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  1. #1
    mousemom is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    Default Educate me, please - new neighbor's son has autism

    We are moving in a couple of weeks. We briefly met our new next door neighbors this weekend. We learned that they have a son who is only 2 months older than our DS (both about 2.5 now). The mom let me know he has autism. She described him as high-functioning, but I have not yet met him, so I don't know what his particular challenges are. They have lots of play equipment in their yard and she invited us over to play anytime. I said we'd enjoy that.

    I've never personally known anyone with autism. Please educate me about how to be a friend to someone with autism. Are there certain things I should say/do or avoid saying/doing to make things easier for our neighbor and her DS when we get together? How should I explain to DS that this little boy may act a little differently than he might expect or do things that are not ok for him to do? I want to set DS up for success and also want to make sure I don't inadvertantly say/do something that offends our new neighbors.

    Thank you for any help!
    DS 11/08
    DS2 3/13

  2. #2
    karstmama's Avatar
    karstmama is offline Sapphire level (2000+ posts)
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    my son has some similar issues, but i'll get to that in a minute.

    first i'd like to say 'thank you' for asking, thanks for trying to teach your child to be a friend!

    ok, if the mother was frank & it sounds like she was, she'll be the expert, of course. my son is older, but at 2 1/2 he wouldn't have paid any attention to another child. i'd prep your ds to approach him but not be surprised if he doesn't respond. basically, to expect 'parallel play' for past the time most kiddos start interacting. for my child this has happened pretty much *this week*. not easy to explain, but 'be his friend even if he's not acting friendly' would be the major idea i'd try to pass along. of course, this doesn't include aggression or anything - just tolerating being ignored.
    mama to j karst, former 25 weeker, 12/06

  3. #3
    sariana is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    If her son is high funtioning, it is possible his challenges mostly will be social. At age 2 and even 3, your son may not notice anyting at all, as he also will be learning social skills and appropriate behavior.

    As both boys get older, your neighbor's child may not "get" things the way other children do. He may say inappropriate things or act in a way that seems "bratty" or undisciplined but really is a behavioral skill deficit. Your son's patience and kindness would be the best gift a friend can offer this child.

    My son has high-functioning autism (Asperger's). He is just finishing first grade. Although he has improved greatly, he still struggles with wanting to be in charge all the time (no one else knows how to do it the "right" way) and with failing to read signals that most people realize mean "I'm not intereted in that right now" or "I'm busy with something else right now." DS will keep pushing a topic when it's clear the other child doesn't want to talk, or DS will interrupt (usually loudly) to get the attention of someone who clearly is involved in another conversation (especially adults). He gets frustrated and angers easily when things are different from how he thinks they should be.

    Of course every child is different; I'm just sharing some things that have come up for us. We know some other children with varying levels of autism from when DS was in (Special Ed) preschool, and they have behaviors that are similar to DS's.
    DS '04 "Boogaboo"
    DD '08 "Lilybear"

  4. #4
    Gena's Avatar
    Gena is offline Emerald level (3000+ posts)
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    My son with high-functioning autism is 7 years old now. Thank you for wanting to learn more about autism and how you and your son can be a meaningful part of your new neighbors’ lives.

    You may have heard/read the saying: “If you have seen once child with autism, you have seen one child with autism.” What this means that autism presents differently in each and every person. So no one can tell you exactly what issues this particular child will have and what you will see or experience when interacting with this family. Children with autism are on a different developmental pathway and each one follows their own unique course.

    Autism is a pervasive developmental disorder that generally affects 3 main areas: communication, social interaction, and repetitive behavior/play skills. So you may notice odd behaviors in any or all of these areas.

    Children with autism often have very uneven development. They might have extraordinary abilities in certain areas, but be way behind their peers in other areas.

    Additionally, many people with autism have sensory issues. So this child could either hate or crave certain sensory stimuli such as loud noises, tight clothes, bright lights, messy play, certain textures, tight hugs, etc. Many children with autism have additional health issues. For example, up to 50% of children with autism have gastrointestinal difficulties. So the child may (or may not) be on a special diet or take special nutritional supplements, or have unusual food preferences. Some children with autism have motor skill delays, but others do not.

    Keep an open mind when meeting this child and talking to his parents. Don't be afraid to ask questions in a friendly, polite way.
    Gena

    DS, age 11 and always amazing

    “Autistics are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg." - Paul Collins, Not Even Wrong

  5. #5
    sariana is offline Diamond level (5000+ posts)
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    I just wanted to add that the fact that the mom chose to share this information with you so early in your relationship with the neighborhood is a sign that she is very open and would be willing to answer any qestions you may have. You should not hesitate to approach her with anything that you feel will help your DCs to have a good relationship with each other.
    DS '04 "Boogaboo"
    DD '08 "Lilybear"

  6. #6
    mousemom is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and giving me some ideas about what to expect. I do realize that every child with autism is different, so it's hard to generalize. Is there anything that you wish a potential friend of yours/your child with autism had known/knew? Also, while DS may not need an explanation right away, do you know if there are any good books geared towards children about being friends with a person who has autism?
    DS 11/08
    DS2 3/13

  7. #7
    Gena's Avatar
    Gena is offline Emerald level (3000+ posts)
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    Quote Originally Posted by mousemom View Post
    Also, while DS may not need an explanation right away, do you know if there are any good books geared towards children about being friends with a person who has autism?
    I asked a similar question here a while back because I wanted to find a book I could donate to my son's daycare that would help the other kids understand his differences. Someone recommended My Friend with Autism: A Coloring Book for Peers and Siblings . I bought that book and was very impressed with how it explained autism to typical kids. The book also has a section with information and tips for adults, which is very nice. The daycare appreciated our gift of this book and has been using it with the children in my son's classroom. (He attends for afterschool care and all day in the summer).

    I also recently found this pair of books:
    Tobin Learns to Make Friends
    Friends Learn about Tobin

    In these adorable books, Tobin is a loney little red engine with social difficulties. He wants to be friends with the other engines. In the first book (Tobin Learns to Make Friends), Tobin learns about how to be a friend and the book talks about personal space, taking turns, sharing, being polite, following rules, etc. This book is written for the child with ASD or ADHD or any child who struggles with making friends.

    In the second book (Friends Learn about Tobin) The other engines learn how to accept and appreciate Tobin's differences, including his dislike of change, difficulty with eye contact, repetitive behavior, photographic memory, sensitivity to noises/crowds, talent for numbers, etc. The other engines learn how with a little extra kindness and understanding they can meet Tobin where he is and be better friends to him.

    My son loves the Tobin books and has been studying them. We got them from our local special education library, but it looks like I need to buy a set for home.
    Gena

    DS, age 11 and always amazing

    “Autistics are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg." - Paul Collins, Not Even Wrong

  8. #8
    mousemom is offline Platinum level (1000+ posts)
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    Thanks so much for the book recommendations, Gena. I will definitely get at least one or two of those.
    DS 11/08
    DS2 3/13

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