top of page

Ep 4: How Our Neurodiverse Kids Navigate Friendship

Updated: Jul 10, 2023

Making friends as a neurodiverse human is an adventure, to say the least. Each one of our kids has progressed in their own way when it comes to friendship and learning what it means to be a friend.


Social interpretation is difficult for our kids and we’ve had to be gatekeepers to others who don’t reciprocate friendship or who haven’t earned our kids’ loyalty. If your kids are experiencing loneliness or difficulty making friends as well, we’ve learned that there’s hope once you’ve gotten out of the earlier childhood years.


In today’s episode, we talk about the data behind making friends when you have autism, learning what friendship and loyalty mean, and how we can help to facilitate friendship for our neurodiverse children.




In this episode, you’ll learn...

  • [02:21] Some Graham-isms and Rylan-isms to start out the show

  • [06:24] The data on people with autism and friendships

  • [12:57] How our kids’ friendships began to change when their friends joined sports activities and how our culture is very sports obsessed

  • [18:24] How we’ve had to define friendship for our kids and be gatekeepers to those who don’t reciprocate friendship

  • [25:38] That it’s our job to put our kids in proximity with people who could potentially be their friends

  • [28:54] How there’s hope for our older kids and making friends after the loneliness of early childhood years

  • [31:57] How we have a whole different understanding of what friendship looks like for our neurodiverse children and how each child has made progress in their own way

  • [37:25] The importance of having family members who adore and appreciate our kids

  • [43:49] The Last Word from our kids and their experiences making friends as a child




If you just can't get enough of us, don’t forget to join our newsletter and check out our other projects.


Links mentioned in this episode…

Reading recommendations for this episode from Marvelous Me books:



(click through for more photos)




Transcript:


Gwen:

If you have an appreciation for honest and often irreverent conversations about parenting humans with neurodiversity, you have found your home. I'm Gwen.

Kristen:

And I'm Kristen. And together we have 35 years experience parenting some fiercely amazing humans, which gives us an endless supply of stories of inspiring failures and heartbreaking wins.

Gwen:

Welcome to You Don't Want a Hug, Right? We've been having these conversations for years, cracking ourselves up. We've always wanted to share the hilarity and the hard with other parents. So here we are.

Kristen:

Grab a cozy blanket and a beverage and go hide in a closet nearest you.

Gwen:

Morning. How are you, my friend?

Kristen:

I'm great today.

Gwen:

Excellent.

Kristen:

I know it's sunny, it's going to be 80 degrees today. Spring is finally here in Colorado. I'm very excited.

Gwen:

Spring is here too. There's flowers budding up, and we haven't lived in this house for a spring yet, so it's really fun to see all of the springness popping out around me. And I should tell our listeners that I have my computer completely faced the opposite direction today because there's a little man high in an 80-foot tree right outside my window felling it, which is proving very distracting.

Kristen:

In addition to Gwen's usual distraction, which is the bird feeder outside her window. She can barely look at me.

Gwen:

It's true.

Kristen:

And she's constantly going, "Oh."

Gwen:

Oh.

Kristen:

Oh.

Gwen:

A white-breasted nuthatch.

Kristen:

Now do you know you're old?

Gwen:

The tufted titmouse has arrived. I've become obsessed with birds and it's something that I've really been digging into with my spiritual director. We can talk about that in another time. So between the birds and the man in the tree, it wasn't going to work today unless I totally, completely moved my screen. So I can only now see the woods and not all the birds and the man and his wife in yoga pants, who is pulling out a rope. Okay, this is Michigan. Kristen, it's Michigan. We do things differently here. Okay, our episode today, da, da, da, is on our kids and friendships. But before we dive into that, do you have Graham-ism for me?

Kristen:

I do have a Graham-ism. And our kids have a challenging time when it comes to friendships, right? Graham has had maybe approximately a billion years of social skills groups. He can crush sitting in a group with a teacher, taking turns in conversation. But when he gets out there in the real world, gets a little shaky. And so Hayden was home from college and we were sitting in the living room and Graham was kind of pacing around the room, pacing around the room, trying to figure out how to engage Hayden in conversation. So he sits down right in front of him, puts his elbows on his knees, and takes a deep breath. And he says, "So Hayden, do you have any financial goals right now?" Hayden just looked at him like, dude, I don't know. Graham was like, "Cool, cool, cool." He just got up and-

Gwen:

And that was it, right?

Kristen:

That was it. That was it.

Gwen:

That was it.

Kristen:

He just went upstairs.

Gwen:

But for him that was like, I just engaged.

Kristen:

I threw one out there, I think it landed. I'm out.

Gwen:

Good job, Graham. All right. My Rylan-ism today, I was reminded we have this digital photo frame in our kitchen and there's just thousands of pictures, and the kids love it because it's just a really fun way to have memories pop up. So a photo popped up of Rylan laying on the floor, but kind of in a sit-up position. And she goes, "That's weird. Why do you have that?" And I was like, "Oh, let me tell you the story of that one." I wish I could tell you that he was like 5, but no, he was 14. And he gets on these weird kicks where he wants to do these real rigorous, but very abbreviated exercise regiments. And this happens maybe twice a year where he just wants to do sit-ups and jumping jacks and pushups, and he'll pull up YouTube videos. And we love it because he needs it so bad. But we also know it will last for probably an hour, okay? But he goes real hard.

So he was wanting to do sit-ups one night during the pandemic, and Tim would wheelbarrow him around the house to get him just some core work done. So he's like, "All right, I need to do sit-ups, I need a spotter." We're like, "You don't need a spotter." "Yes I do, mom, I need you to sit on my feet because I'm too strong, it lifts my whole body." Okay. "Nope, I'm not sitting on your feet." So then he tried Tim. Nope. Tim was not going to sit on his feet. We're like, "Buddy, you can learn sit-ups on your own without assistance." So I come around the corner and the child had put an 8 1/2 by 11 sheet of paper on his feet. That was his spotter, Kristen, a sheet of paper. And it was working for him. He found success in that sheet of paper. So this photo was him in the midst of a sit-up with that trusty sheet of paper on his feet, and it worked. So I will definitely post that photo for y'all to see evidence.

Kristen:

Please do.

Gwen:

Yes. And he would be embarrassed. He would be slightly embarrassed that I'm sharing that story, but I told him, sorry, you made that choice. And that was a very intentional choice. So it's something that I have free rein to share with our listening audience. All right. So speaking of friendships, what kids would be like, yeah dude, let's do some sit-ups like that?

Kristen:

Yeah. So my one little piece of data for today is we know that people with autism overwhelmingly report that they want friendships in their lives, but it also ends up being one of the hardest relationships for them to cultivate due to social communication being a core area of challenge in autistic individuals. And I will say that we see that play out in so many different ways with our crew, and we're going to have a lot of fun and some hard parts of the conversation around our kids' journey with friendships. And I think one of the core things that we've learned is having to expand our definition of what friendships are and what that means.

Gwen:

For sure.

Kristen:

Our kids tend to gravitate towards certain people like anyone else does. And you and I have been known to get into the habit of trying to get our kids with similar challenges together.

Gwen:

We try.

Kristen:

We're going to tell you a little bit about how that goes.

Gwen:

Do you want me to share the story, the one time that we got Graham and Rylan together?

Kristen:

Yes. And you have to know that ever since this fairly disastrous meeting, they constantly ask to hang out.

Gwen:

Yeah, this was a one and done for Kristen and me from our perspective. We've known each other for about 10 years, but like I said, the one time we got Rylan and Graham together, who at the time we thought they have such similar interests, this might actually work. And how amazing would that be if we could be friends and our boys, who desperately need friends? So they are both very interested in video games and Pokemon. They're also rigid and firm and have very black and white ideas on how to traverse all of life. Those things proved quite the barriers, wouldn't you say, that day?

Kristen:

I would say so.

Gwen:

So after about two hours of a mixture of tears over Ender Dragon defense strategies, injured feelings about being called a baby and the worst gamer of all time, I think those were exact quotes. And ultimately, do you remember the remote controls were whisked to the upstairs bedroom as to prevent Rylan from further play? You and I called it, you're like, "Boys, game over." So as I prepared to leave with Rylan, we encouraged them to at least say goodbye to each other. They chose to stand on opposite sides of Kristen's kitchen. I think like backs facing each other, which is often the way that our kids talk, just the back to the person you're talking to. "Thank you for a very fun play date," I think Rylan said. And then Graham said, "Even though you cheated the entire time, thank you for coming." So I think if you and I had been able to finish even one thought or story outside of managing their chaos, we might have tried to push through, but it was just not happening.

Kristen:

No.

Gwen:

Such is most of our life in social settings. So as I drove home, Rylan looked over at me from the passenger seat and said, "So, that was a great play date, right, mom? When can I hang out with Graham again?" Really? So as he's finishing that ridiculous statement, Kristen is texting me the following, "Graham just informed me that he thought the play date was a real success and wonders when his new bestie Rylan, was that his name, can come over to hang out again." And your response was WTF. So despite Rylan not understanding why, I did laugh all the way home and I knew you were doing the same at your house, or I can assume you were doing it the same at your house.

So the point of this story, friends, is that any frustration or exhaustion or defeat we had felt that morning, it really just quickly felt palatable. How could we ignore this blinding beauty of our boys' outlooks on life? How could we have chosen to stay defeated over how impossible it feels to guide these quirky kids and still make space for ourselves as humans with unique needs of our own? But they so quickly gift us these hilarious tokens of joy, don't they?

Kristen:

They really do.

Gwen:

And acceptance and grace.

Kristen:

Acceptance and grace for sure, they do not dwell on what went wrong. You would think. You know, sometimes I think Graham can be really pleasantly curmudgeonly and you would think that he would tend towards the negative. He doesn't have a negative thing to say about anybody. He does not hold onto negative experiences in the way other people do, and I think it really was such a lesson for us. And this happened with Rylan and Graham. This has happened with Graham with a couple of other friends as well, where the mother of the child that he was connecting with and I needed therapy after their hangout.

Gwen:

They didn't.

Kristen:

They did not. Their interpretation was, that's my best friend and that was amazing, and we've got to do that again.

Gwen:

But next time, could you not cheat as much?

Kristen:

Right. Can I not have to run upstairs and hide the remotes from you because you're cheating apparently? Allegedly cheating.

Gwen:

Allegedly. And Rylan wouldn't have even remembered that Graham did that. Like, in the moment, it's done, it's gone.

Kristen:

Yeah. They still constantly, when Gwen and I are together, if I'm out in Michigan or Gwen's here in Colorado with me, our boys are dying to get on FaceTime. And we're like, no.

Gwen:

No.

Kristen:

That sounds terrible.

Gwen:

Yeah. Can we just play online? No, you can't. But they generally don't understand why not.

Kristen:

Yeah. And friends, we've tried this also online a number of times. Oh, Gwen, tell them about the time that we met up at Happy Dog Ranch, after they'd known each other for I don't know how many years.

Gwen:

Five years. And Rylan's like, "Hey, Graham." Graham, I think I have a picture of this too. Graham puts his arm around Rylan, and he looks at him, he goes, "So buddy, how do you know me?" As if they had never spoken.

Kristen:

And by the way, Rylan hates to be touched. So the whole time Graham has his arm around him, Rylan's just falling out of-

Gwen:

His shoulders are up at his ears, and I think he looked at Graham and goes, "Can you please not touch me?" "Oh, sorry buddy. Sorry buddy." And we just stand behind them just clutching our hearts and just loving every second of it.

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

Yeah. So that's the story of how the boys met. But friendships in general, I think that's a pretty good indication of what we navigate with them. I know for Rylan, when he was younger, his friends were who we were family friends with, and he presented a lot less neurodiverse than he does now. When he was really young, super quirky and had this very high-pitched voice, but he was silly and fun and social. And so we really didn't start struggling with the friendship piece until sports became a thing. And I would say most families we interacted just became heavily involved with sports.

And I think we should do a whole episode on sports and recreational activities. So I won't go into the stories of how we attempted recreational sporting activities and how quickly we learned they were not going to work, but that became the first indicator that friendships were going to look different for him. And then we had to very intentionally go out and find spaces where we would find other families who couldn't do sports. And that sounds so silly, but it really was a defining factor for that shift in friendships for Rylan.

Kristen:

I mean, our culture is so sports obsessed for youth and it's all encompassing. So those families are doing that multiple times a weekend on the weekends, and so none of our kids were able to pull off sports in that way. I think Hayden came the closest. He did some flag football and he did really well. But I mean, when the kids were really little, Graham's behavior was a huge barrier because he had aggressive behavior, so he would bite and hit and scratch peers. He was very sensory seeking. So he wanted a lot of sensory input, but he was also very tactically defensive. And that can look really confusing even to teachers, but especially kids when he's rolling all over you and then punches you in the face. So it was always on his terms, any kind of contact, that was really challenging. So that limited a lot.

And so our kids actually, one protective factor, I think, in having triplets is they were such a unit for such a long time, and I know each of them have a different perspective on being a unit. For Jameson, he didn't feel it was that positive of an experience, but Hayden and Graham did feel like it was positive. In a lot of ways, they were able to have their own language and have their own way to play. They figured it out, and they would be in the zone and you could not even reach them. They were so embedded in the really scripted, interesting pretend play that they created for themselves. But in the early years, I think Jameson as Cora, because he wasn't transgender yet, really struggled with girl friendships. And this is a kid who's super extroverted, very outgoing.

Gwen:

Socially motivated.

Kristen:

Socially motivated, very high volume, right? High intensity. You do not miss when this kid's around. And a master at pulling people in and bringing people to him, he just would find his people. He was really, really good at that. What he really struggled to do was keep friends. And as he got older and those girl friendships became more complicated, he just couldn't figure it out. He couldn't keep up. He couldn't tell when people were making fun of him, when they liked him or didn't like him. He couldn't interpret texts. So group texts were a nightmare. I finally had to tell him, you need to just come off the group text and tell those people to text you individually because you're creating a lot of... Jameson struggled to understand the dynamics. It was too much.

Gwen:

And was that anxiety producing for him then?

Kristen:

Oh my, very much so. He would have pretty significant meltdowns because he's misinterpreting what's going on, or if people didn't respond to his texts the way they did other people's texts. He couldn't take into account the time of day, whether other people were in class, whether it just got missed in the group scrolling. So that was really, really tough.

Gwen:

And that's tough for a neurotypical teen to navigate. So add in being self-aware, like Jameson has always been. Graham and Rylan are not self-aware.

Kristen:

No.

Gwen:

And so that challenge looks completely different because they don't see any of that, and we then have to become the safeguarders.

Kristen:

Right.

Gwen:

So for Rylan, I mean, we've had situations... If he meets a kid, within two minutes, he's asking if they can come sleepover. Two minutes. "Well, they're my friend now." Well, no, we don't know them. So there have to be very specific rules around what is a friend. And so we've had situations, like when we moved into our last house, the people who lived behind us had a little boy, nice little boy, but he really wasn't that interested in Rylan, but did come over a number of times to play. And that went fine, but he wouldn't reciprocate. So Tim and I knew this isn't going to be a long-term friend, but every day Rylan could see him and would just want to go play. "I want to go play. I want to go play. Tell him I want to come play." And the boy started really pulling back, so we could see that.

Well, he was so obsessed with this child because he could physically see him in front of his face every day. I, at one point, couldn't explain it one more time. So I made a sign that said, we'll just call him James, is not your friend. You are still amazing. He is not reciprocating your friendship. And I would just have to hold it up so he could read it every single day. Until then, he finally stopped asking, but it was Groundhog's Day.

Kristen:

Yeah, that's so painful.

Gwen:

Until I made a visual and just used that, and then finally. But then if that boy said hi one day through the fence, start over. Start over. So he interprets kindness as best friendship.

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

We're growing through that as he is going through puberty. But for most of his life, it was like, we just felt like complete jerks because we were like, that is not a kind boy to you, or he is not a good friend. He hasn't answered your calls in three months. You may not keep being overly kind to this person. So it is a really weird balance trying to protect them while teaching them that not everybody is going to be a friend.

Reagan:

Hey y'all, this is Reagan, Gwen's favorite daughter. When my mom isn't podcasting, she's obsessing over children's books. Seriously, she reads like 50 each week and drags me into libraries constantly. A couple of years ago, she opened a diverse and inclusive children's bookstore called Marvelous Me Books because she wanted a space where people could find really beautiful and inclusive titles that allow all readers to feel seen. It's pretty cool how many lists she's offered about things like belonging, different cultures, ways to be family, the earth, and lots more. What I like most is that every book she sells shows and celebrates people of all different walks of life. Check it out next time you want to order a book, visit marvelousmebooks.com. You cannot say the name without complimenting yourself. Go ahead, try it.

Kristen:

I think they struggle so much to understand those different circles, those social circles. If they're concentric circles that are stacked within each other, that inner circle is your closest friends and family. And then the next circle is good friends. And the circle after that's acquaintances. And the circle after that's strangers. They're circle jumpers. They think the people they meet are immediately going to that middle circle, and then they're so confused and so hurt when that person's behavior doesn't match the circle they think they're in.

Gwen:

Right.

Kristen:

So that happened with Jameson a lot with those girl friendships in elementary school. And painful to have to say, "This girl is not being nice to you. Here are all the facts. Here's the behavior that we're seeing that tells us that this person doesn't want to be your friend." Jameson had a best friend as Cora, and this little girl, they were very, very close for a number of years. And then this girl just didn't want to be friends with Jameson anymore, or Cora at the time. Sorry, I'm using those so interchangeably. And Cora was devastated, just couldn't understand what was going on, which is normal and typical. But then we had to meet with a social worker who tried to mediate between them. And the girl said, "I just want to take a break." And Cora was just upside down over that. She was like, "I'm sorry. Well, how long is the break?"

Gwen:

Right. Because a break is not forever.

Kristen:

Right. When really what the girl is saying is I don't want to be friends with you anymore. And Cora was very literal about that, and wanted to know when it was going to end, and asked that quite often. And for quite a while, it was a very, very painful situation. And I see that less in college as Jameson has met some really great friends, but even in high school struggled to keep friends with social media and texting and all those other pieces, making it really complicated. And then of course, being transgender and going through that transition made things also very challenging.

Gwen:

Of course. We would find, even when we would explain to Rylan, this person is not a friend because X, Y, and Z, his tagline would be, "Well, mom, you have your opinions and I have mine. I choose to believe mine." So even in times where we thought we were being very clear, that's what we would get. So friendships were always, I mean, he is loyal. If you are my friend today, the day I die, you will be my friend. No matter what you do, how you do it, what you say, how you say it. So it's a gift, you're lucky to be in his circle because you'll never leave it, even if your mom is telling you that that person is a complete asshole.

Kristen:

Yeah. Yeah. I would say the same of my kids, they're extremely loyal. And that is a precious thing in life, but I think trying to teach them that not everybody deserves your loyalty.

Gwen:

Right.

Kristen:

Not every relationship requires or deserves that loyalty and that's a really tough thing.

Gwen:

That's exactly right. Thank you for phrasing it that way. They have not earned your loyalty.

Kristen:

Right. Right.

Gwen:

I think we also have to... Part of our job is to put our kids in proximity with people who could potentially be their friends. We had Rylan in a school that academically was brilliant for him, and Rylan knows how to find his people. If there's a crowd of 50, within an hour, he will walk out arm in arm with that one person who's a fit for him. He has this uncanny ability to radar those people.

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

And he was in this school for a whole year and didn't find one of those people and was bullied quite a bit. At that point we switched schools, and so it looks like we're real school hoppers, really hard to please. But no, I prioritize his social emotional growth and possibility for growth far more than academia. And that school, it wasn't doing it. And now he's in a new school and he has three people who invite him to do things on the weekends, and that has never happened. So there is hope. It just takes that right situation and the right combination of personalities. And Rylan generally can be with other neurodiverse individuals and do okay. He and Graham are just a special mixture that doesn't work.

Kristen:

Yeah. Graham still, I think, struggles to have a friend, and that's a real painful thing for us. I think many of you listeners can relate to this. I think we've put it on our IEP goals or our mission statement or our vision statement every year since kindergarten for Graham to have a friend. And that has been elusive for him. He's pretty anxious, and at this point has failed enough times that he's afraid to put himself out there, so he's pretty shut down when it comes to trying to make friends at this point. And misses his brothers who are now away at college, and he's in a transition program in public schools and going to community college, and just lonely. However, I think this is true for both of our families. Our families are really tight-knit, and Graham loves hanging out with Greg and I so much. So, so, so much. It's so hard. It's so, so hard.

Gwen:

Hey, Kristen?

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

You don't want a hug, right?

Kristen:

Not right now. Nope. Thanks though.

Gwen:

Mom, fist bump? You don't want a hug, but fist bump?

Kristen:

Oh my gosh. Yeah. There's a lot of interaction throughout the day.

Gwen:

Very repetitive interaction, mind you.

Kristen:

Yeah, really repetitive. And it's also, yeah, it's pretty anxiety driven and it's pretty compulsive. So we're not heartless. Of course, we appreciate the love that our children give us, but this isn't about that. This is something different.

Gwen:

This is other worldly.

Kristen:

This is like a social tic, I think. Yeah, it's intense. But I think too, Hayden was a kid who, speaking of tics, in elementary school, his tics were so significant and his quirks so significant that he really struggled to find friends. He was bullied quite a bit and relied on one or two friends that really knew him well, and they were wonderful friends and they still are. But he is a kid who is a real... He's my introvert of the crew. I'm also an introvert, so we have that special connection. But he is very reserved and a real observer, and taught himself very deliberately how to interact with other people. He spent a lot of years watching, and he was actually aware that like, I don't have these cultural references, I better get into music because that's what kids are talking about. Or he knew that he had to watch football, not because he liked it, but because he wanted to be able to have something to talk to people about. Because he could just talk about animals the entire time and be completely thrilled.

Gwen:

Waterfowl.

Kristen:

Yeah. North American waterfowl, to be specific.

Gwen:

Sorry, it wasn't quite specific enough.

Kristen:

Yeah, yeah, you got to work on that. But he is a real deep thinker and deep feeler and really internalizes his anxiety and was pretty alienated and pretty depressed for a long time about friendships. I think Covid really delayed that for all our kids, but for Hayden especially, and it's now just in college that he's really blossoming socially. He's actually just been initiated into a fraternity, which would normally send chills up my spine because I'm not a Greek supporter necessarily. But for this kid, what a magical moment for him to have brothers and have friends who are looking out for him.

Gwen:

Can we post that picture of him with his fraternity?

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

Siblings, we'll call them.

Kristen:

Really, really nice group of boys and young men. And small group, they don't have a house. It's just a perfect fit for him and I couldn't be happier, and he's longed for that his entire life. So again, there is hope for our kids who really struggle in those earlier years. And our kids are so different from each other and have such different challenges socially, and they've all made a lot of progress. I think Graham is still really trying to put that piece together, but transitioning out of being a triplet unit has been really, really hard for him.

Gwen:

And he's also entering puberty really late, and so that prefrontal cortex is still waking up.

Kristen:

Yeah, it's still cooking, people. Still cooking.

Gwen:

Lots of growth to come still.

Kristen:

So I think everybody's made progress in their own way. Graham still has his kind of blossoming to do. But I think all in all, we've learned a lot about what friendship looks like for our kids. And I'll say that working at the Joshua School for the past eight years, I have really come to a whole different understanding of what friendship looks like, because everybody at our school has a developmental disability and they struggled so much in a public school setting. They have a significant level of support need that they weren't able to meet in a public school setting, which is why they're with us. And they never had a friend in their life until they came to the Joshua School. And even if they're non-vocal, even if they have big challenging behaviors, they have friendships and they have people they love at school, whether it be their teachers or their peers. We see all kinds of friendships, they look really different from each other. And yet, I've come to understand how much joy and love they get from each other. And it's pretty magical. It's changed my life, really, and it's changed my perspective.

Gwen:

And something you just said there is really important for our kids, because friendship isn't always going to look like a peer. Rylan has always gravitated towards adults because they find him like-

Kristen:

Delightful.

Gwen:

Delightful and charming and just interesting. So he has always had adult friends in his corner and will always have adult friends in his corner. And he will talk about adults in his sphere as often as he talks about peers his own age, but I don't think that I ever really counted those in the tally of friends that we tend to keep as parents. And he has never a day in his life been lonely, ever. He considers every person he sees a friend and has never really thought of anybody outside of that category.

So I do find myself asking, well, what is wrong with me in my definition of what he should have with so many things? Well, okay, he doesn't have a peer at school. He was still happy to go. He didn't see that these kids weren't his friends because he just kind of sees everybody as a friend. So a lot of it is our own doing as parents in some situations. I think with Graham, he genuinely is just lonely. He also has a lot more anxiety than Rylan does. But I don't think Graham would say that he doesn't have friends. I think Graham and Rylan both think that they have tons of friends.

Kristen:

Yeah. Actually, we just did his IEP meeting with the transition team, and in Graham's personal statement, he said he had a bunch of friends in the neighborhood. And that made me really sad.

Gwen:

I hope they come over soon.

Kristen:

I hope somebody does. I hope somebody reveals themselves. He does have one friend in the neighborhood that he doesn't see very often. And then he has somebody he considers his best friend, who I'm really close friends with his mother. And it's a very similar situation where when they get together, they might actually play on separate floors of the house and have a great time. And they've had lots of sleepovers like that where they're not even sleeping in the same room, and they may have spent an hour together at some point while this kid was over. But they really, really love each other a ton and are always in each other's corners. So he does have people that he considers his friends. He doesn't need to be with them to consider them to be friends, right?

Gwen:

Or ever talk to them.

Kristen:

Or ever talk to them. Yeah.

Gwen:

Or think about them individually.

Kristen:

Right, right.

Gwen:

But how amazing is that? What if we could operate in the same way? I mean, we would say that that's delusional, but it's not delusional to them.

Kristen:

No.

Gwen:

They consider themselves very popular amongst their peers. I mean, you'll hear Rylan in the last word talk about, "Oof. Yeah, autism has definitely not impacted my friendships. In fact, I just can't be friends with everybody who wants to be friends with me." And I just look at him like, are you kidding? You're not. You're not kidding.

Kristen:

No.

Gwen:

Fantastic. I'm not going to burst your bubble on that, and nor could I, because I have my opinions and he has his.

Kristen:

Right. So all in all, I think what we've learned is that we are projecting a lot of our own expectations onto our kids in terms of what friendship looks like, and we continue to grow and evolve in understanding that. And I think when they were younger, there is so much pressure in our culture to engage in certain activities, have friendships that look a certain way. And we had to learn to get comfortable, like so many things.

Gwen:

So many things.

Kristen:

We had to learn to get comfortable with it looking different.

Gwen:

Shift our perspective and our expectations. And I think family, thinking about direct family, Rylan has always had very close friends. My dad, I mean, all of our grandparents love our kids dearly and respect and appreciate Rylan for who he is. But my dad and Tim's dad, who unfortunately passed a few months ago, were definitely two family members who adore that child. Tim's dad came out here right before he died, kind of a last farewell trip, which was such a gift. And he was with Tim's aunt who was his caretaker. And we went up to our relative's cottage and we're sitting on the deck overlooking the lake, and Rylan is out in the water, Sea-Dooing and splashing, water is his place. And his dad just got all teary. And he looked at me and he said, "It has been the privilege of my lifetime to know that child. And if the world had more people like him, what a better place this would be." I mean-

Kristen:

Yeah, just wow.

Gwen:

Do we need anything more than somebody in your life who feels that way about you? I don't think anybody feels that way about me.

Kristen:

Right?

Gwen:

But he has many people who feel that way about him. So I have stopped stressing about him not having friends. Because he does, he just doesn't see them often. But that connection to the divine in him with people around him is so strong, and that boy feels it.

Kristen:

Yeah, I would say the same for my kids. They are so beloved by our families and very close to their grandparents, especially Greg's dad and stepmom. Just an enormous impact on our kids and really participated in a lot of the intervention when they were young, and really get them and have a special place in their heart for our kids and Graham, for sure. So you're right, our families are their people. And their teachers and their providers and their therapists and all the people in their life that we've surrounded them with think they're amazing. So, God, if we could all have had that in our childhoods, who gives a crap about some pain in the ass fifth grade friend.

Gwen:

Well, and we're their best friends, Kristen.

Kristen:

Well, this is true. This is true.

Gwen:

This is not a role that we accept every day, but we are their best friends. We do have pictures of both of our boys. When Kristen and I pull in the driveway, listeners, and open the garage door, do you know what we so often see? Can you guess? Our boys standing in the garage waving as if they can hear us and see us.

Kristen:

Through the tinted window.

Gwen:

Before we even put the car in park.

Kristen:

Yep. And they're tapping on the window.

Gwen:

Before we've gotten out.

Kristen:

"Hi. How was your day? How was your day? Hey, can I-"

Gwen:

"Mom? Mom?"

Kristen:

Yeah. Can I-

Gwen:

"Can I have screen time? Mom? Hi, mom. Hi, mom."

Kristen:

"Did you get some more of that boba that I like, that frozen boba? And guess what? And then the dog and then the..." And the car is not off.

Gwen:

Nope. Nor can we actually hear them because the windows are up.

Kristen:

Nor can we open the door because they're standing there.

Gwen:

Standing there.

Kristen:

So then you have to roll the window down to say, "back up so I can get out of the car. And could you please not come into the garage?"

Gwen:

"Uh oh," I'll say. "What's the rule about when mommy comes home?" He's 16 guys, okay. He's taller than me, he's 5'11". And we do these things every day, it's Groundhogs day. "Uh oh," and then he'll all of a sudden realize, and then the door will quick shut. But then you know what friends? He's just standing inside the door. It's not like he readjusted his thinking and was like, oh, yeah, survey the scene. Survey the scene. Nope. I will stand inside the door because that is not the garage.

Kristen:

Yes. Graham says, "Oh, right, right, right."

Gwen:

Oh, right, right, right.

Kristen:

Oh, right, right, right.

Gwen:

"Oh, shoot."

Kristen:

But then, "Shoot."

Gwen:

Oh, that's right.

Kristen:

But then he goes just inside the door and he's standing on his toes and he is pacing back and forth on his tiptoes, and he's trying to hold it in. And then he's putting his hand over his mouth as I'm trying to squeak by him to put my bag down, take my shoes off.

Gwen:

[inaudible 00:42:21].

Kristen:

And he's holding it in so tight. And then I finally say, "Okay, what is it?"

Gwen:

Do you? You're such a good mom. I just look at Rylan and go, "Set a timer for 10 minutes and come back." And he will, timers are-

Kristen:

Timers are your friend.

Gwen:

We're kind of going off on a tangent at this point, but timers do work. But you better believe the second that timer goes off, bam.

Kristen:

Better be ready to roll.

Gwen:

Okay. Do we feel like we're ready to hand it over to our kids? Have we covered what we've needed to cover?

Kristen:

I think we have.

Gwen:

I think we have. Friends, we hope you're doing great. Thank you so much for just listening to us. Please remember to go to our website because there's so much fun stuff there waiting for you, especially during this launch period. Everything's free and at your disposal, and that ain't going to be true for much longer.

Kristen:

And we have pictures of our family in those episodes, and we have top 10 lists to share with you and resources and other interviews and great stuff.

Gwen:

We're also going to be linking you to children's diverse and inclusive picture books as they relate to each topic we're discussing. Because remember, that's my obsession. That's my Pokemon.

Kristen:

Yeah.

Gwen:

So we will have fun links for you where you can get these amazing books to add to your collections. All right. Here's our kids.

Reagan:

We know our moms are amazing, but they don't know everything. We think that you deserve to hear from the real expert, their kids. Woo woo. We believe in nothing about us without us. So here it is, the last word.

Kristen:

Hi, Graham.

Graham:

Hello.

Kristen:

Today's episode was about your experience of trying to make friends as a kid. So we talked a lot about what makes that hard, who ended up being a good friend and why, and kind of what you've learned about friendships. So I'd start by asking you, what was your experience trying to make friends as a kid?

Graham:

I would say just trying to find a group of people that I feel like I could connect with. And then just trying to, like I said an episode ago, take a shot in the dark and see how it goes. If not, then I just try to find some new people.

Kristen:

And how do you think that went for you when you would try and take a shot in the dark? Do you think it worked a lot of the time or didn't work a lot?

Graham:

It's kind of like rolling dice. It's kind of like, sometimes it hits, sometimes it's not, it's a miss.

Kristen:

Do you think that you have been lonely in your childhood and felt different?

Graham:

Oh, absolutely.

Kristen:

Yeah. What do you think makes it hard about trying to fit in or trying to find a friend?

Graham:

Probably just hiding who you truly are and try to fit in with everyone else.

Kristen:

Who do you think you really are that you can't show to other kids?

Graham:

I guess I would have to say maybe energetic and talks about stuff that no one else really likes.

Kristen:

What do you like to talk about that you don't think other people would really want to talk about that much?

Graham:

Games. They would all want to talk about sports, and I would want to talk about something about a game or something.

Kristen:

Like Pokemon or...

Graham:

Yeah.

Kristen:

What are your favorite games? What are your special interests, the things that you love to talk about the very most?

Graham:

Probably Nintendo.

Kristen:

Nintendo. Did it get harder and harder to find people the older you got, for people that were interested in that?

Graham:

Yeah, because everyone's into sports and toxic masculinity stuff, and it makes me really triggered.

Kristen:

Ooh, yeah. What do you think those toxic masculinity things are?

Graham:

I would have to say maybe just sports or getting laid by a woman. I don't know.

Kristen:

Oh, yeah, I could see how that would be awkward, right?

Graham:

Yeah.

Kristen:

Because you're not thinking about those things.

Graham:

Nope.

Kristen:

You're thinking about Nintendo. Is it hard to keep conversations going that aren't about Nintendo?

Graham:

Mm-hmm.

Kristen:

Yeah, that can make it hard, huh? Who has ended up being your friends in life, and why do you think they ended up being good friends?

Graham:

Ethan, definitely, because we just really clicked since preschool.

Kristen:

What do you think it is about Ethan that made it work? What do you like about Ethan?

Graham:

He's kind of the same as me, kind of energetic.

Kristen:

Mm-hmm. Is he autistic also?

Graham:

I refuse to say.

Kristen:

Oh, okay. I totally respect that. Tell me what you have learned about friendship.

Graham:

It can definitely be hard, but once you find it, it really works.

Kristen:

It does.

Graham:

You just have to give it-

Kristen:

What does it bring to your life, you think?

Graham:

Probably, definitely just being satisfied.

Kristen:

Feeling satisfied?

Graham:

Yeah.

Kristen:

Do you feel connected when you have a friend that gets you?

Graham:

Yeah.

Kristen:

Do you think it's important for somebody to be flexible and understanding?

Graham:

Definitely.

Kristen:

Yeah. That makes a good friend, huh?

Graham:

Mm-hmm.

Kristen:

Anything else you like about a friend?

Graham:

Not that I can think of right now, but yeah.

Kristen:

Okay. Thanks, Graham.

Graham:

No problem.

Gwen:

Okay, Rylan, how do you think your autism and Tourette's has impacted friendships for you?

Rylan:

Maybe more people wanting to be my friend. At my one of my old school, I did a huge speech in front of everyone and everyone knew me, and I guess a lot of people weren't friendly to me. They would be like, "Hi, Rylan." And I was like, "Hi. I don't know who that was," because I didn't. They knew me because I did this huge speech, but I didn't know them. But honestly, I think people were just more friendly to me because they saw what I was going through.

Gwen:

Huh. That's amazing. What about the past couple of years? Do you think that autism has impacted friendships at all?

Rylan:

No, I don't think so. Mostly just common interests, I guess.

Gwen:

Yeah. So talk about that. How do you decide who to have as a friend?

Rylan:

I guess just start talking to them and see what you guys' common interests are. Yeah.

Gwen:

That's true. So if you find somebody with a common interest, do you think it's easier to be friends?

Rylan:

I guess so. Also, maybe just trying to... I've had a problem the past days that I've had trouble coming up with the courage to talk to someone. So that, I guess, impacts friendship because you can't have friendship if you can't talk to anyone.

Gwen:

But do you think you're pretty brave when it comes to making friends?

Rylan:

Mm-hmm.

Gwen:

I do. I think you're incredibly brave.

Rylan:

Mm-hmm.

Gwen:

Describe what makes a true friend and what you appreciate about your friends.

Rylan:

Similar interests. Always having your back. I guess maybe staying friends even if you're far away, trying to, I guess, get together to do fun stuff. Yeah, I guess those.

Gwen:

Those are great ones.

Rylan:

Mm-hmm.

Gwen:

Thanks for joining us for this episode of You Don't Want a Hug, Right? We'd sure love it if you'd subscribe to our show in your favorite podcast app. Missing an episode would be catastrophic.

Kristen:

And if you just can't get enough of us, join our newsletter and dig into all of our other projects and ways you can connect with us at youdontwantahug.com.

Gwen:

And food for thought. If you need to create a panic room out of your closet in order to find that parenting kindness, we offer our fullest support. See you next time.


40 views0 comments

コメント


bottom of page