Sharon (mother of 2 children, including 1 autistic child): In social situations, when it comes to, like, say family, extended family and our close circle of friends, Peter’s fine. He knows where it’s safe, and I guess he knows where he can go and be himself, without any judgement or people getting funny at him, or stuff like that. But whenever we have to, like, things like weddings and stuff like that can pose an issue sometimes because we don’t get a chance to rehearse. It’s not as though we can go to the church or go to the venue and say ‘Oh, this is what we’re going to do’, and stuff like that. We can try and do the social story – sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Umm, so I suppose we just take whatever is in our kit bag and try and prepare as much as possible.
Shannon (father of 4 children, including 3 autistic children): Umm, if it’s a party situation: balloons, for Dominic. He doesn’t like helium balloons. Umm, I think Alexander, if there’s too many people he’ll retract and sort of either stay by himself or stay with us. And, yeah, the girls will sort of, yeah, I mean Amelia, if there’s someone there that she’ll take to, it’s not too bad, but yeah, she doesn’t like sort of high pitched noises. And Emily will just sort of wander.
Joanne (mother of 4 children, including 2 autistic children): Usually when there’s a gathering of a large amount of people you’ll see Xalie just slip away into her bedroom quietly and sit on her bed and maybe make things with her plasticine or play with her dolls or read a book, because it’s not really her thing to be around large crowds. If it’s a birthday and there’s cake and there’s presents, it’s a bit more exciting, so she’ll be there for the cake, she’ll be there for the presents, but when it comes to the social interaction and chatting to people it’s just not for her. So she’ll slip away. And we used to try and push her into the scene a little bit more but we don’t now, we just know, look, she’s not that comfortable with it, we’ll bring her out for the special moments. And also, I’m taking both the twins to social skills classes, which I am finding a great benefit. They teach you what to do when people greet you in a certain way, and what to do in certain social settings. Autism is a social disability as well so supporting them with social skills classes I have found, for my children, has been really good.
Alison (mother of 2 children, including 1 with Asperger’s): It’s like me trying to do maths, you know. I would be mentally and physically exhausted if I had to do a maths test, because it’s just not my thing. So, being around other people and having to follow the social etiquette and not doing what you want to do… is difficult for him. So, again, it’s all in the preparation. If we’re going anywhere we explain where we’re going. Very unwise to give him a particular time because if you say ‘We’re going at 2 o’clock’, you’d better be going at 2 o’clock. So, it’s all very, very literal
Bobby (father of 2 children, including 1 autistic child): Peter, being autistic, when it’s around my family, especially the central family, if there’s a sense of comfort there, then he becomes his normal self, a normal five-year-old little boy, that likes to joke around, have a laugh, run around, wrestle with his brother, wrestle with his dad. Umm, but also play with his grandparents as well; he really enjoys being comfortable around people that he knows. People that love him, that know him, care about him. With the friends, basically all our friends have children about the same age, he’s very comfortable with them as well, and he really enjoys having that close network around him.
Marita (mother of 2 autistic children): My daughters do OK with other adults; they struggle with their peers. We tend to socialise now with families who have special needs kids. Or we’ll have a play-date with just one family and their children, at our house, so that at least they’re coping in their familiar environment, with different children. Umm, at Annie’s last birthday she asked to have no birthday party, because she didn’t want to have lots of people around. She just didn’t like it all. So we really… the social interaction is very limited. So, yeah, I go to the internet for that. I go on Twitter, or Facebook, or my blog, and just communicate with other adults that way. Because my kids don’t like going out.
Jane (mother of 2 children, including 1 with Asperger’s): He’s always been very comfortable with adults. He, aah, I think again because adults tend to have a bit more leniency in the giving and taking of conversation, so they’re quite happy to listen to a child talk about what they’re interested in for a while. He has a… always, since he was about three, absolutely adores front-loading washing machines. So, generally, the first question an adult will get is ‘Oh hello, my name’s Julian, can I ask you what kind of washing machine you’ve got?’ So that’s his… and a lot of people find that quite cute - when he was younger, he’s aware it’s not quite a socially acceptable interest nowadays, but, yeah, he would often have people who would talk to him for half an hour about their washing machines.
Marita: Annie will sit and talk to adults about whatever they’re talking about. So if you’ve got two mums, sitting over a coffee, talking about a problem with their partner, or a kid who’s toilet training, Annie will sit and try and join in the conversation, like a peer, and not understand that that’s perhaps not appropriate.
Joanne: Not being socially isolated is a concern, so I always try and put them out there. My daughter does roller-skating classes, and they do swimming to try and improve their swimming, and they do social skills classes, so they’re always out there – without trying to make them exhausted, it’s just trying to make them to fit in, and to feel... The thing is, they don’t feel like they’re different to anyone else. They don’t feel they’re different. They’ve got their skills; they’ve got their strengths. It’s the way other people see them, and don’t accept them. So they’re the barriers you’ve got to break down. Because I could let them be and they’d be happy. They’d be happy. But they’d be on their own. So I’ve got to constantly push so they’re not on their own. And that people accept them.