Social Distancing

PJ created this slide for his remote technology class! 
I can not believe it is the first of May. Leave to an Autism mom to let Autism Awareness Month slide by without so much as ONE blog post about it! But, these are strange times we are in. You win some, you lose some, you sometimes only shower two or three times in a week while quarantining.

Wait. What?

Anyway, today I just wanted to check in here, see how you all are, and share a little about how our things are going for us. It has been tough on and off- while PJ continues to do extremely well with his schoolwork, he is starting to feel the strain of quarantine, and it shows. When he is off, he is on edge;  cranky, highly prompt-dependant, and desperately missing his family, teachers, therapists, and peers.

Let's talk about that last thing for a second. A child with Autism does crave human contact and peer interactions. When someone approaches PJ he may seem disinterested or not engaged- he might be scripting, engrossed in something else, or not having a good moment. But PJ does want to connect with his peers, desperately so.

Think back to when you were going through that phase in life when some of your peers started to become attractive to you. There may have been one crush in particular (my first crush was a kid named Billy). You probably wanted to make out with that person but realized that even if they became a willing participant, you has no earthly idea of how these things worked. You didn't know if you should use tongue, no tongue, touch their face, cop a feel- what was supposed to be happening here? But then maybe you did get to kiss your crush, and it was awkward, but okay. You learned from the first time and maybe kissing got better, or maybe it wasn't supposed to be the person you should be kissing and you found another person to kiss.

Ooooookay. Perhaps I have been social distancing a while and there are things on my mind. But there is a point to this, just stay with me here:

The part in that scenario where you wanted to interact with your crush but did not know how to do it? PJ lives in that space all the time (I mean, I don't think he's at the wanting to make out stage yet, but the integration stage in general). I often see him watching peers play and interact, but when he approaches them, he just doesn't know what to do. Sometimes he is guided by his peers, sometime he just hangs on the edges and then fades back if there is no response. The problem is that for many children with Autism, there is no opportunity to learn from this process organically. PJ has people to help prompt him through these interactions, and even takes classes to work on his social skills. He doesn't get to just feel it out the way we all did because, at least right now. He needs help to process all of that information, and learn how to react in social situations. 

The point of all this is that social distancing in an Autism home is not just about being a little lonely. PJ is missing out on the very vital learning opportunities he needs to ensure that he will learn to understand other people and make friends. These are unprecedented times, of course, so I bear no ill will towards the people who are working so hard to keep our world afloat. But the COVID19 outbreak does lend notice to the issue that people with disabilities are often left without the supports they need during a crisis. Although our school district has been absolutely amazing in their delivery of distance learning, I have never felt PJ's need for the social aspect of school so sharply.

We are doing the best we can for now- since this is a scenario that we never imagined, there was no game plan to refer to. We are thankful that there is technology to help us grapple with Global Pandemic Life. But it is not the same as true contact with live people, and we are all feeling the strain.

Hopefully, we all only need to hang on for just a little longer.

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