The Extrovert with Autism
My daughter is very social and she has autism. These are two things that many people don’t realize can co-exist, but my kid is living proof that they can and do. I didn’t see this coming. At school, she was always with an adult, never playing side by side with other kids. Any time we were in a room full of children together, she only had eyes for me. Now, she loves to have company at our house, talks to strangers, and makes herself at home in anyone else’s house. I am an introvert learning how to get comfortable with her socialness, but that’s a post for another time.
My daughter loves having people over. She asks for her cousins at least 349 times a day. She asks me to schedule a playdate with one of her classmates on repeat. We can’t go into a store without befriending any employee that crosses our path. We can’t walk down crowded streets without her saying hello to strangers and sometimes she even touches them. At the YMCA where she has swim lessons, she will sit outside the gym and watch people exercise, waving to them as they work out while I stand there awkwardly, wishing I could go hide in my car.
When people wave back and/or respond to her on her terms, it’s adorable and easy and cute. When they don’t, it can be confusing. She is loud and full of energy, and this can be overwhelming for lots of kids and adults. She is one-sided with her tolerance for noise. Her voice is constantly raspy due to both the amount of words she says and sings as well as her volume. But if anyone else matches her volume, she gets upset. She has no appreciation for personal space of others, but when hers is invaded her response is fight, not flight. It’s a hard world for her to navigate when social quid pro quos don’t make sense. There is no give and take for her. It’s her way or no way, and as she gets older and craves more playtime with others this is becoming a harder thing for me to explain and help her learn.
Social stories are great, but take time and lots of practice. She now greets those who come over with a warm “Hello, how are you?” but we have a lot of work to do to help her navigate social situations appropriately and for me it means we have a lot of peopling to do which is daunting. I would love to practice with toys and hope that it all resonates in real world situations, but she needs real world experiences. She loves people and enjoys watching and learning from them. I’d rather read about them in black and white words, but I am trying to see things through her lens. I bought a book to help me out. Here’s hoping it helps.
If you have any tips, ideas, or books to help out please share in the comments.