“They don’t want to play with me…”
There was a time I didn’t think this day would come. When Julianna started Kindergarten she was speaking. I wouldn’t describe her as this overly chatty child but I thought we had arrived. Julianna went from Non-Verbal to Sign Language to Potty Trained, to Speaking. Our Journey had many twists and turns. Don’t they all?
We’re starting Kindergarten in an integrated class with neurotypical peers. Integrated means it is a class that is co-taught by a General Education and Special Education Teacher. The class must finish the grade level curriculum and a handful of unidentified students with IEPs are placed in this class along with neurotypical children. The beauty of this placement is no one knows who’s special needs.
For us, it was the Golden Ticket I was striving for since she was 3.
Here we were. Taking pictures on the first day of school.
A few months in, I started to notice her chatter was around one child in particular, her best friend, whom we will call Jane. The chatter about Jane was non-stop, and I was instantly skeptical because it didn’t feel like a two-way street. Jane was in a mutual extracurricular activity so I would see when they were together, she never talked to Julianna. I remember checking in with the mom to see if the feeling was mutual and her mom was very placating saying
“Oh yes…. Same here.. Talks about Julianna all the time.”
Although my instincts were saying otherwise, I trusted it. I wanted so badly to believe our Autism was cured.
…But then it happened.
We were invited to this little girl’s birthday party. Julianna was so excited. I went out and bought the perfect gift, definitely went above and beyond the budget and we headed over to Jane’s house for a pool party.
The day was very hot and Julianna ran off to play with her little bff. I stuck my feet in the pool water wondering why I didn’t bring a bathing suit for myself and then I heard it… a loud horrible scream. Before I could look up to see whose child was screaming, Julianna was in my face screeching and in tears. I looked her up and down for an injury. The screaming was that bad, but I didn’t see anything so I asked her what was wrong.
“They don’t want to play with me…”
..Jane and her friend.
“What do you mean they don’t want to play with you”?
“Every time I try to play with her, she runs away.”
Destroyed for her.
This wasn’t the relationship either of us thought it was.
Asked “Julianna, do you want to go home?”
“NO, NO I want her to play with me.”
Felt awful. How was I going to do that?
Went over to the little girl and I said…
“Come on girls, we can all play together right?”
“I guess” but I could tell she didn’t mean it. –Jane said…
Julianna got excited but I knew this was bullshit. She just clung to the words said and believed them at face value.
She tried to run off with them again and this time I was watching and they left her flat, and she came back crying to me again.
Feeling awful for my kid and so helpless I went to Jane’s mother.
Although she tried to get her to play with Julianna—Jane basically told her mother off in front of a backyard full of people and kids saying she doesn’t want to play with my daughter and that she’ll do what she wants.
It turns out this girl has been giving “signals” for a while and Julianna wasn’t picking up on them.
She’d say things like “Sure you can play with us” as she rolled her eyes.
Or there would be inside jokes. Laughing at my girl and Julianna would think she was in on the fun but was the joke.
That whole incident sent me into my fight-or-flight response. I couldn’t get us out of that party fast enough and I was devastated on two fronts.
Autism is here to stay. No matter how much progress we make, we will continue to face age-appropriate challenges with the side of Autism
How do I teach her something like social skills that are just innate in neuro-typical humans?
I started thinking about Julianna and her future. I thought shitty things at first… like people are going to swindle her, she will be bullied, and she’ll be the butt of their jokes with no true friends.
Never let my mind stay here.
I’m her mom.
The mom that got her potty trained, that got her speaking.
Also I don’t stew in a pity party or mental bullshit. I keep figuring shit out.
After I let the dust settle from that encounter, and I accepted our life sentence of Autism I got back to work like I always did. I wanted to start believing something different, and that’s when it came to me…
“What if Julianna will forever have Autism and she can live an AMAZING LIFE?”
Thought work is important in the work I do with my clients and this is EXACTLY WHY. That thought got me out of the mental mud and I was able to use the same strategies I used to get her speaking, to get her potty trained, and applied it to teaching her social skills.
Started putting together social stories, started role play, ran mock scenarios with her, hosted a ton of playdates, and even deliberately setting up ones with challenging kids, and we still do this work to this day. Julianna is at a point in her life where I call it the fine-tuning of the Dials.
Fast Forward to 2nd Grade and we were on our way to an amusement park with a different girl. She was a chatty little blonde we’ll call Kimmy. As I was driving I heard her chatting up a storm to my still Girl of Few Words Julianna in the back seat. She was talking about all her friends and then she said.
“Guess who’s my BEST Friend? It’s Julianna Rogers!”
And I was like.. wait what??!? “What did you say, Kimmy”?
“Julianna Rogers is my Best Friend!”
Had to hold back tears.
So, I did not stop till I got this for my girl. I didn’t know when it was going to come or who was going to say it but she and that girl are still REAL BFFS.
Had I left that birthday party defeated by Autism and defeated by my fears of the miserable life Julianna would have with the people in her life, I would not have found this girl, I wouldn’t have kept moving forward.
One of the biggest requests I get is to show parents how to get their children to communicate.
Now I want to show you exactly how I get my daughter to not just speak but developing her social skills.
From This Episode: CHAMPIONS FOR OUR CHILDREN 90 DAY MASTERCLASS ENROLLMENT CLOSES SUNDAY – https://michellebrogers.com/unlock/ “📢 Calling all parents! Only 2 days left to enroll