaccines and environmental toxins causing our children to be completely annihilated. But even if we were to save the coming generations from this trauma, we still have the ones left, like Elijah, Keanu and C. They cannot be left behind and forgotten about. We will not allow it. Please, parents and non parents alike, we beg you. Open your hearts and minds to the amazing possibilities of friending an autistic or other developmentally challenged person. They may not be the easiest people to "get" and live with. But they have so much to offer. Don't discount them. Teach your children that different does not mean less. It's personal to me; my child's well being is at stake. It should be personal to you with 50% of children being chronically ill. Someone you know is "socially unacceptable." Be the change.