An Open Letter to the girl who included my son

Subject: An Open Letter to the girl who included my son
Date: 18 Aug 2017

At your class field trip last year, while waiting for the bus to pick up the kids, a group of girls started to do some singing/cheer chant that started while in a circle holding hands. You looked like you were having so much fun, and to my son with autism, it looked like fun he wanted to have too.

As he often fails to notice things, he didn’t notice that it was just the girls in the class. He didn’t think that you might prefer to keep it that way. He didn’t worry about not fully knowing the words or the rules. He simply wanted to laugh, and sing, and be a part of your infectious energy.

He confidently walked up and inserted himself into your circle of friends, ready for the next round. A few looks were exchanged, but most of your group seemed ready to indulge him. A girl on one side of him grabbed his hand, and he smiled and held out his other. This girl was hesitant and for whatever reason did not want to hold his hand. She is a sweet girl, and usually very nice to my son. If she did not want to hold his hand, it could be for any number of reasons, and likely just because they are 7 and boys aren’t always welcome in girls games. And that’s ok. I would never expect her to if she didn’t want to. But my son was confused. His face fell, and for a moment he wasn’t sure he would get to play. The parents looked on, and it was an awkward ten seconds that felt like an eternity to me. I was at the ready, to either join in and make a fool of myself in order to hold his hand, or gently lead him away with a “let the girls play this time, next time you can.”

But then you walked up. You left your place between your friends, walked over to my son, rolled your eyes at the other girl and confidently took up his hand. The game continued. My son was overjoyed to participate, and when it ended, everyone laughed and clapped together. You made his day, and mine.
See you didn’t know that the field trip, though to a familiar place that he loves, was extremely hard on both him and I that day. That we had had a long and rough day, full of stress because of his sensory and behavioral challenges. You simply saw that he was in need of a friend, and came right over without hesitation. You volunteered yourself in the midst of a group that looked on, unsure of what to do.

I worry about my son being mainstreamed in school every day. The past few years have been difficult and presented great challenges for him. I worry about how other kids perceive and treat my son, who they likely don’t understand. He looks the same, but behaves very differently.

But I know that as long as kids like you exist in this world, I won't need to worry quite as much.