Socializing is Confusing

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“Well, thank you so much!  We had a wonderful time,” I offered to the party host.

“Dessert,” I heard Catelyn say to my side.

“Sure!” the host replied to me, “So, glad you could make it!”

“Some cake…” I heard her try again.

I knew what Cate was getting at.  We went to our friend’s sons birthday party and were able to stay for a couple of hours.  But our schedule forced us to have to leave.

Before the birthday cake was brought out and cut.

My eyes stayed focused on the host, with a small smile.  I stole a peek down at Cate to see her staring at the host.

“Well, let us go say goodbye to the birthday boy one more time before we head out.  Thanks again!”

I tried to take Cate’s hand and move her along, but she was not budging.  As I headed to the kitchen for a final goodbye, I heard her say it one more time to the host,

“I would like.  Some birthday cake.”

“C’mon Cate!” I called over my shoulder.

And as I turned, I saw the host had turned to address other party guests.  Cate then gave up on her quest for cake and was sulking towards me.  Giving me the same stink eye I was giving to her.

 

Difficulties with social interaction can take many different forms.

I do love this photo, because it sums up one of the biggest problems we face for Catelyn.

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At the party, Catelyn wasn’t trying to be rude.  She wasn’t trying to be bad.  She wanted cake.  And social tact was lost on her.

When I told her later in the car on the way home that we had to leave before the cake was cut and that it was impolite to ask for the cake, her response was simple.

“It was a birthday party.  There was supposed to be cake.”

And then because I pointed out something she did wrong, she started to cry.  Loudly.

 

Catelyn is still learning social cues.  She is still learning about social interaction.  And appropriate social behavior.  In short, socializing is confusing for Cate.

 

I thought about this again today at a play Catelyn was performing in.

This week Catelyn got to do one of her favorite things.

Theater camp!

Of course, she loved it.  The camp created an idea, wrote a script, auditioned for roles and today, they had their performance.

Catelyn did great.  Had no fear, memorized all her lines and performed the role tailored to her with great gusto.

So she was visibly disappointed when her peers did not do the same.

I cringed in my seat when I saw her hands go up in frustration at her peers when they forgot their lines.  Eventually some just held their scripts and the story went on without any hitches.

It was a fun story and there were wonderful performance by all!

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I wondered though.  Did other people see her displeasure?  Instead of being encouraging or helpful, Catelyn became frustrated and upset at her peers.  During a performance.

People are not going to ask for an explanation of why someone would do something like that.  Or ask for a party host to serve birthday cake based on Cate’s schedule.  They will simply make an internal judgement on the behavior of “that girl.”

Which can make Catelyn’s road ahead have a few more bumps than she already faces.

I still reference this article frequently when I think about the challenges for Catelyn.  I encourage you to check it out.

Why High Functioning Autism is so Challenging

It helps to reinforce the idea that autism is autism.  And even though Catelyn appears to be fine to the outsider, she is still facing many challenges, as listed in the article:

  1. Extreme Sensory Issues
  2. Social “Cluelessness”
  3. Anxiety and Depression
  4. Lack of Executive Planning
  5. Emotional Disregulation
  6. Difficulties with Transitions and Change
  7. Difficulty Following Verbal Commands

Cate will continue to have to work at her challenges, including to learn appropriate social behavior.  And I will continue to try to help others learn about the challenges of those with autism.

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7 thoughts on “Socializing is Confusing

  1. In a lot of ways I think it must be so much harder for the kids with HFA. Ben is usually doing something “weird” so people know right off that something is “different”. With Cate, the expectations must add to her, and your, stress. She’s lucky to have such a great, supportive, loving family to help her.
    When I was in theater in High School I used to get frustrated with people too.😉🎭

    1. Yes, I agree. Same with Declan. You can be with him for a bit and realize something is off. But not with Catelyn. Thank you! Ha! 🙂

  2. My experience is that kids seem to live in the moment more and judge less than adults. This sort of interaction seems unlikely to affect her for years to come.Of couse adults will judge, but that’s because they are insecure.

    1. Yes, I agree. With the cake incident, if she were younger it could be laughed off. But she will be 10 soon and we are leaving “spunky little girl” stage. At a different party recently, they only had chocolate cupcakes, which Cate hates – and made sure to tell everyone there that she didn’t like them and “now there is nothing for me to eat!” I was there for that one too, and all I can do is shrug and then try to talk to her about it later. She does a lot of worksheets in therapy about how to respond in social situations, with adults and with peers, and I see her stop and think sometimes when she is faced with a situation. Which is great! And I hope that she continues to stretch her learning so in the years to come she has more understanding and awareness of her actions and reactions in social situations so they do not affect her negatively.

  3. I didn’t have time to comment in detail earlier so I am re-visiting so I can do so. At all the parties my sons went to when they were little, each child guest was given a ‘party pack’ when they were leaving , before or after the birthday cake was cut. If child did leave early, the host parent always went and cut a small piece of the birthday cake for the child. The party pack included an age appropriate toy and some kind of sweet treat, so no child was left out of the party treats. Some parents even packed up a variety of eats for the child if he/she had to leave early. So the parents of the child in your post appear thoughtless and a little mean to me.

    1. I went with Catelyn and Declan – both were given a party pack when we left. The cake was still on display – it was a spcialized cake from the movie Cars. I didn’t fault the family for not taking apart the race track before they sang happy birthday to the little boy. Cate just loves vanilla cake (heaven forbid if the Cars cake was chocolate or marble), and I knew we had cupcakes at home and allowed Cate to have one when we got home.

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