We were invited to spend the day at the Connecticut shoreline. The family of one of A’s classmates had rented a cottage for a week and thought it would be nice for our boys to spend the day together. Not one to say no to the beach, I RSVPed in the affirmative. Her email came quickly, “Oh, we’re so excited you’ll be here! There will be a couple other families from the area. They’re all nice. :)”
We arrived and the boys wandered off to check something out. Our hostess introduced me to the other adults there– some parents and kiddos from our town and some family members of the hosts.
One of the families was familiar to me. They have three boys and they live on our end of town. Of their children, I’ve really only met the middle one. He was in preschool with both my older kids, actually, and I can remember having him at our house for a birthday party at some point. I’m going to call him Beck.
Beck is severely autistic. (Is that how that’s worded? I so dearly do not want to offend. Feel free to correct me (gently) if I’ve used the wrong verbiage.) Anyway, I remember vividly when we attended the preschool open house. It was loud and chaotic and crowded and, honestly, it just about pushed me over the edge as I tried to navigate the space with a six-week-old in a stroller.
It was overwhelming for me. It was pretty much intolerable for Beck. He looked positively panicked as he remained in the hallway, refusing to enter the fray.
Parties throughout the schoolyear were difficult, too. They were just so loud. So crowded. There so much movement and they broke the routine. Unusual foods, smells, faces, and sounds filled the space. While many of the children beamed with joy through those parties, Beck averted his eyes and struggled fiercely not to break down. It was hard for him.
Anyway, Beck is going to fourth grade now. It was good to see him again! But, honestly, this beach house setting was challenging, too. Again, with the noise, the crowd, the odd smells, the different foods, the sudden comings and goings of various people. Everyone was kind and accomodating and it was all going fine, but you’d have to be pretty unobservant not to see that, well, it was hard for Beck.
A few of the boys (including Beck) decided to go into an inflatable rectangular pool on the sand behind the beach house. They all played together peacably but, if you really watched, the other two boys pretty much just played AROUND Beck. He was in his own world, watching water run through his fingers.
And then C. decided to get in the pool.
C. bopped on over, climbed in slowly– she’s not a huge water fan, and smiled widely, “Hey, Beck! How’ve you been?”
He looked up sideways at her. Raised his chin a little bit.
You see, C. and Beck were together in a special ed support room for periods of time each day. They worked on different things, sometimes at different times, but their paths crossed often.
C. knows him well. And, for lack of a better way to describe it, she just knows him as exactly who he is. His sensitivity to sounds, smells, changes in routine, and what-not? Well, that’s just who he is. It’s who he’s always been. It’s neither good nor bad in C’s opinion– it’s just who he is.
His mom saw this unfold and hurried over. She didn’t realize they’d known each other. She captured a beautiful photo of C. beaming with Beck’s arm around her, a crooked smile on his face as he avoided looking directly at the camera. She posted it on Facebook (with my permission) with the caption “Found a friend!” and tagged their special ed teacher.
It was beautiful.
I watched those two play their way through the afternoon. At one point, I called C. over by name and Beck spoke up clearly to correct me. Apparently they’d been playing a game and he was Mr. Bee and she was Mrs. Butterfly.
I quickly apologized for my oversight.
We went to the beach that day because we’d been invited by a friend of A’s.
But it was watching the beauty of C’s friendship with Beck that actually made the whole day.
Sometimes all it takes to feel more at home is to know you’ve found a friend.