Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Most Beautiful Girl in the World and Other Parental Fictions

Two weeks back Sweet M was looking particularly lovely, and so I commented, in that offhanded way parents can comment, "You know, I think you may just be the most beautiful girl in the whole wide world."

"Uh-humph, you know, Mom, that there are millions of moms all around the world who think their girl is the most beautiful girl in the world."

Touché, Sweet M.

Not only is this a fine example of perspective taking — a skill that is supposedly outside of her cognitive repertoire — but I think that this may mark the formal start of adolescence. Of course there are the physiological changes . . . hormones carving out a waist, hips, bust, and provoking the occasional acne. But the real change of adolescence — a least among neurotypical folks — is that shift from caring about what your parents think to caring about what your friends think.

I'm wondering how that's going to work for our girl, who has yet to find her way into the world of friendships. What will her version of cool look like when she continues to be interested in Arthur while her classmates have moved far beyond Hannah Montana?

We have, more or less, stopped wondering when she'll catch-up. Her developmental trajectory is so far from being linear that we've stepped off the development milestones straight and narrow. But I still wonder when she's catch-on — find her own way to some version of cool and some kind of friendship. Is this a reasonable goal, or a parental delusion, something like the (mis)perception that she's the most beautiful girl in the world?

This photograph is of Sweet M's class workbook from spring 2007. Three years ago. We're still working on "I want a friend." And still wondering why something that is supposed to be fun feels so much like work.

Spectrum-girl-readers, what have you done to cross the hurdle to friendship? What did it look like? How did it unfold? Over here at Autism's Edges we'd love hear from the other most beautiful girls in the world.


Corina Becker said...

That is a good question, how DID I make friends?

Well, being something of an outsider, I tended to be attracted to other outsiders and loners. I had to be careful, as I learned from experience, because some of this group have needs that as a friend, I'm unable to give, yet feel obligated to try.

However, more often, I found that the outsiders and loners also tended to be the "different" ones and could more easily accept another "odd" person. Especially in high school, when everyone starts the whole social group thing. For me, I found it easier just to avoid the "popular" crowd altogether, after a few back-stabbing incidents. Social interaction is a minefield at best, and a complete nightmare at worst with that crowd.

So, I stuck to the sidelines with my outsiders group, with the occasional hovering around various interest groups as class group work required me to do.

What worked the best though, in finding a friend in these groups, was finding someone who shared at least very similar interests. Which, for me, was anime.

It happened in Grade 9 art class. I was still struggling to realize that the popular group was not for me, when everyone in class were told to get a partner to practice drawing each other. As usual, I wasn't picked by anyone that I wanted, and was left on my own. So the teacher partnered me with the only other girl who also wasn't picked.
As we drew, I caught sight of her sketchbook pages, and thought I recognized some of the figures she drew. "Is that Sailor Moon?" I finally managed to ask. A spark of hope gleamed in her eyes.
"yes," she cautiously replied.
"Oh, I used to watch that too! I have a tape!"

And we started talking, and hung out a bit. When I finally realized that I wasn't making any real friends with the popular group, I left them for good and joined my new friend and her friends at lunch and after school.

Eleven years later, we're still best friends, through thick and thin.

MothersVox said...

Corina, Thanks so much. That is so incredibly helpful. I don't think my girl really even wants to hang with the cool crowd, but I think having one or two friends is what makes that passage from adolescence to adulthood bearable, so fingers crossed that 7th, 8th, or 9th grade will be the time for my girl to figure this out.

It took me until 7th grade to figure out the girl-pal friendship thing, and most people think I'm NT, so maybe Sweet M is doing fine. Or maybe I'm not exactly NT myself.

Ms. TK said...

Hi Mothersvox.
My own Miss M will be eleven tomorrow, and while she is friendly and tries to make friends at school, she is most comfortable with her two best friends, one NT, and the other on the spectrum.

It seems that this is about all she can handle, and about all she wants.

She sees both at different times, on different types of playdates.

I think the playdates with her NT friend are more exhausting for her, and her Aspergian friend is much more accepting of any different sort of behaviors.

We talk all the time about making friends, and how it is really up to her to making moves towards friendships.

We role play a lot.

It's funny. Depending on the day, I think she's doing either brilliantly, or I want to jump off a bridge from the worry.

Overall, though, as long as my girl is happy, I'm happy.

Neurodivergent K said...

I started making friends with guys. It helped...less subtle cliquishness.

To this day, my friends are spectrummy, or male. Or both.

Lora said...

I love the word "spectrummy!"

Unknown said...

When my daughter (who's a Cousin -- she's in the broader phenotype) was 10, she came to me one day all dejected, and said that 95% of her peers were only interested in things she couldn't care less about. The advice I gave her then was to seek out the other 5%, through shared interests. Which she has done magnificently. She's a junior in college now, with a whole network of friends, many of them from the campus anime club, others from years back, remaining friends-through-long-distance after high school, having been involved in our high school's excellent TV production program back in the day. And *age appropriate*? *She* dictates terms, not the society around her. One of her favorite things is playing Pokemon on a Nintendo DS... over wifi with her 19-yo brother and *his* DS.

Anonymous said...

For most of my life, I've been befriend, rather than befriending. There were peers in my life who, without even being asked, taught me turn-taking, imaginative play, perspective-taking, etc. Who made me into a friend.

In middle school, I after a disastrous fifth grade and school transfer, I hung out with a mass of boys and one other girl who had a similar history. It was mostly parallel-play type stuff, but they permitted my hanging-on, and it was good.

High school marked me slowly learning to initiate conversations and refining my technique of simply attaching myself to and following a group. This yielded a couple more friends who were willing to help me out. The outsider crowd was also very helpful, and I found myself once again befriended.

Now, a freshman in college, I've begun to learn how to make friends. It's gone fairly well, but I spent four years deliberately studying how such things were done and failing in the application.

SO: it takes time, patience on the part of others, and shared interests/backgrounds. Further, the frustrating thing is never really getting to *chose* your own friends, always having to be friendly to those you can get and never getting those you want. I wonder if that's what your daughter is expressing? It's not just "having friends" that solves everything. It's being able to chose your friends.

Samantha said...

What a beautiful post, and I know well what you mean about giving up looking for any kind of linear developmental path. :-) And I agree ... that is a wonderful example of perspective taking.

Kent said...

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In the first video, our therapists highlight some key early signs of autism that parents can look for while showing video examples. The next three videos feature a single mother, Trina Mcfield and her twin sons, one of which was diagnosed with autism.

The videos are contained within a popup on our website and I hope you take a look and help spread the word for Autism Awareness Month!


Kent Kincannon
Production Manger

MothersVox said...

These comments have been so incredibly helpful.

Thank. You. All. Truly.

I spent the last month dealing with playdate making and other developments that I will post about shortly.

Your insights on social development have been deeply appreciated at Autism's Edges.