Mummy, Why Don’t They Like Me?

Left Out

We’ve been socialising recently.  I know, I know, since moving house I’ve changed!  I hate to admit it but I’ve barely even spoken to a postman since moving here.

Between Tyger starting his new nursery and us actually interacting with people I’m not related to (or who don’t bring me my mail and Amazon purchases), I have seen Tyger interact with more new adults and children than usual in the last week.  This has led me to the following conclusion:

Children are much more perceptive than adults.

I’m always very open about Tyger’s autism.  I don’t think it’s something he should be ashamed of and I think it can be helpful for people to be aware of it when they interact with him.  I don’t blurt out ‘my son has ASD’ upon meeting someone but there do tend to be openings to mention it within the first hour of chatting.

The conversation with adults always goes the same way, though.  It doesn’t matter if I’m talking to another parent or someone who works with young children or someone with no experience of children at all, they’ll inevitably say something along the lines of: ‘Really?  I wouldn’t have known.’

They’re surprised.  Always.

The kids, though: they know.  Of course, they wouldn’t be able to articulate it as, ‘That boy clearly has Autism Spectrum Disorder.’  But they know something isn’t quite ‘normal’ with the way Tyger interacts with them.  They know he doesn’t quite manage to follow social conventions; at least not without it looking like he’s making an effort.

When I took Tyger in for a visit to his new nursery the nursery worker was surprised and confused when a little boy who, it seems, is normally quite the chatterbox barely spoke to Tyger and went quiet for the duration of their game.

I was less surprised as I watched Tyger order the boy about slightly too intensely and demand the poor child answer his interrogation questions.  That boy knew something was a little…off with how Tyger was interacting with him.  Something about Tyger clearly perturbed him.

The fact children react differently to Tyger really struck me, though, at a small birthday party last weekend where the birthday boy and his friend were leaving Tyger out.  Nothing overtly malicious but a bit of running away from him and excluding him from games.

Tyger cried.  These were no crocodile tears but proper anguished sobs and amid the convulsions as he sat on my lap he asked, ‘Mummy, why don’t they like me?’

Now, I know kids make and break friendships more often than Tyger strips his clothes off.  I also know these boys were already friends and Tyger was new to them.  In that situation any child might have been left out.  Any child could have been upset.

But it didn’t happen to any child; it happened to mine.

Again.

And I had a nauseating feeling of foreshadowing.  I suspect I’ll hear those words – that awful question – again…and again throughout Tyger’s childhood.

Disclaimer: this was posed - I didn't take photos of him actually upset!
Disclaimer: this is posed – I didn’t photograph him actually upset!

Tyger knows he’s different.  He’s extremely sensitive to what others think of him, which is exactly why so many adults don’t notice his autism.  I’ve written about his masking many times before but it’s always worth stating again.  The way he acts when he’s around other people is a world away from how he acts when he’s at home.  The sensory seeking habits he has at home (rolling around, lolling on the sofa, rubbing his head on things, shaking his head back and forth, humming to himself, repeating words over and over when he likes the sound of them, making a whole host of weird noises to name a few) are suppressed outside the house.  When an adult looks at Tyger expecting to see an average child…that’s what they see.

Other children, though, have fewer expectations.  They are still new enough to the world that every day brings something new.  They take very little for granted and when they look at Tyger they don’t expect to see a neurotypical child.  They just look and actually see.  They absorb.

In fact, possibly the things they spend the most time absorbing at this age are social skills.  Granted, you might not know it from the amount of time they spend eating their own bogeys but kids pay a lot of attention to what is and isn’t socially acceptable.

Adults can be very quick to dismiss anything children do as ‘kids being kids’ but they’re not stupid.  Maybe we should pay a bit more attention to their assessments of each other.  I suspect it would be very revealing.

 

 

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16 Comments


  1. It’s true, children are very perceptive. I guess they have less to worry about than adults so they pick up on things quicker 🙂 They can also be massively understanding, if guided in the right way by parents. That’s why I agree with you that educating others is the way forward. #spectrumsunday

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  2. Oh the bloody anguish of being a mum. I love how you can evaluate and reflect; rather than marching in screaming about leaving your kid out. Autism or not; that is hard to watch. thanks for the insight. #bigpinklink

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  3. It’s so hard to watch your child upset, and equally as hard to know the best way to handle the situation. Our children see, hear, respond and react to situations with a depth way more intelligent then we give them credit for. Really insightful piece. #bigpinklink

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  4. I’ve gone through this experience with both of my boys and only one of them has Autism so as you said, it really is about your son being new to the crowd and when a kid is new, it can be stressful when the others don’t include them. I’ve gotten lucky with my son that he doesn’t seem to care whether or not other kids like him because he’s much more comfortable around adults but there are times when I wonder when he will care. He’s a teenager now so I’m expecting it to happen soon. Maybe when he starts high school in September. I know he has a few friends at school but they never hang out outside of school and sometimes I ask him if that bothers him but he just tells me no. He’s very much an introvert so maybe that’s why it doesn’t get to him. Friendships can be tricky can’t they? Lovely post! #bigpinklink

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  5. Aww this is difficult isn’t it? I think it happens with every child in the country though, I know it happened with me. As someone says above, autism or not, it’s always going to be difficult. My daughter came home the other day upset that another child said she couldn’t play, that they didn’t like her, and at just four it broke my heart, but I also know that maybe next week, those same kids will be her best friends. Children are so intuitive, but they are also so fickle!! #bigpinklink

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  6. Love this post. You are so right, children do pick up on things, they are not tainted by what us adults have experienced or heard others views on. They have no filter. Education is important for children, as parents it is our job to show our children that all children are not the same and that it doesn’t matter we still treat them how we like to be treated. #MarvMondays

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  7. Bless his heart. It is really insightful and interesting watching children connect; interaction between the little ones is far more revealing than their engagement with adults. Fascinating. #bigpinklink

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  8. I almost didn’t read the post because this is one of my biggest fears about my son. So far so good though, the children at his nursery seem very sweet and accommodating. When we arrive they all shout, ‘Roscoe!’ and he ignores them all and wanders off to find his favourite train. Thank you for the education. My boy hums to himself often. I’m so used to it I kind of zone it out. We were out recently and a man was staring at him, I had no idea why until he mentioned his humming. I told him he just loves life 🙂 #MarvMondays

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  9. Wow, hands off to you, for being so calm in that particular situation. Our hearts drop when our little ones are feeling sad. I’m not sure I would have handled it in such a thoughtful way, as you did! Here’s praying your little man finds that special friend soon! x #bigpinklink

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  10. Oh this is so heart breaking to read. As a Mama, all you want to do is protect them from everything that could ever be painful or upsetting. Other children can be so so cruel and can zone in on the slightest difference in another child like mini snipers. Hopefully he will create a band of real strong friends now you have settled, and they will protect him through the jungle that is school. Thanks for linking up. #bigpinklnik

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  11. I loved this post – thanks for writing it, so insightful. My son really struggled to make friends when he was in primary school, he always preferred adult company. To my surprise and relief, things really changed for the better when he went to secondary school and met some fellow geeky kids, none of whom have autism but all of whom love talking with my son. Tonight I will be taking him to youth group (this is something I would never ever have imagined doing when he was still in primary school). It is an emotional roller coaster – I hope you and your son have as smooth a journey as possible.

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  12. Like Lynne, I’d like to offer some hope that things might get better for your little boy. As you point out, kids are more sensitive than us adults about the being a bit off, so he may be more accepted as he gets bigger. I have good reason to think this, as I was a child who always seemed a bit off, struggled to be allowed to join in with groups, and didn’t know why… But it gets easier when you have defined tasks to do (e.g. in school), and more structured games at playtime. And when you grow up, there are plenty of adults who are happy to accept that we’re all different, and even enjoy our quirks. There will be hard times, but his skills will grow with him (he sounds quite perceptive already in understanding what behaviour to leave at home), and you may find in a year or two, that he can be happier and more confident than you could imagine 🙂

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  13. Really brilliant post Nym! It is true children are so perceptive and they spot things very quickly. We have been quite lucky with how Hayden is treated amongst his peers, but they are all still so young, who knows what the future holds. I also love the disclaimer on the photograph 🙂 Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday lovely. Hope you join me again this week xx

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  14. I experience this with Skye a lot, I definitely agree educating people is the way forward.

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  15. This is a really interesting post. It really brings to light and makes you think in a different way about how children see things through their eyes quite differently to the way that adults see things. Children are perceptive in a totally different way to adults, they may see things we are quick to dismiss or overlook because we are so conditioned to doing so which is a really interesting thought and observation. Its definitely made me think.. Thanks for linking this up to #MarvMondays. Great post. Emily

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  16. Aw my heart broke when you said that he asked why they don’t like him 🙁 I think kids are incredibly perceptive and I think that is because they relate a lot of other children’s behaviour to their own. As adults we tend to not to pick up on differences that are more apparent to kids. They do absorb everything don’t they? And they can be incredibly blunt!

    I think you dealt with it really well, it’s hard when your child asks you the tough questions xx

    #bigpinklink

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