Thursday 29 March 2012

Riley's Social Success Puzzle
(The Final Chapter): Friends

What the heck was I thinking?!?!?  As I sat writing and rewriting this, the last and final post in my first ever series “Riley’s Social Success Puzzle”, I found myself bored out of my mind and figured if I was bored with it all, surely everybody else would be too.  Am I right???  No need to answer that…point taken. Anyways, just so that I have some sort of closure, I will write something with the promise that I will never EVER attempt a “series” again. *crossing heart*

So on to the topic of “friends”If you were to ask Riley today if he had friends, his answer would probably be yes. Now what exactly is Riley’s definition of a friend?  Honestly I don’t really know although I am almost certain pretty sure that his definition and my definition would not be the same.

One of the things that I really worried about (and still do) with Riley is bullying.  It is one of those things that you hear about way too often in the news and the subject of much Twitter talk lately. As a matter of fact, here are two articles that I saw just today: “Kids with Autism Often Bullied” and “Children with Autism More Likely to be Bullied”.

What could we do to try to reduce the risk of Riley being bullied?  One of the first things that came to mind was that Riley would need to have friends.  Weeelllll…easier said than done.  The chances of Riley being able to make friends on his own were highly unlikely. We would have to help Riley do that and lucky for us, we had our FG (Fairy Godmother) and support of the school to try and make this happen. This is where the “How to Be a Great Friend” and “Friend 2 Friend Social Learning Society’s Autism Demystification” programs were very helpful as an introduction to Riley’s peers about him and his autism. Follow-up activities at school (“Extracurricular School Activities”) helped to reinforce the strategies learned in the programs and afterschool outings with his peers (thanks to great child care workers) helped to build a network of support for Riley.

I had been told by some parents when R was in elementary that there was a “silent code” that nobody was to bother Riley. Kids already had R's back. Now would that carry over to high school where there would be 3-4 times the number of kids with the majority not knowing Riley?  Would all the work done in elementary school pay off?  I mean the unfortunate reality and as unacceptable as it is, there are some kids who will be targets of bullying regardless of special needs or not.

While we have had a lot of success socially for Riley over the years this is not to say there has never been any issues.  Believe me, for every time that something has worked there were twice as many things that we tried that have not worked.  It has all been a trial and error, by the seat of our pants kind of ride.
Riley & a friend on an outing last spring.
That being said, it has been such a relief and so rewarding to hear such positive feedback from parents and staff about the support Riley gets from his peers in high school. Does that mean that he goes out with his typical peers?  Umm…that would be a no but that’s just not realistic.  Riley’s interests are not the same as his typical peers. His communication and social skills make it difficult for him to socialize at the best of times let alone at a party/event where certain how shall I say uh “activities” may be occurring.  :)

So tell me, does it matter if what I think of a friend and what Riley thinks of a friend are different?  For me it does not matter.  We have been so very fortunate to have such a supportive group of kids rally around Riley at school and in the community. If Riley believes he has friends then that is good enough for me.

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