When we were told of Ryan's autism spectrum diagnosis, I had days of crying "Why him?", "Why us?". Following my sobbing days came my angry days and along with that anger came many colorful words. Which was why it was so shocking to me that the mother of all bad words did not flow from my truck driver mouth, but from the mouth of the wonderful, fabulous psychologist. Yep, she said it....THE F Word.......FRIEND. I will pause a moment while you recover from the shock. Believe it or not, when your child has an autism spectrum diagnosis, the word FRIEND (or any derivative of the word such as friendship, best friends, friends forever, BFF, etc) is as vulgar as that F word that rhymes with duck.
I'm pretty certain THE F Word has caused me more heartache than Ryan. For example, field trips are AWEnestly a form of torture for me. Yes, I no longer share the back seat of the bus with my friend Denial, but for someone who places friendship right up there with new shoes, field trip is another vulgar F Word. On field trips, there is not the day to day routine of the classroom which Ryan thrives in, but it is more of a fun, social time. Rarely does an 11 year old boy happily jump in the bus seat to sit next to his mother when surrounded by much cooler classmates. My boy not only jumps in next to me, he smiles from ear to ear as happy as Mario riding on Yoshi's back. The other moms all sit together, familiar with one another as their children are fri***ds. In some ways it fills my heart with joy that I bring such happiness and comfort to my son, but in other ways I want him to ignore me completely and jump in a seat next to some other video game addicted child. Ryan isn't completely ignored by the other children, but very few kids come up to chat with him. Being the nutso, whack job mother that I am, on one field trip I decided to keep track of who all spoke to him. BIG. MISTAKE. Not one child uttered a single word to my wonderful boy in 5 hours. As I tried to hold back the tears and the OTHER F Word as I cursed autism, Ryan asked if he could check out the weather app on my phone to see if the rain would subside before we went outside to check out the Native American Wigwams. He didn't even notice that he was ignored. I believe that Ryan has ignored his fellow classmates for so long that they have stopped trying.
Yes, slowly, but surely, Ryan is embracing the idea of a friend, but he still has a lot of catching up to do. On a bowling outing with Friend #2, Ryan asked Friend #2 if he had ever watched the show Gumball. When Friend #2 asked Ryan if that was his favorite show Ryan responded with, "I'm sorry but I don't share personal information." While laughing and trying not to wreck the car, I was grateful for that moment and even more grateful when they came back to the house to play video games and really seemed to enjoy each other's company. In fact, when I went to check on them and saw Friend #2 kicked back on the top bunk with the Wii U controller in hand while Ryan was on the floor with the other controller, it looked so "natural" that I descended the steps in tears.
Maybe in time, when Ryan realizes Friend #2 is as safe and trustworthy as Kyle and Emma and when he discovers that Friend #2 won't tease him when he repeats The Angry Bird's Pig noise over and over again, or care if Ryan doesn't like showering on weekends, maybe then Ryan will share "personal information" with Friend #2. Perhaps one day THE F Word will mean as much to Ryan as The P Word...Pudding, or at the very least find someone he trusts enough to share his pudding with. In the mean time, his friend cheerleading mother must accept that THE F Word is not a vulgar word to anyone in my house, but me. The only F Word Ryan recognizes as a swear word is that F Word that rhymes with duck (fart has been acceptable in my home for years...big surprise). Yes, THE six letter dirty F Word is mine and only mine just like that last son of a *@#@**## Oreo was suppose to be mine too. I would love for Ryan to one day just do a small toe touch jump when he mentions the word FRIEND, however, I am slowly beginning to recognize that although he may prefer to be alone, rarely is he ever lonely.