Is My Daughter with Autism Lonely or Is It Just Me?

I’ve often wondered if Debbie ever feels lonely. Aside from Joey, she doesn’t have any friends. Sure, there are classmates who are friendly to her. She sits next to them in music class, makes pyramids with them in PE, and gives them high-fives as they pass in the hallway. But she doesn’t have a true connection to anyone outside of our family. Just to be sure, I asked her teacher how Deb interacts with another girl in her class. The teacher’s response was honest. They live in parallel universes. When one is away from her desk, the other one wants to hang out there and play and vice versa.

Is Debbie as sad about this as I am or am I imposing expectations upon her when I shouldn’t be? Should I simply allow life to take its natural course and accept the fact that family is enough for her at this point in time?

Joey “gets” Debbie. He plays with her on her level. They chase each other, roughhouse, and, to a limited extent, play video games together. She barges into his room like any other little sister would do to her older brother. Even if she gets on his nerves sometimes, there is nothing he wouldn’t do for her.  I love watching them together. Their relationship gives me hope that one day Debbie may want to step out of the comfort zone of our house and have a friendship with someone who is not a part of our family.

One of Debbie’s cousins, Zach, understands her as well as Joey understands her. Zach goes out of his way to enter Debbie’s world. He will sit next to her. He will talk to her. When she tells him – in her not-so-polite way – to go away, he respects her wishes, but only for a little while. Zach comes back and talks to her. I wish more kids were like Zach and Joe. I wish more kids persevered and kept coming back to talk to Debbie, to interact with Debbie, to be friends with Debbie. But does Debbie share my wish? Or is she happy without having the same kinds of friendships as Joey? 

When I ask Debbie about school, she names the adults. She doesn’t talk about other kids, just the adults. In general, she seems happy. She smiles and she laughs. She bounces around with an abundance of energy and plays the piano with gusto. So what if she doesn’t have the same kinds of friendships as Joey? What she does have is a family that loves her to the moon and back.

So at the end of the day, if I am truly honest with myself, I can easily answer the question about Debbie being lonely. She’s not lonely. It’s just me. I need to stop imposing my expectations upon her. I need to let her life take the natural course it deserves. I can accept Debbie’s limited social interactions as long as she is happy. If and when Debbie wants to have friendships and relationships with others, there is no doubt in my mind that she will seek them out. However, until that day happens, I will allow her to grow at her own pace. I will revel in watching her joy as she plays with her brother and her cousin. I will love her for who she is – a happy, energetic young lady who has a penchant for music. Her happiness and well-being need to supersede my expectations about her social life. And that is what I must focus on – her happiness and well-being!

What about your kids? How do they do with social interactions? Let’s connect!

xoxoxo ~ Julie


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